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Fundamentals of Photography

Lesson 6 of 107

Shutter System


Fundamentals of Photography

Lesson 6 of 107

Shutter System


Lesson Info

Shutter System

Next up we wanna talk about the different shutter systems that are used in the different cameras. There's a system called the leaf shutter system, which is used on the point and shoots and some of the larger cameras as well. And what this is is a couple of shutters that kinda shaped like leaves that open and close right inside the lens. It's a very simplistic system. And it's very small, it's very lightweight. And we can take a look at the cross-section of the way a point and shoot camera works. Now remember when you point your camera at something to take a photo, you can see what's going on, which means the shutter has to be open. All right, so let's get our shutter in there. So it's open to start with. And then when you press the shutter release to take a photo, what's gonna happen is it has to close. The sensor is then prepped for actually capturing the image. The shutter then opens, captures the image, and then closes again, and then you wanna see to take the next shot, so it needs...

to open again. And so there's a lot of opening and closing when it takes a photo here. And this shutter system has to be put into the lens and the optical designers who design the lens, they can't put anything near the shutter. They gotta like no, you can't put that lens here, we're working the shutter here. And so it does compromise the lens design a little bit, but it simplifies it in other ways 'cause now you don't need that shutter in the body. And so you'll see this on point and shoots, some medium format, as well as large format cameras. And so, simple, very, very quiet, and it can synchronize with flash at all different shutter speeds. We'll talk more about that in the lighting section. But it's something that's a bit of an advantage for them. The problem is that you need to design lenses around this, and now you need to buy a shutter every time you buy a lens. And that can be a little bit, add, that can add to the cost of the lens, and so that's not what most camera systems do. As I said, some of the higher-end systems, medium format, large format will do that because the cameras are so big, they can't have shutters that big. They can make them much smaller and put them in the lenses. So it's just a different type of system that solves a particular type of problem. The most popular system for all the cameras that we've been talking about and will continue to talk about in this class is the focal plane shutter. Which means there is a shutter opening right near the focal plane of that particular camera. In an SLR camera, we talked about your viewing system here, and as light comes into the sensor, goes through the lens, the mirror goes up, light's gonna come in towards the sensor, but it can't quite get there yet. It needs to get past the shutter unit. And there are actually two parts to the shutter. It's like a curtain. There's a first curtain and a second curtain. And what happens when you actually take a photo is that the set of blades, these are four lightweight metal blades, will drop away, exposing light to the sensor, and then the second curtain will come in and block everything off. It uses this two-curtain system rather than a one-curtain system that would open and close so that every pixel is exposed for exactly the same amount of time. You get an even exposure across the entire sensor. And then the system needs to reset, and then the mirror will come back down so that you can view the next image. But it needs to go through this every time you shoot a photo, and this is the way it works on SLRs and mirror-less for the most part. Now you can see, in a very fast shutter speed, the way it does it is it scans the image on. Now, you would think that this might have a problem with subjects that move really quickly but this scanning happens very, very quickly so it's not really an issue. I suppose you could force yourself into a situation to make it an issue, but this is how the camera works at high shutter speeds. It's essentially scanning that light on that sensor during that 1/8000th of a second, for instance. And then the mirror returns, and you get to see what's going on. So the SLR system, the focal plane shutter system here. This is a proven technology. They know how to work with this, make it work quick and very, very reliable. It simplifies the lens construction 'cause now they can do whatever they want in the lens and they'll just worry about the shutter in the body itself. There is a limitation because that sensor has to be completely clear when the flash fires as to when you can fire your flash and so synchronization will be a key topic when we get into the lighting and flash section in this class. And that shutter movement, up and down up and down up and down, causes a little bit of vibration in the camera. And so a lot of the new SLRs now have silent shutter options, which allows you to use an electronic shutter we'll talk about in a moment so that there's no movement in the cameras at all. If you're doing a high-magnification, close-up shot, any sort of vibration might cause a blurriness of the photo. And so, just another tool for solving a problem. With a mirror-less camera, the focal plane shutter works slightly differently and that's because we don't have the mirror in there for viewing system. We're using the actual sensor for viewing. So if we're to take a close look at the sensor in this case, here's what's happening with the focal plane shutter in a mirror-less camera. To start with, the shutter is natively open, 'cause you have to have light coming into the sensor so that you can see to compose your photograph. When it's time to take a photo, the shutter needs to close so that the sensor can be prepped. Now the sensor is ready. Here's your exposure, you're taking the photo. And then the second shutter comes in, closes it, but then it needs to open again so that you can see the next shot. And so there's a little bit of movement going on in there and long term, these shutters are going bye-bye. We're not going to be seeing these forever. There's a lot of mechanical things that are going on in here. Not really a huge problem, but it's kinda getting in the way of some other things that we might wanna do. And so, here's how it would look if you could see the sensor straight on. Mirror-less camera has both shutters open. Closes to preps the sensor. We're now collecting the image. And on some of the early mirror-less cameras, there was a problem because that shutter was getting out of the way so quickly, it caused a vibration right when the camera was recording an exposure. And so a lot of the cameras have now used gone to an electronic shutter to start off the exposure and then they use a mechanical shutter to finish it. And so there's a lot of technology going on in the cameras in this case and so if we could see the pixels. I've enlarged them here to make them easy. Shutter opens, we let the vibrations settle out, and then the camera basically scans the image on, recording the image one line at a time as quickly as it can, and then closing the shutter again at the tail end. Different cameras work in different systems. I can't speak universally to all the different systems because it's different and it's constantly changing all the time. One of the newest features that has come out is the electronic shutter. And we first saw this with, I'm trying to remember which camera, I think it was the Canon 40D that had an electronic front curtain shutter. And the funny thing is, looking back on it, they never told anyone about this. They had this great new piece of technology, and I was just talking with a couple photographers and they're like yeah, did you notice this? Yeah, I notice how this was working. It's like, I think they did this. And then we did some testing and like, they did this and they didn't even tell us. And it's this great new feature. What happens is that it would open up the shutter, and then it would electronically start, and then it would close it with the curtain. And this was really beneficial so in that there was no movement before the picture was taken in the camera. There was nothing moving which means the camera stayed perfectly still. And in some high-magnification situations, every little bit of movement might be a problem. Someday, very soon, we're gonna get completely rid of these mechanical devices in the camera. And what's gonna happen is we're gonna have an electronic shutter. A lot of the cameras have options to turn this on right now and just not use the mechanical shutter. And what it's doing is it scans very quickly from top to bottom or bottom to top, just turns on those pixels, records that light, goes to the next line and it currently, because of the CMOS technology we're using, it can't turn everything on and everything off. Actually, the CCDs used to be able to do this that we used in cameras. And I remember back on the Nikon D70, you could actually do this. But they've gone to CMOS because of a variety of reasons we're not gonna get into right now. But this is currently where we are right now and the limitation is this scanning process. And either, they're gonna speed it up so it's not a difference, or they're gonna come up with a new piece of technology that just turns everything on and everything off at the same time. But the scanning is what people in video call the jello effect. And so as you move your camera back and forth, this is what a standard grid pattern looks like as you move it really quickly. If a car is driving quickly down the street and you're following it, those buildings in the background appear to be leaning. They're not actually like that, and that's because you were moving the camera as it was shooting. If you hold the camera still, and you have a cyclist ride past you, take a close look at those wheels. Do they seem a little egg-shaped to you? And that's because the cyclist was moving, and it was scanning the image one line at a time. And so it doesn't work real well with moving subjects. This is gonna change, and I know it's gonna change, because it's already started to change, and I don't like to call out individual cameras, but for right now, the Sony A9 is the only camera in the market that can shoot with an electronic shutter, shooting high-speed action with virtually no distortion. It's small enough that I don't think really anyone's gonna have a problem with it, 'cause I've done some testing with some skateboarders and some really fast movement with the camera. But it scans fast enough, it's not a problem. And so we're gonna see this more and more on as cameras come around. So, the electronic shutter. No vibration, silent, more reliable, less moving stuff in the camera. So there's some good things to think about here. Moving objects are currently distorted. That is going to change, I think very quickly on the next round of mirror-less cameras that come out. There is some limitations on flash. We'll see how they deal with that going forward. Um, but probably the biggest thing is no more click. I used a silent camera I mean this just, uh, you know, where's that sound that you know? Um, imagine, I don't play golf, but could you imagine golf with no sound hitting the ball? You know, golfers, I'm sure, you know, really click into that click. When you get a good hit it sounds like a good hit. But just, yeah, great hit, it feels like you're playing an electronic game or something. And so, we'll have to add in really high-quality clicks and maybe, maybe I'll start a company that makes after market clicks that you can download and add to your camera and you want the Gringo click in your camera. It's the classic clicks or something. So those are the different shutter speeds that you can have in your camera. And so some different options in there. Let's check with questions. Kenna. Uh, question one, back when we were talking about the leaf shutter system. This is from Photo Maker, said, so with the leaf shutter system, you're not constrained to a 1/250th of a second for flash sync? That is correct and that 1/250th is misleading 'cause not everyone has 1/250th of a second. And this is one of the reasons why professional photographers will often use a medium format camera. For instance, a Mamiya system and I'm not sure if I think the Hasselblad system may be doing this as well. They offer a number of lenses and focal plane shutters, so you can use the shutter in the body, or you can get leaf shutters in the lens so that you can flash sync at a thousandth of a second or two thousandth of a second and it enables photographers to work with lighting equipment in bright lighting conditions so that they can control their depth of field. It's all problem solving, and it just solves the problem of using flash under bright light conditions. Now, none of the major manufacturers like Nikon and Canon make leaf shutter lenses that work on their cameras. It's typically medium format and higher-end cameras, as well as some of those point and shoots. Great, thank you. And then, from Dijon Style, can, so did you say that you can or can't use a flash with the electronic shutter? So electronic shutter is a little tricky on using flash and it's gonna depend on the system and so I don't wanna issue an answer 'cause I think it's gonna change over time and it's different from camera to camera, but on many systems right now you have to have your camera in the mechanical system. There are some cameras where you, if you put it in the electronic system, for electronic shutter, the flash options are grayed out and you can't get to them. And so it's on one of those areas, they're working on that right now on many of the systems.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

As a photographer, you will need to master the technical basics of the camera and form an understanding of the kind of equipment you need. The Fundamentals of Digital Photography will also teach something even more important (and crucial for success) - how to bring your creative vision to fruition.

Taught by seasoned photographer John Greengo, the Fundamentals of Digital Photography places emphasis on quality visuals and experiential learning. In this course, you’ll learn:

  • How to bring together the elements of manual mode to create an evocative image: shutter speed, aperture, and image composition.
  • How to choose the right gear, and develop efficient workflow.
  • How to recognize and take advantage of beautiful natural light.

John will teach you to step back from your images and think critically about your motivations, process, and ultimate goals for your photography project. You’ll learn to analyze your vision and identify areas for growth. John will also explore the difference between the world seen by the human eye and the world seen by the camera sensor. By forming an awareness of the gap between the two, you will be able to use your equipment to its greatest potential.


  1. Class Introduction
  2. Photographic Characteristics
  3. Camera Types
  4. Viewing System
  5. Lens System
  6. Shutter System
  7. Shutter Speed Basics
  8. Shutter Speed Effects
  9. Camera & Lens Stabilization
  10. Quiz: Shutter Speeds
  11. Camera Settings Overview
  12. Drive Mode & Buffer
  13. Camera Settings - Details
  14. Sensor Size: Basics
  15. Sensor Sizes: Compared
  16. The Sensor - Pixels
  17. Sensor Size - ISO
  18. Focal Length
  19. Angle of View
  20. Practicing Angle of View
  21. Quiz: Focal Length
  22. Fisheye Lens
  23. Tilt & Shift Lens
  24. Subject Zone
  25. Lens Speed
  26. Aperture
  27. Depth of Field (DOF)
  28. Quiz: Apertures
  29. Lens Quality
  30. Light Meter Basics
  31. Histogram
  32. Quiz: Histogram
  33. Dynamic Range
  34. Exposure Modes
  35. Sunny 16 Rule
  36. Exposure Bracketing
  37. Exposure Values
  38. Quiz: Exposure
  39. Focusing Basics
  40. Auto Focus (AF)
  41. Focus Points
  42. Focus Tracking
  43. Focusing Q&A
  44. Manual Focus
  45. Digital Focus Assistance
  46. Shutter Speeds & Depth of Field (DOF)
  47. Quiz: Depth of Field
  48. DOF Preview & Focusing Screens
  49. Lens Sharpness
  50. Camera Movement
  51. Advanced Techniques
  52. Quiz: Hyperfocal Distance
  53. Auto Focus Calibration
  54. Focus Stacking
  55. Quiz: Focus Problems
  56. Camera Accessories
  57. Lens Accessories
  58. Lens Adaptors & Cleaning
  59. Macro
  60. Flash & Lighting
  61. Tripods
  62. Cases
  63. Being a Photographer
  64. Natural Light: Direct Sunlight
  65. Natural Light: Indirect Sunlight
  66. Natural Light: Mixed
  67. Twilight: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  68. Cloud & Color Pop: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  69. Silhouette & Starburst: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  70. Golden Hour: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  71. Quiz: Lighting
  72. Light Management
  73. Flash Fundamentals
  74. Speedlights
  75. Built-In & Add-On Flash
  76. Off-Camera Flash
  77. Off-Camera Flash For Portraits
  78. Advanced Flash Techniques
  79. Editing Assessments & Goals
  80. Editing Set-Up
  81. Importing Images
  82. Organizing Your Images
  83. Culling Images
  84. Categories of Development
  85. Adjusting Exposure
  86. Remove Distractions
  87. Cropping Your Images
  88. Composition Basics
  89. Point of View
  90. Angle of View
  91. Subject Placement
  92. Framing Your Shot
  93. Foreground & Background & Scale
  94. Rule of Odds
  95. Bad Composition
  96. Multi-Shot Techniques
  97. Pixel Shift, Time Lapse, Selective Cloning & Noise Reduction
  98. Human Vision vs The Camera
  99. Visual Perception
  100. Quiz: Visual Balance
  101. Visual Drama
  102. Elements of Design
  103. Texture & Negative Space
  104. Black & White & Color
  105. The Photographic Process
  106. Working the Shot
  107. What Makes a Great Photograph?


a Creativelive Student

Love love all John Greengo classes! Wish to have had him decades ago with this info, but no internet then!! John is the greatest photography teacher I have seen out there, and I watch a lot of Creative Live classes and folks on YouTube too. John is so detailed and there are a ton of ah ha moments for me and I know lots of others. I think I own 4 John Greengo classes so far and want to add this one and Travel Photography!! I just drop everything to watch John on Creative Live. I wish sometime soon he would teach a Lightroom class and his knowledge on photography post editing.!!! That would probably take a LOT OF TIME but I know John would explain it soooooo good, like he does all his Photography classes!! Thank you Creative Live for having such a wonderful instructor with John Greengo!! Make more classes John, for just love them and soak it up! There is soooo much to learn and sometimes just so overwhelming. Is there anyway you might do a Motivation class!!?? Like do this button for this day, and try this technique for a week, or post this subject for this week, etc. Motivation and inspiration, and playing around with what you teach, needed so much and would be so fun.!! Just saying??? Awaiting gadgets class now, while waiting for lunch break to be over. All the filters and gadgets, oh my. Thank you thank you for all you teach John, You are truly a wonderful wonderful instructor and I would highly recommend folks listening and buying your classes.


I don't think that adjectives like beautiful, fantastic or excellent can describe the course and classes with John Greengo well enough. I've just bought my first camera and I am a total amateur but I fell in love with photography while watching the classes with John. It is fun, clear, understandable, entertaining, informative and and and. He is not only a fabulous photographer but a great teacher as well. Easy to follow, clear explanations and fantastic visuals. The only disadvantage I can list here that he is sooooo good that keeps me from going out to shoot as I am just glued to the screen. :-) Don't miss it and well worth the money invested! Thank you John!


Dear John, thanks for this outstanding classes. You are not only a great photographer and instructor, but your classes are pleasant, they are not boring, with a good sense of humor, they go straight to the point and have a good time listening to you. Please, keep teaching what you like most, and I will continue to look for your classes. And thanks for using a plain English, that it's important for people who has another language as native language. Thanks again, Juan