Slow shutter speeds: how to achieve consistent exposures every time

Slow shutter speeds: how to get consistent exposures up and down the scale

In our latest Professional Photographer to the Rescue post, our resident pro explains how to use shutter speed effectively to create motion blur and achieve consistent exposures up and down the shutter speed scale.

Slow shutter speeds: how to get consistent exposures up and down the scale

Our apprentice, Sam Doyle, recently bought a new DSLR and has started to experiment with different shutter speeds and apertures in her landscape photography.

However, she’s been struggling to understand the relationship between the shutter speed, aperture and ISO. “It’s frustrating because I can see what I want to achieve, but my shots don’t always come out as expected,” she says.

Our technique editor, Chris, meets her near her home in Southampton and shows her the process of getting the basics right first to ensure consistent exposures, and then experimenting with slow shutter speeds to add creative blur to her photo compositions.

Technique assessment

Having recently bought a new camera, reader Sam has been trying to shoot landscapes and seascapes near her south coast home using long shutter speeds, but with mixed results.

Using Manual exposure mode has given her a good understanding of the effect shutter speed and aperture settings can have on her shots, but she has struggled to get exposure right. Sam wants to experiment more with creative shutter speed effects, but has become confused about how the shutter speed, aperture and ISO work together.

I meet up with her at her home in Hampshire to discuss how I can help her to better understand exposure in general, and how this will allow her to get more creative. Once mastered, we head down to the coast to see how the theory works in practice!

Slow shutter speed: where she's gone wrong

Sam selected the right shutter speed to add blur to the water, but
the image was taken at ISO400, so the result was over-exposed.

Where she’s gone wrong
It can be difficult to get your head around how shutter speed, aperture and ISO work together to give you the correct exposure, but it’s one of the key skills you need to take control over the appearance of your images.

Bewildered by the level of control afforded by her new Canon EOS 600D, Sam has experimented with the different exposure modes, from full-auto Program to Manual, but hasn’t really mastered how and when to use each of the settings.

When it comes to shooting her favoured seascapes, Sam knows that she needs a slow shutter speed to blur the moving water, but has struggled to achieve correctly exposed results as the shutter speeds get longer.

Her main stumbling block has been when using Manual mode to slow things down. With so many settings to control, she hasn’t been able to get consistent exposures or completely nail the blurred effect she wants.

PAGE 1: How to get consistent exposures at slow shutter speeds
PAGE 2: Getting the basics right first
PAGE 3: How your histogram can help
PAGE 4: How to deal with contrast
PAGE 5: The process of experimenting at slow shutter speeds
PAGE 6: Shot of the Day

READ MORE

Banish bad pictures: 9 quick fixes for common camera complaints
Famous Photographers: 100 things we wish we knew starting out
10 things photographers can do to stop wasting pictures
15 common photography questions from beginners (and how to solve them)
44 essential digital camera tips and tricks