How I did it on own my damn camera: Shutter Speed

Today I stumbled across a nifty little series over at Life With My 3 boybarians where she has a little topic running called 31 Days to a Better Photo.

I haven’t in the past been a big fan of these kind of posts  because while they can go on and on explaining Aperture and Exposure, they rarely show you how to deal with it on YOUR OWN camera. And let’s face it, if you can’t make it make sense on your camera, what good is it?  She goes ahead and owns up to this right there in Day 2 by saying… look you’re going to need to get out your manual and read the darn thing to do this. Then in her day-to-day posts she seems to be making an effort to include what she knows about various brands and their dials as it relates to her subject of the day, which is more than I’ve seen in most of these type posts.

I’m one of those people who loves a gadget so of course I’ve got way more camera than I know what to do with. I own a Nikon D5000 – just got it in January and before this I had the D50 for about 3 or 4 years. One of my struggles with the D50 was how little information there was out there in the internet on using it. Mostly I’ve just bumbled into everything I learned on it.  I take a lot of photos but I rarely know what I’m doing. Couple of years ago I learned to play with ISO on the D50 but I find on the D5000 it’s not as convenient to change, and inversely the PASM modes on the 5000 are much easier to understand so I’ve kind of let my ISO tinkering go.

Last week I splurged (actually I’ve been saving for months) and bought this lens (although I didn’t pay that much!) – she’s a beauty but she’s more lens that I’m used to and I need to really play with her to get accustomed to her as my primarily daily lens. So the thought has occurred to me to try Darcy’s daily photo clinics and show how it works specifically on the D5000 as a way of getting to know my lens and the results it’s going to give.

On Day 3 she talked about Shutter Speed – Her explanation is great, if you don’t understand Shutter Speed then go over to her blog and read what she wrote. There is no way I could have explained it any better. Come back when you’ve read it.

Okay, you’re back. Cool. So here’s how it works on the D5000.

First off – you’re going to think.. cool I just turn the dial to S Mode.


Well you can do that but what turning the dial to S Mode does is let you control the shutter speed while the camera adjusts the aperture to work with your selected shutter speed for the best overall exposure.  To truly control Shutter and Aperture separately you must use the M mode. This confused the heck out of me for the longest time on the D50 and even when I finally got it, the controls used to execute the manual changes required such finger contortions to do while looking at the view finder that I just ignored the idea. 

But back to the topic at hand. She wants us to lock in the Aperture and ISO and only play with Shutter Speed so to do that ya gotta go to M.

In M Mode the shutter is controlled simply with the Command Dial. Turning it alone in M Mode will change only the Shutter Speed. If you want to change the Aperture you hold down the +/- button and spin the command dial AT THE SAME TIME.


Since today we’re just adjusting Shutter Speed I’ll leave that at that.

The info panel in the back is the crown jewel of the D5000, it’s what opened up the idea of manual shooting for me mentally. Here it clearly has the speed displayed just like she describes in her post.

But if you’re like me and you forget what the numbers mean or how the abbreviated numbers are displayed, then do what I do and rely on the graphic image. That fun little circle thingy on the left. Yeap that one. The more dots around the outer rim of that circle (going clockwise from 6:00) the faster your shutter speed. Play with it and you’ll see the ring go around the circle and back as you turn the wheel right and left.

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Cool, so now you’ve got that. Settle in on a subject, start on one side of the ring and work your way back around to the other.

Since Darcy’s metaphor for Shutter Speed was water filling a glass I decided to take pictures of water running in my fountain outside. I sat down with the ISO locked at 200 and the Aperture at f/5.6  and used the only-somewhat-reliable  knee as tri-pod method take these shots.

Starting at 1/500 moved around by about half as much each time for instance #1 is 1/500 and #2 is 1/250 #3 is 1/125 all the way down to 1/6 where it started to get visibly blown out.

At the end I let the camera decide what it would do and spun the dial back over to Automatic and took the last shot. Personally I found it a little dark.

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I think #4 turned out as my favorite.



Tomorrow I’ll tackle her Day 4 assignment


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