One of the first concepts a beginner in photography discovers is the “Exposure Triangle.” It goes over the three sides of exposure — shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Introducing the “Creativity Triangle.”

Sides of creativity

There are three creative aspects offered by the exposure controls on a camera — motion, depth of field and noise. The shutter speed controls motion. The aperture of the lens handles the depth of field while the ISO has two jobs, adjusting the sensor’s receptiveness to light and how much noise (aka grain) appears in the photograph. This article is about motion — the shutter’s domain.

Controlling time — the shutter’s superpower

It can freeze fast action or create dreamlike blurs of motion. It’s all a matter of the amount of time the sensor gets to see light.

Fast speeds stop action

The shorter the time, the sharper the photo — freezing a landing jetliner speeding by at over 160 miles per hour for instance.

A jetliner frozen in the sky with a fast shutter.
1/1600s freezes this jetliner landing at over 160 miles per hour.

Slower speeds show motion

The more time the sensor sees a scene the more blur occurs on moving subjects.

Racing blurred bicycle
1/80s without panning the camera leaves the background sharp and the bicycle an interesting blur.
Panning with the action blurs the background and reveals a sharper and fast moving bicyclist.
1/40s while panning the camera with the cyclist blurs the background to abstraction while showing the subject’s speed.

Creative time

The shutter is a wonderful side of the creative triangle. Next up, focus and blur the second side of the creative triangle. It’s the realm of the aperture.