This article is dedicated to controlling the shutter.

On older cameras, the shutter speed dial is engraved with numbers. You’d turn the dial and line up a number with a mark on the camera body. Today, you have an LCD to display the numbers, usually on the top panel of the camera and inside the viewfinder.

On the older cameras, the series of numbers went something like this 4, 2, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30, 60, 125, 500, 1000. Notice that the three numbers on the left are red. I’ll get to those in a minute.

The rest of these numbers represent time in fractions of a second. Put a one over each. Two becomes ½, four becomes 1/4, 60 becomes 1/60, and so on. As the numbers on the dial get bigger, the time becomes shorter. Remember the pie analogy from school? A half (1/2) piece of pie is bigger than a quarter (1/4) of the pie.

The numbers in red represent whole seconds. Cameras with LCD readouts represent whole seconds with what looks like a quotation mark following the number. So 2” equals two seconds.

Do you notice anything special about this series of numbers? What would come after 1000 (1/1000 second)? You’re right it’s 2000. Each setting represents either twice the time or one-half the time of the setting next to it. For example, in the series 8, 15, and 30, 15 (1/15 second) is half the time of 1/8 second and twice the time of 1/30 second. This means the 1/15 second setting lets in half the light of 1/8 second and twice the light of 1/30 second.
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