Shutter: What Function Does It Have in Your Camera and How Does it Affect Your Photos?


The shutter It is an essential part of the camera. Know what it is? How does it work? What types are there? In this article I tell you everything you need to know to understand how it affects your photos.

And as always, I will do it very simply and with examples, so that you can understand it without getting a headache, no matter how technical it is.

What is a camera shutter?


The shutter It is a camera device that controls the time that light reaches the sensor (or the film in the case of analog).

Unlike the diaphragm, which is also related to the entry of light, this controls the intensity and the shutter the time. This time is called shutter speed. Below we will talk in detail about this speed.

In the following video you can see in slow motion how a mechanic works in a reflex camera at different speeds:

What is the shutter for?

It serves to control the shutter speed or what is the same, determine the exposure time. Therefore, it is responsible for you being able to take photos like the following:

spatter fast exposure timeshort exposure time
drop, shutter open too shortshort exposure time
water silk effect, long exposure timeLong exposition
long exposure light painting Long exposition

Interesting, right?

shutter speed

Let’s now see a little more in depth what the shutter speed is, although in the link you have a very detailed article on the subject.

The longer the shutter is open, the more motion is reflected and the more light enters the sensor. The less time it is open, the more the scene freezes and the less light enters.

shutter speed graph

Below, you can see the same scene taken with different exposure speeds, from left to right the shutter remains open for less and less time, so that with faster speeds (on the right) the scene freezes. While at slower speeds (left) movement is captured.

different shutter speeds From left to right the shutter stays open for less and less time

slow shutter speedMotion capture with shutter open 1s
Fast shutter speed. The shutter is open for a short time, it is usually thousandths of a second. The fastest speeds are usually 1/4000s, although there are cameras that can shoot at 1/32000s and capture what the eye cannot see. With such short exposure times you can shoot splashes, a falling drop of water, jumps and any other scene where you want to freeze very fast motion.
fast shutter speedFast shutter speed to freeze motion (1/1250s)

How to adjust the shutter speed?

There are two modes that allow you to control the shutter speed, you will find them on the mode dial of your camera:

mode dialmode dial
Manual mode (M). You determine both the aperture and the speed. Speed ​​priority mode (S or Tv). With this semi-automatic mode, you set the shutter speed you want and the camera calculates the aperture so that the photo is correctly exposed.

On the contrary, if you are clear about the aperture you want but you are not sure what the right speed is to expose correctly, it is advisable to use the aperture priority mode.

shutter types

There are different types, let’s see what each of them consists of:

Simple blade shutter. Primitive device that prevents light from passing through the lens until its opening is activated, at which point the leaves move to let the light through for the required time and then close again.
single blade shutter1. Shutter Plate 2. Shutter Covered Aperture 3. Exposure Aperture 4. Limbo 5. Capture Mechanism 6. Butterfly Spring (*Source Wikipedia)
Center shutter. Used in large-format cameras and some medium-sized ones such as Hasselblads, it is normally found in the lens and is made up of radially-opening blades similar to those of a diaphragm. When activated, they move away from the center for the set exposure time and close again. There are mechanical and electronic. The advantage is that they can be synced at any speed with the flash, however the maximum shutter speed is usually no more than 1/500s. Focal plane shutter. Placed inside the camera, in front of the sensor, it is made up of (normally) two curtains, one that opens and one that closes, moving in the same direction.
Focal plane shutterFocal plane shutter

How does the focal plane shutter work?

Let’s see how this shutter works, which is the most common:

You press the shutter button. Lower the first curtain and start the exposure time. End of the exhibition, lowers the second curtain closing the way to the light.

With slow exposure times, the second curtain does not move until the first curtain has completely finished its travel. However, with fast exposure times (from approx. 1/250s) the second curtain starts moving before the first one has fully opened.

And this is what affects the flash, that is why you have ever heard of flash synchronization, or you have suffered from the dark band in the photo when using the external flash with high speed.

Mechanical shutter vs. electronic

The shutter can be mechanical, like the ones we just saw above, or electronic.

mechanical shutter. Physical device usually composed of curtains that open and close.
mechanical shuttermechanical shutter
Electronic shutter. Technology that allows the light that continuously reaches the sensor to be registered or not. Here there is no physical element that gets in the way, but the sensor is turned on or off to regulate this light register and this process goes line by line from top to bottom, similar to how the mechanic works with his curtains. Global electronic (global shutter). It seems to be the future since it exposes the entire sensor at once; although we mortals still cannot enjoy it.

The shutter in reflex cameras is mechanical, while mirrorless cameras include both types and you can choose which one you want to capture with. Although there are beginning to be mirrorless cameras that have eliminated the mechanical and only have the electronic one.

When to use the mechanical shutter and when to use the electronic one?

The electronic shutter tends to have more problems when working with high speeds and with artificial lights (such as fluorescent), in these cases it is preferable to use the mechanical one.

How to mute shutter on iPhone?

Have you asked yourself this question before? Don’t want your smartphone to ring every time you take a photo? The solution is easy. Put it in silent mode and your mobile device will also become silent and you can take photos more discreetly.

I hope that this article was useful to you and this device of your camera no longer holds any secrets for you. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments ⬇️ ⬇️ ⬇️. Don’t hesitate to share it on your favorite social network either, I’ll be infinitely grateful.

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