Shutter speed

What Is a “Stop” in Photography?

“Stop” is a photography term that gets thrown around a lot. Someone will describe a photo as a stop under-exposed, or tell you to increase your shutter speed by a stop. The concept can be a little confusing for new photographers, so let’s look at exactly what a stop is and what it means when it comes to photography.

Stops, Shutter Speed and Aperture

When you take a photograph, the exposure is determined by the area of the aperture and the exposure time (also called shutter speed). Although exposure is basically quantity-less, there are a range of combinations of aperture and exposure time that will create a good photographic exposure. If the aperture is too wide or the exposure time too long, then all you’ll get is a white photo; conversely, if either of them is too low, you’ll just get a black photo.

Since exposure is valueless—you don’t look at a scene and describe it as a 12 stop photo for example—there is no way to talk about things in absolutes. Instead, stops are used to describe relative changes in aperture and exposure time. One stop is equal to a halving (or a doubling) of the amount of light let into the camera by that factor.

So for example, if you have the shutter speed on your camera set to 1/100th of a second, increasing your exposure by one stop would change the shutter speed to 1/50th of a second (letting twice as much light into the camera). Changing your shutter speed to 1/200th of a second (halving the amount of light let into the camera) reduces your exposure by a stop. As you can probably see, for shutter speed the rule is really simple: to increase your exposure by a stop, double your shutter speed; to decrease your exposure by a stop, half it.

Photographers also talk about half-stops or third-stops. Third-stops are especially important as they’re the increment that most cameras use for their settings. These are…

How to Take Good Sports Photos

Some of the most iconic images in the world are sports photos: Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston, Usain Bolt celebrating his world record breaking sprint in the Olympics, Joe DiMaggio batting against the Washington Senators in 1941…whether you know these images by my descriptions or not, you’ve almost certainly seen them.

There’s something about sports images that makes them stick out. So, let’s look at how to take our own great sports photos.

I mainly shoot winter sports and the odd bit of rugby and MMA, so those are the photos I’ll be using as examples in this article. However, most of the principles are pretty general, so you can apply them to whatever sport you want.

What Makes a Good Sports Photo

Sports are emotional. People are standing in a field (or court, or ring) giving everything they’ve got in front of a crowd, whether it’s ten people or ten million people. There is nothing subtle and restrained going on—it’s raw. And your sports photos need to show that.

A technically perfect photo of someone throwing a football is boring. You want to see the calculation in the quarterback, the determination and power in the linebacker bearing down on him, the skill and effort the players have put in over the years, and the tension in the whole scene.

A good sports photo should make you feel like you’re there. You should look at an image and almost be able to hear the crowd cheering, to feel the pain of the losing team, and so on. It should capture what it is like to stand their and watch things happen in real time.

It should get to the heart of the particular sport. If it’s a technical discipline like gymnastics, every line should be smooth and muscle tense; the subject should look poised. If it’s something more brutal like weightlifting, you want to see the sweat run down the lifter’s face, the ridiculous expression they make when they exert themselves, and so on. For motor sports, you want to show the speed of everything; for snooker or chess, it’s all about the deliberate concentration. Think what is at the heart of the sport you’re shooting, and try to capture that.

The Technical Details

Technically, sports shooting is quite simple. You normally need a fast shutter speed and…well, that’s about it. Things like depth of field and digital noise are secondary concerns.

The easiest way to get a fast shutter speed is to use aperture priority mode. Before the game starts, take a few test shots to dial in your settings. Depending on the sport, you’ll need a minimum shutter speed somewhere between 1/100th of a second and 1/1000th of a second. The faster the sport, the faster the shutter speed you need. Use whatever aperture and ISO combination will let you get the speeds you need.

Look At These Sculptures Undulate Under Strobe Lighting

Artist John Edmark makes 3D-printed sculptures that are designed to “animate” when they’re rotating on a turntable and lit in just the right way.

There are two ways to create the effect—either view the sculpture in person while a strobe light flickers over it, or take a video with a very fast shutter speed (so each frame of the video is a tiny sliver of time, similar to a strobe light burst). In the videos below, the latter approach is used.

Edmark explains how the sculptures work mathematically:

Blooms are 3D printed sculptures designed to animate when spun under a strobe light. Unlike a 3D zoetrope, which animates a sequence…