Shutter Priority Mode: The Ultimate Guide

What is Shutter Priority Mode? And how can you use shutter priority for consistently great results?

In this article, I’ll walk you through the ins and outs of shutter priority. I discuss:

  • What Makes Speed ​​Priority So Special
  • Common scenarios when shutter priority is useful
  • The difference between shutter priority and related camera modes (such as aperture priority)
  • Much more!

Ready to improve your knowledge of camera settings? So let’s dive straight into the nitty-gritty, starting with the basics:

What is Shutter Priority Mode?

Shutter Priority is a semi-automatic camera mode that allows you to adjust shutter speed and ISO, while your camera defines the opening.

speed priority mode

Specifically, when using Shutter Priority mode, you choose a shutter speed and ISO sensitivity based on image quality considerations. Your camera will then select an aperture that will give you a well-exposed image.

Therefore, when using shutter priority, you can maintain a constant shutter speed, which can be very, very useful. If you’re shooting action, for example, you may need the shutter speed to stay above a certain number; thanks to shutter priority, it’s easy to do (and you won’t have to spend a lot of time fiddling with camera settings either).

Shutter priority exposure variables (+ exposure compensation)

As you may know, the exposure of the image, i.e. brightness – is controlled by three camera settings: aperture, shutter speed and ISO.

Widen the aperture, increase the shutter speed or raise the ISO, and you get a brighter image. Reduce the aperture, increase the shutter speed, or lower the ISO, and you end up with a darker image.

One of the most difficult technical aspects of photography is maintaining a balance between these exposure variables. That’s what semi-automatic modes like Shutter Priority are designed to do: select the right variable values ​​for a well-exposed shot.

Unfortunately, while the camera’s exposure calculations are generally accurate, there are times when Shutter Priority mode produces overexposed or underexposed images. For example, if you try to photograph a snowy landscape, your camera will try to make the snow gray; in the process it will underexpose the whole shot by narrowing your aperture too much.

speed priority mode
Your camera will try to underexpose images like this!

But most cameras offer a way to counter this problem and manually correct shutter-priority exposures: exposure compensation. Dial in a bit of positive exposure compensation and your camera will deliberately widen the aperture to overexpose the photo. Dial in a bit of negative exposure compensation and your camera will do the reverse.

This way you can use shutter priority on autopilot – but if you check your LCD screen and notice a touch of overexposure or underexposure, you can make the necessary changes.

Now, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO are essential parts of the exposure process, but they each have an additional effect worth considering.

Aperture adjusts the image’s depth of field (i.e. how much of the scene is in focus). You can use it to create artistic shallow depth of field bokeh or more conventional depth of field effects.

speed priority mode
Shallow depth of field effects can look incredibly artistic.

Then there’s shutter speed, which adjusts your ability to freeze the action. The faster the shutter speed, the more likely you are to get a sharp photo when shooting moving subjects Where when taking over. Slow shutter speeds, on the other hand, are a great way to produce artistic effects by deliberately blurring moving subjects such as water:

speed priority mode

Finally, ISO affects image quality: the higher the ISO, the noisier the photo, so – I’ll say this upfront – you should always keep the ISO as low as possible.

The point here is that you need to choose your shutter speed and ISO carefully, and you should always keep an eye on your opening. Although you technically have no control over the aperture setting in Shutter Priority mode, you can force the camera to choose a wider or narrower aperture by increasing or decreasing the shutter speed. , respectively.

When should you use Shutter Priority mode?

Speed ​​Priority is a great choice if you:

  • Shoot moving subjects and need to make sure they are in focus
  • Work in rapidly changing lighting conditions

As I mentioned in the previous section, shutter priority will ensure you maintain a consistent shutter speed over a series of shots, which can be extremely useful if you’re worried about coming home with blurry images.

For example, if you are photographing birds in flight, you will often need a shutter speed of at least 1/2000s. With shutter priority active, you can dial in 1/2000s, choose an ISO, and then let your camera choose the aperture needed for the right exposure. You won’t have to worry about shutter speed monitoring, and while it’s always a good idea to keep tabs on your exposure variables, you can technically trust your camera to handle the rest. . (Of course, you should still check your LCD from time to time to make sure you’re not getting overexposed or underexposed images. In such cases, exposure compensation is your friend!)

speed priority mode

And if the light changes, speed priority becomes even more useful. The sun may get behind clouds or your subjects may move into shade, but your camera will maintain the same shutter speed and adjust aperture to balance exposure.

Of course, Shutter Priority mode, while convenient, isn’t always the perfect choice.

For example, if you care deeply about an image’s depth of field, it’s usually best to use Aperture Priority mode. Where Manual mode; this way you don’t rely on your camera to set the aperture. Macro, portrait, and landscape photographers often use aperture priority or manual mode for this reason.

(Aperture priority mode lets you set aperture and ISO while your camera chooses a matching shutter speed, while manual mode lets you independently choose aperture, shutter speed, and more). shutter and ISO.)

Also, if the light on your subject is steady but you’re worried about underexposing or overexposing the image, it’s best to use manual mode. You can set your exposure variables and then be sure you’ll get a consistent result, even as your subject moves in front of different backgrounds.

At the end of the line :

Shutter Priority mode can be a solid choice, especially if you’re shooting action, but it’s not always perfect. Sometimes it makes sense to use aperture priority or manual mode instead!

How to Use Shutter Priority Mode to Shoot Action: Step by Step

To get started with Shutter Priority mode, turn your camera’s mode dial to the Shutter Priority icon (usually a “Tv” or an “S”).

Next, consider your topic. What shutter speed do you need to keep it sharp? Walking pedestrians generally need 1/250s or more, while 1/1000s is better for cyclists and 1/2000s is good for slower flying birds. Dial in the minimum shutter speed required for a sharp shot and set your camera to its lowest ISO value (usually ISO 100).

speed priority mode

Aim your camera at your subject (to ensure an accurate meter reading), then check the aperture. What value did your camera choose?

If the aperture is too narrow, you need to increase your shutter speed until you get the desired result. (Don’t increase it too a lot though! Otherwise, you won’t have any wiggle room if the light starts to dim.)

And if the aperture is too wide, you should leave the shutter speed alone but increase your ISO.

Make sense ?

Once you have a good set of exposure variables, take a test shot and then review it on your LCD screen. If the result is overexposed or underexposed, dial in exposure compensation, then take a second test shot. Check again – and keep going through the same process until you get the exposure you want.

And when you do get a good exposure, then enjoy your photo shoot!

How to Use Shutter Priority Mode to Shoot Long Exposures

Shutter Priority mode is most often used for action photography, but you can also use it to capture long exposures with deliberate blur effects.

You’ll need to start by setting your camera to Shutter Priority mode (see above). Make sure your camera is mounted on a sturdy tripod, then dial in your camera’s lowest ISO and shutter speed you need for your long exposure.

(What’s the best shutter speed? It depends on the speed of your subject and the effect you’re looking for. If you’re shooting fast-moving water, a shutter speed between 1/30s and 1/10s can work well, if you’re shooting slow-moving water you’ll probably want to work at 1s or more, and if you’re shooting clouds as they cross the sky, 30s is a good choice. )

speed priority mode

Check the opening. In these situations, you generally want to keep your whole scene sharp, so if your camera gives you a wide aperture – f/4, for example – then you’ll probably want to stretch your shutter speed further.

That said, it’s possible to have an aperture that’s too narrow (you don’t want your images to suffer from diffraction), so keep that in mind too!

Take a test photo. If the exposure is too bright or too dark, go ahead and dial in the required exposure compensation.

Then continue with your photos.

Speed ​​priority mode: last words

Well, now you have it:

Everything you need to know about Shutter Priority mode. Now that you have completed this article, you can capture great action shots and produce beautiful long exposure photos.

So get out your camera. Try speed priority. And see what you think!

Do you plan to use Shutter Priority mode regularly? What are you going to use it for? Share your opinion in the comments below!

Leave a Comment