Let’s look at an example. You are at a sporting event, and just took some pictures. Reviewing your pictures, you notice that a picture is blurred even though you know the camera focused properly: The shutter speed was too slow to handhold the camera steady enough for a clear picture, or you moved while the picture was being taken. The next picture you look at has clear mountains, trees, people on the sideline, but the players on the field are blurred: The shutter speed was fast enough to hold the camera steady, but the shutter speed was too slow to stop the action.
Have you ever masterfully carved a fantastic jack-o-lantern for Halloween only to have your flash fire for the picture and ruin all the ambiance? How about that Christmas tree that looked so magical to your eye? This year is going to be different. Your camera needs to be held steady with image stabilization, or put on a tripod, with a slower shutter speed and the flash turned off to capture the lighting correctly. The only thing universal with cameras anymore is the tripod mount, (the hole where you screw the tripod into the camera,) so any tripod will work. There are preset modes on your camera that will set your camera for long exposure shooting, more on that once we get through the meat-and-potatoes of how a camera works to create an exposure.
If you don’t own a tripod yet, and you’re considering getting one, I recommend purchasing one asap. The “Gorillapod” tripod has many point-and-shoot camera models to choose from, starting around $20. The Gorillapod is very versatile because you can wrap the legs around a pole, tree branch, or your car window, and it works great as a table-top tripod. A tripod opens-up a whole new world of photography, done at slower shutter speeds. With a little practice, you’ll be ready for the holidays this year, and get the shots you want.
Next installment in the series: The Balancing Act: How the F/stop and Shutter Speed Work Together.”