I found this great photography tutorial online called "12 Weeks to Better Photography". I've found that I know to do a lot of this, but I'm not always great about articulating WHY I'm doing it. This is a great refresher of the basics.
You can find the first tutorial here. To see the rest of the lessons, just change the last part of the url that says "weekone" to "weektwo" or whichever week you'd like to look at. Today, I wanted to show you my shots from Week Two, which deals with ISO and Shutter Speed.
Shutter speed is exactly what it sounds--how quickly the shutter of your camera opens and closes to capture the picture. If the shutter is open for a long amount of time, if there's any movement in the picture, it will be blurry (see the left hand picture). If the shutter is open for a shorter amount of time, it will freeze any action in the picture (see the right hand picture). The trade off here is of course that if the shutter is open for a shorter amount of time, less light gets in, which is why the picture on the right is darker than the picture on the left (which could have been fixed if I were shooting in manual, but I wanted you to see the change in brightness).
Now, you can leave your shutter open for much longer than 1/80 of a second. In fact, my camera allows me to leave the shutter open for a full 30 seconds. However, if you drop below about 1/60 sec. while holding your camera, you run the risk of the entire picture being blurry, rather than just the movement. This is where tripods come in (I don't have one though so I can't demonstrate). Also, because the shutter is left open so long, you run the risk of overexposing the picture, or letting too much light in. There are ways around this, but that's another matter for another day.
If you have a DSLR and want to control the shutter speed but let the camera figure out the rest of the settings for you, you'll want to turn the knob on your camera to "TV" (some cameras have an "S" instead). Give it a try!
PS- Would anybody be interested in doing the full 12 weeks and posting the pictures once a week? I could host it and set up a McLinky to link to your blogs if anyone is interested...which day would be best?