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Thread: shutter speed v. ISO

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    shutter speed v. ISO

    I am new to photography but working on improving. I took bird photos today in Shutter Mode Priority. Some photos were shot at 1/320s with an ISO of 400, and others at 1/1000s with an ISO of 800. Looking at the photos on my computer screen, both produced acceptable results. My question is, is would an experienced photographer perhaps see details that I am missing and perhaps always take one approach over the other. Thank you

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: shutter speed v. ISO

    Quote Originally Posted by CatherineA View Post
    I am new to photography but working on improving. I took bird photos today in Shutter Mode Priority. Some photos were shot at 1/320s with an ISO of 400, and others at 1/1000s with an ISO of 800. Looking at the photos on my computer screen, both produced acceptable results. My question is, is would an experienced photographer perhaps see details that I am missing and perhaps always take one approach over the other. Thank you
    The answer is "it depends" and I am going to simplify things quite a bit in my response.

    Higher shutter speed will reduce the risk of motion blur in an image, so depending on a number of factors, choosing a higher shutter speed will tend to be important, especially at longer focal lengths (i.e. when you zoom into the subject).

    On the opposite end, the highest sensor quality (dynamic range, colour depth and digital noise) are all better at the lowest ISO setting of your camera.

    As a photographer you have to determine how you trade off these two variables to give you the best result for give shooting conditions.

    The third variable is aperture and I won't get into that right now, but it is the combination of aperture, shutter speed and ISO that give you the "correct" exposure.

    To generalize, the lowest ISO you can get away with is generally what you should be aiming to work with. It shouldn't be so low that you can't get the shot that you want.

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    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: shutter speed v. ISO

    If possible, perhaps you could post a couple of shots of the birds you have captured.

    "Bird" photography is a pretty generic term and could refer to photographing relatively tame birds who are siting on a fence or in a tree fairly close to the photographer. This is perhaps the easiest form of "bird" photography and really doesn't require too much in specialized equipment or techniques.

    However, photographing birds in flight is a whole different ball game and usually requires shooting at relatively high shutter speeds. I like to shoot around 1/800 to 1/1,000 of a second as a minimum shutter speed, unless I want to deliberately capture a blur. What ISO I need to use to achieve the shutter speed I need is dependent upon the brightness of the day and the maximum f/stop of my lens. Additionally, getting a decent image of a bird in flight usually requires a relatively long focal length.

    Although I always try to work with the lowest possible ISO that will enable me to get sharp pictures, I would rather shoot with a higher ISO and achieve a shutter speed that is fast enough to freeze the bird in flight. I am far happier with a sharp image that is somewhat noisy than an image that is fuzzy because I wasn't shooting with a high enough shutter speed.

    There is another parameter which will have an impact on the quality of your birds in flight imagery and that is the speed and accuracy of your auto focus - which in turn depend on the camera and lens with which you are shooting. Serious bird photographers often invest large sums of money in their equipment.

    A really decent combination at a reasonable price for birds in flight would be to combine a used Canon 400mm f/5.6L lens with a used Canon 7D camera. Of course, a newer camera such as a Canon 7D Mark-2 or a Nikon, Sony, etc. equivalent would be a bit nicer. I shot with the 7D and 300mm f/4L IS lens and did a fair job at the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico but, could have used a longer lens for individual portraits of the flying birds.
    shutter speed v. ISO
    Canon 7D, 300mm f/4L IS, ISO 400, 1/800 second at f/5.6

    shutter speed v. ISO
    Photographers at Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico

    However, you really don't need to sell the farm or your first born child in order to set yourself up for bird in flight photography but, you are highly unlikely to be particularly successful if you are using an entry level DSLR camera and kit lens...

    I would view YouTube Videos on bird photography. The videos of Arthur Morris are generally very good. Although he uses Canon gear, his videos are applicable to shooting with any brand of cameras/lenses...
    https://www.youtube.com/results?sear...+arthur+morris
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 9th November 2017 at 10:38 PM.

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: shutter speed v. ISO

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    If possible, perhaps you could post a couple of shots of the birds you have captured.

    "Bird" photography is a pretty generic term and could refer to photographing relatively tame birds who are siting on a fence or in a tree fairly close to the photographer. This is perhaps the easiest form of "bird" photography and really doesn't require too much in specialized equipment or techniques.

    However, photographing birds in flight is a whole different ball game and usually requires shooting at relatively high shutter speeds. I like to shoot at least at 1/1,000 of a second. What ISO I need to use to achieve that shutter speed is dependent upon the brightness of the day and the maximum f/stop of my lens. Additionally, getting a decent image of a bird in flight usually requires a relatively long focal length.

    Although I always try to work with the lowest possible ISO that will enable me to get sharp pictures, I would rather shoot with a higher ISO and achieve a shutter speed that is fast enough to freeze the bird in flight. I am far happier with a sharp image that is somewhat noisy than an image that is fuzzy because I wasn't shooting with a high enough shutter speed.

    There is another parameter which will have an impact on the quality of your birds in flight imagery and that is the speed and accuracy of your auto focus - which in turn depend on the camera and lens with which you are shooting. Serious bird photographers often invest large sums of money in their equipment...


    However, you really don't need to sell the farm or your first born child in order to set yourself up for bird in flight photography but, you are highly unlikely to be particularly successful if you are using an entry level DSLR camera and kit lens...
    Richard - she's using a Nikon Coolpix P900 superzoom.


    As per this post:



    High Contrast, Dark Background

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: shutter speed v. ISO

    Quote Originally Posted by CatherineA View Post
    . . . I took bird photos today in Shutter Mode Priority. Some photos were shot at 1/320s with an ISO of 400, and others at 1/1000s with an ISO of 800. Looking at the photos on my computer screen, both produced acceptable results. My question is, is would an experienced photographer perhaps see details that I am missing and perhaps always take one approach over the other.
    The approach that I would take would normally be predicated on the Shooting Scenario.

    What I see on the screen's display after the shoot is for learning what approach better to take next time.

    What I mean is: it seems to me that when you were making the Photos you were considering that your choice of SHUTTER SPEED was important, so that you didn't get Subject Image Blur: my approach would be to consider the SPEED and DIRECTION of the Bird's movement.

    For example, if the birds were relaxed on a calm day and sitting on a tree branch, then around 1/320s seems to me to be a suitable Shutter Speed, on the other hand, a windy day, an excited bird sitting on a tree branch, then maybe 1/1000s would not be fast enough, but it would be much better than 1/320s.

    So, when reviewing your bird images, one element that you should be looking or is Subject Motion Blur, whilst also taking into account the activity level of the bird and other factors, such as wind.

    What I mean is it is not just a matter of, if you see a bit of blur then thinking "Oh OK I will never ever use 1/320s for any bird shots again and I will always use a faster Shutter Speed next time I photograph birds",

    but rather

    "Oh I see a bit of blur in this image shot at 1/320s and this little bird was reasonably active in its nest - but in another shot at 1/320s I nailed a really sharp shot of a bigger bird sitting a lazily tree branch"

    WW

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    Re: shutter speed v. ISO

    That's O.K., I have seen some decent images of wildlife shot with bridge cameras. The main problem with most bridge cameras is that they have a relatively slow aperture at longer focal lengths combined with a less than ideal high ISO performance. So you have to work around those parameters.

    Selecting image parameters that would be within the capabilities of the camera system and supporting the camera in some way (such as a lightweight monopod) could help to gain decent images.

    Of course, the following shots are not of birds but, they illustrate the work that can be done - even by a novice with a bridge camera. My son-in-law shot these using his Canon SX50 HS bridge camera...

    1/500 second @ f/6.5 ISO 800
    shutter speed v. ISO

    1/800 second f/6.5 ISO 800
    shutter speed v. ISO

    Picking a subject well within the capabilities of your camera is often a ticket to successful photography. As an example, shooting slower flying birds and panning with these birds would be a start. And/or getting shots of the birds as they are at rest and using some sort of camera support while doing so would be another idea...

    Additionally, post processing (including noise reduction and some sharpening) is a great boon to improve one's final images...

    Ducks swimming are great subjects and are often the first targets of bird photographers. They are normally plentiful, do not move particularly fast and are often not wary of humans - especially in areas in which they are fed by people. Here on the West Coast, seagulls are great targets because of their numbers and pelicans are great species to practice BIF photography because they fly relatively slowly and usually do not move their wings erratically...

    When traveling back to port from a fishing trip and while the fish are being cleaned, seagulls follow the boat, often hovering ten to fifteen feet away from the stern and pacing their flight to match the speed of the boat. These can be captured quite nicely even using a cell phone as a camera.
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 9th November 2017 at 11:47 PM.

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    Re: shutter speed v. ISO

    Thank you all for your replies. I really appreciate them. My photos are very basic -birds in flight are beyond me, I've tried. Here are two photos from today. I had wondered whether an experienced photographer would have found the choice of ISO settings for the amount of daylight obvious. But I see now that of course it would depend on the shutter speed needed to match the bird's activity and the amount of light falling on the bird. It's really kind of you to be so patient when explaining something so basic. I'll just get comfortable switching those settings throughout an outing. (By the way Richard, we love our rescue dog and loved the one before her.)

    shutter speed v. ISO

    shutter speed v. ISO

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    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: shutter speed v. ISO

    I love the first image....

    In the second, I would recommend not cutting off parts of the bird (in this case the birds feet and tail feathers). It is O.K. to drastically crop an animal (as in the zebras posted above) but when small portions of a bird (or a person for that matter) are cut off, the crop becomes somewhat awkward...

    I don't know if your Nikon P900 has the capability to use auto exposure bracketing but, if it does, that is a great way to get familiar with shutter speeds, f/stops and ISO; and to learn how these interact to produce a good image.

    IMO, today's bridge cameras are excellent tools with which to learn photography and are often all a person wants or needs to produce the images he or she wants...

    Wonderful about your rescue dogs...

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    Re: shutter speed v. ISO

    Just read your second post, Richard. Lots of good tips there too and I'll give a try for seagulls in flight. I couldn't even get a Canada Goose in flight before but I will try again.

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    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: shutter speed v. ISO

    Feeding seagulls will keep them around you but, that might not be the cleanest idea...

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    Re: shutter speed v. ISO

    I have a Canon Sx60HS bridge camera among my retinue and my experience in using it prompts me to come to a couple of conclusions:

    Smaller sensors (such as bridge camera) need a fair bit of light because of the small pixel size, but given that they can produce excellent results: especially if one considers value for money.

    shutter speed v. ISO
    This taken with the Canon SX60HS, 1392mm (equivalence), f7.1, 1/500sec, ISO 200

    shutter speed v. ISO
    This taken with a Canon 7DMkII+ 100-400 MkIII L+ 1.4 MkIII extender 896mm (equivalence), f8, 1/100sec, IS 200

    The second set of kit was almost exactly 10x the cost of the SX60.

    I think both the Canon SX60 and the Nikon CoolPix 900 are excellent examples of their type.

    The problem comes when they are starved of light, then they tend to suffer from noise more than their larger (e.g. APS-C) or more so (FF) sensor cousins.

    A lot depends on not only the kind of image you are going to take but (for me more so) the kind of output you intend to create. For example the specs for a camera for display on a web page, a 40in 1080P screen, or a reasonably small print are far less demanding than for say a quality 60in framed print. THEN you want the bigger sensor and the really good glass.

    BUT to learn the craft on, I believe bridge cameras offer the same essential controls as their bigger relations, so you can develop your skills for much less cost. There is also the issue of bulk and weight. To quote the old adage "the best camera is the one you are carrying". A bridge camera is not only cheaper, but significantly smaller and lighter than the DSLR alternatives.

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    Re: shutter speed v. ISO

    Thank you Trev for showing those comparisons. Both are beautiful photos. I think the bridge camera is plenty for me at this stage, as much as I would like to have some of the DSLR features. For one thing, I do find changing the ISO in Manual a nuisance and slow and yes, low light is a real problem even some light conditions that I didnít think were all that low.But still, I feel lucky to have this camera. I watched a video this morning by a Nikon Ambassador at one of the companyís conventions and was dazzled by his work. Then I checked the price of his camera and nearly choked on my Cheerios. So, itís a good thing I know I can learn a lot with the camera Iíve got.
    Last edited by CatherineA; 10th November 2017 at 01:19 PM.

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    Re: shutter speed v. ISO

    Hi Catherine:

    I think your questions and method of approach are great. Get CiC working to help you, there is a lot of talent in this forum.

    I am not familiar with the controls of the Nikon you have, but is there no way to set the ISO to automatic? If it only works for the semi-auto functions (aperture and shutter priority) I would suggest using them with the ISO set to automatic. I had the capacity to set the ISO on my bridge camera to be automatic to a limit, with I choose to set at 800. In fact, because I want to limit the noise I normally keep it at ISO-200, but that's just me!

    I have done quite a bit of wildlife photography and to be honest I am more concerned with the aperture than the shutter speed. I want to know if what I want to be sharp will be in focus but no more, which is what aperture is all about. I can see the shutter speed and keep an eye to see if I am going to get blur or not. It helps to have a steady hand!

    I agree one can spend a fortune in gear, and I had to tot up my investment recently for insurance purposes (I was moving from Victoria BC to Auckland NZ), and I was mildly shocked at the number that came up. It is easy to get GAS (nothing to do with Cheerios ), Gear Acquisition Syndrome, the underlying principle of which is that getting a better camera will make one a better photographer. It just ain't so... Some of my favourite images were taken with fairly humble gear.

    If you are a member of your local library, log on and do a search for Lynda.com in the catalogue. If it appears it means you have free access to a huge library of quality videos on the whole gamut of photography topics from excellent presenters. I have gone through some myself and enjoyed them.

    cheers: Trev




    Quote Originally Posted by CatherineA View Post
    Thank you Trev for showing those comparisons. Both are beautiful photos. I think the bridge camera is plenty for me at this stage, as much as I would like to have some of the DSLR features. For one thing, I do find changing the ISO in Manual a nuisance and slow and yes, low light is a real problem even some light conditions that I didnít think was all that low.But still, I feel lucky to have this camera. I watched a video this morning by a Nikon Ambassador at one of the companyís conventions and was dazzled by his work. Then I checked the price of his camera and nearly choked on my Cheerios. So, itís a good thing I know I can learn a lot with the camera Iíve got.

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    Re: shutter speed v. ISO

    Richard, Thank you for explaining about the cropping. I knew something was wrong with my duck photo but couldnít put my finger on what it was since, as you say, cropping can work sometimes. Now I have a better idea of when. Yes, I can use auto exposure bracketing when in shutter or aperture priority so I will experiment. Thanks for that idea too.

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    Re: shutter speed v. ISO

    Thanks again Trev. I did try setting the ISO to automatic one day and the results werenít very good. Of course the problem might not lie with the camera so I will try it again because if I could get it to work well that would be a treat. With my photo of the chickadee eating from someoneís hand the ISO was 400 and speed was 1/320. You would shoot at a lower ISO and slower speed? I know that for now - maybe forever - I am not steady enough for a slower speed.

    Thanks so much for telling me about Lynda.com. I checked and our library subscribes. Thatís great!

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    Re: shutter speed v. ISO

    Catherine,

    I'd go back to what Manfred posted. In a nutshell, raising ISO damages the quality of the image, although under some circumstances and depending on the camera, this loss may not be of any consequence. (For example, with my main camera, a Canon 5DIII, I routinely shoot flash candids of kids at ISO 400 to get more ambient lighting than I would get at ISO 100. With that camera, and given the dynamic range in the photos, there isn't appreciable loss of quality.) But nonetheless, a good starting point might be: don't raise ISO unless you have a reason to.

    In learning about photography, one of the starting points is to learn the effects of aperture and shutter speed. Then, for a given image, see whether you can capture the image with the aperture and shutter speed you need, at base ISO. If not, then raise ISO.

    With respect to shutter speed: an old rule of thumb (which, like most rules of thumb, is often wrong) is that if you don't have image stabilization / vibration control in your camera, the slowest safe shutter speed is 1/(focal length), where the focal length is for full frame/35mm cameras. I don't know your camera, so I can't tell you how to translate focal lengths into full-frame-equivalent lengths, but someone here probably can. Many beginners need to train for a while to get close to this rule of thumb. You need to brace well (a common way is to hold your left elbow tightly against your chest) and release the shutter gently, moving the camera as little as possible.

    Re the camera settings you mentioned, such as shutter priority and auto ISO: these are simply tools to get to the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO setting that the photographer wants. Rather than starting by worrying about the choice setting, start as you started to in your first post by figuring out which combination of these three settings you want. Once you have that figured out, the choice of setting becomes easier. For example, in some circumstances, you will be worried about motion blur, so you may decide on a minimum shutter speed. One of several settings you could use would be a fixed ISO and shutter priority, letting the camera pick the aperture (assuming you have enough light for that combination). You might also get to the same end point with a fully manual setting.

    Dan
    Last edited by DanK; 10th November 2017 at 02:23 PM.

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    Re: shutter speed v. ISO

    Thank you so much for your reply Dan. I kept what you said in mind when I "shot" birds today. I used shutter priority and the lowest ISO I could get away and steadied my arm. I got a few nice shots - here's a pretty Dark-eyed Junco from today. I need to keep working on my technique when I release the shutter. At the last moment I seem to panic and have a "Quick! Man over board!" mentality. Another thing I need to improve is on the technique for focusing on the eyes and keeping them in focus while adjusting the composition so that the eyes are in a different part of the frame.

    This forum sure has very kind and talented people in it.

    shutter speed v. ISO

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    Re: shutter speed v. ISO

    Catherine - two thoughts for you:

    1. Pressing the shutter release - use a smooth, almost rolling motion, rather than darting your finger down on the release button will reduce the risk of camera movement.

    2. I don't know how the Coolpix P600 works, but with most cameras, pressing the shutter release around half way down locks in the exposure and focus. You can then reframe the image without losing the focus and then press the shutter release all the way. If your camera does this, try it. The technique is commonly referred to as "focus & recompose" and is a technique is use in most of my shots.
    Last edited by Manfred M; 10th November 2017 at 11:07 PM.

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    Re: shutter speed v. ISO

    Thanks again for your time Manfred! Iím going to incorporate both of your suggestions when Im out tomorrow.

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    Re: shutter speed v. ISO

    Catherine, breath control helps a lot, too. Breathe steadily in & out. From 'out', half fill lungs & pause - shoot - then continue breathing (of course, duh). Was taught this in the early fifties while shooting Lee-Enfield .303 rifles as an Army Cadet.

    Another thing we were taught was to squeeze the trigger slow-ishly rather than jerking on it. The idea being that the bang should come as a surprise. Works with shutters too, but I use the 2-sec timer these days - although that might not work with pesky birds that fly off just before your shutter clicks . .
    Last edited by xpatUSA; 11th November 2017 at 08:05 PM.

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