So this post I did last month about what I’ve learned so far about taking photos almost every day this year was pretty popular (by the way, I fixed the little glitch that didn’t let you pin an actual photo.)

“MOAR! MOAR PHOTO POSTS!” you cried. (Well, some of you cried, and I want to help you! I really do!)

Now that it’s summer and you’re going to be out in the bright sunlight (hopefully) a lot you need to make friends with your shutter speed and ISO.

The brighter it is outside the lower your ISO needs to be. The darker it is (usually inside) the higher your ISO needs to be. (The lower the ISO the better the color saturation and less noise/grain.)


Indianapolis Mini Marathon.

(Seriously, no worse lighting than high noon sun, in a perfect world I would have moved them into full shade.) 55mm f/3.2 1/640 ISO 100

If it’s darker? You need to move your ISO up.

little gymnast feet
(This is in Addie’s gym with nothing but overhead florescent lights.) 300mm f/5.6 1/100 ISO 1600

Back to the bright sunlight. ISO 100.

If you keep your shutter speed too low (assuming you’re shooting on manual) your shutter will be open too long essentially blinding your camera, like flipping on a bright light to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, everything is blurry and white. If you turn your shutter speed up not only will it catch motion faster, it will retain more of the details since the shutter is essentially “blinking” much faster. Dude, I’m not even sure if that makes any sense. VISUAL!

The first shot my camera said “WHOA! TOO BRIGHT! CAN’T PROCESS SO MUCH LIGHT!” and way overexposed. By making the shutter speed faster I was able to retain more detail and avoid overexposure. Shutter speed also controls how well motion freezes. The higher the shutter speed the better the freeze. The lower, the more blurry moving objects tend to be.

percy high on the 'nip

percy takes off.

50mm f/2.5 1/160 ISO 1000 (ISO was high because it was a very overcast day, I wanted to keep all of his face in focus which is why I didn’t drop my f/stop into the 1’s to make it possible to lower my ISO.)

bailey the flying sheltie dog
50mm f/2.2 1/800 ISO 200

Here’s the deal and something I had to learn the hard way, there’s no way to get everything you want out of a single camera or a single lens for a decent price. Even if you have heaps and gobs of money to spend you’re still not going to be able to have one “end all be all” set up. You have to choose what’s most important to you and base your purchases off of that and learn to game the other things you have into doing what you want (more on that later.) You’re not going to be able to get a sharp photo of a cat launching off the couch indoors in poor light without a flash, and if you use a flash you’re most likely going to compromise the depth of field (blur.) You’re also not going to ever find a lens that can take a really close up macro of a flower then zoom across the street to take a photo of your kid’s face riding their bike. You’ll discover as you get better at this photography thing that you’ll wish your camera or lens did something just a little different. I know with my zoom lens I wish I had a lower f/stop so it worked better in low light. Sure enough, there’s a zoom lens with a lower f/stop but it’s $1K more, weighs 9 pounds and is the size of a small keg, so I make my 70-300 f/5.6 IS do what I need it to do as well as it can do it and I realize there are some shots I just won’t ever get with it.

The best thing I can tell you to do is mess with your camera. Mess with it until your family asks if it’s broken because you’re fiddling with it so much. Turn the ISO up, turn it  down, then move the shutter speed around and see what happens. Soon the strange choreographed dance between ISO, f/stop and shutter speed will begin to make sense (I’m 6 months in and it’s just barely starting to click, full disclosure.)


Tomorrow night (May 10th 8pm EST) Clickin’ Moms is hosting a twitter party around the new book “Beyond Snapshots” which is all about getting your camera off the green square “Cody” setting and onto bigger and better things. There will be prizes (so many prizes!) and you’ll be able to ask questions (so many questions!) I’ll be there, snooping around, answering what I can. Perhaps you’ll join us? Find out more from Jill (and see the prizes!) and RSVP if you think you can make it.

As usual, my offer still stands of a free trial or 20% off a membership to Clickin’ Moms.

Get a free trial with the code ‘MOOSHTRIAL’

Get 20% off with the code ‘MOOSH20′

Hope to see you tomorrow night ’round the twitters!

Thanks to Clickin’ Moms for having me as an ambassador and providing me with a membership to the Clickin’ Moms forums. All links to Clickin’ Moms are affiliate.


  1. I clicked through to read assuming it would all go straight over my head and would be another post I totally didn’t understand.

    I think I may have actually learned something instead.

  2. Yay! Another photog post from you!! you are my favorite teacher. Pinning this for future reference.

    I was going to practice at the tulip parade today, but opted not to take the camera when it was just me with the two boys.

  3. I have great aspirations to be a better photographer, though I’m not really willing to spend the money to get the kind of camera I’d really need…so I’m just trying to do the best I can with a decent point and shoot (Canon SX150). This is a random question, but I’m hoping you can answer it. Under what circumstances might I want to divert from the presets? I feel like when I try to get fancy I just end up with the same settings a preset could have gotten me to sooner–especially if shooting in macro. Any thoughts on scenarios where none of the presets will do something that the camera is actually capable of via manual settings?

  4. Great post! I’d love a post on fill flash when in full sun if you have the the time sometime.

  5. Lisa N. says:

    Casey your pics are amazing! I recently got a new camera with the stipulation from my husband that I learn to use it properly. I went from a point and shoot to a Canon Rebel T3. My question is, do you change your settings for every picture? That just seems like a lot of work. Or do you just set it a certain way knowing you are going to be in the same situation most of the day i.e. a day at the beach? Thanks for taking the time to help train us beginners!! Your pics are amazing!

  6. Lisa N. says:

    Just realized I commented on your pics twice in my post – not enough coffee yet! LOL

  7. I agree so much with that whole play with your camera thing. I got some amazing pictures in Uganda while trying to figure out my camera, purely on accident. I also got some serious messes. But I’m learning and that’s what mattered to me.

  8. Love your very helpful photo posts. Keep ’em comin’!

  9. I just ordered a used f2.8 24-70 lens and I’m so excited for it to get here I could pee myself!

    I think you did a fine job explaining shutter speed. Thank you.