Slow shutter speeds: how to achieve consistent exposures every time

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

The process of experimenting at slow shutter speeds

The process of experimenting at slow shutter speeds

As the sun sets Sam can use slower shutter speeds, but even a 4 sec exposure isn’t long enough to capture the movement in the clouds.

With the sun starting to set, it’s time for Sam to try out her new skills and experiment with shutter speeds to capture the kind of creative shot she’s been aiming for.

The clouds are starting to become a little more colourful and are also moving quite quickly, so I recommend an upright composition.

To capture movement in these clouds Sam will need to use much longer shutter speeds, so we attach her camera to her tripod and start by setting the lowest ISO in Shutter Priority (Tv) mode.

Using this mode, I get Sam to adjust the shutter speed – getting slower until the aperture value flashes in the display.

This indicates that at this shutter speed the resulting image would be over-exposed. The camera is suggesting an exposure of 1/2 sec at f/22 for this scene, but this isn’t slow enough to capture the movement in the sky.

I show Sam how to attach a Neutral Density (ND8) filter to her lens, which reduces the light reaching the sensor by 3EV. Now she can reduce the shutter speed to 4 secs without over-exposing the shot, allowing some of the movement to be visible.

Although this is a better result, it would be even better with a longer shutter speed. I explain to Sam that you can use an even stronger ND filter, or wait for the light levels to drop a little.

The process of experimenting with slow shutter speeds

A few minutes later, the lower light levels allow Sam to use a
15 sec exposure, producing a much more dramatic result.

With the sun almost set we decide to wait a few minutes, so that Sam can increase the shutter speed. It’s not long before she is able to use a 15-second shutter speed, and the movement in the clouds is much more visible.

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


10 things photographers can do to stop wasting pictures
Master your camera’s autofocus: which AF points to use and when to use them
Rule of Thirds: use it and break it with confidence
Leading lines: photography’s most underrated composition device