Ambient Light and Shutter Speed

The amount of ambient light you have greatly affects the shutter speeds you can achieve. A bright sunny day has lots of light so it is possible to get a shutter speed of 1/4000th of a second. A cloudy day may only let you get up to 1/1000th of a second. A cloudy day under the trees offers even less light.  Even on a sunny day shooting indoors is still a lot less light than outdoors. You must pay attention to the shutter speeds you get as the light changes. As you move from daylight to shade you get less light.

Sunny Day ISO 100, 1/1500th second
Bright Cloudy ISO 400, 1/800th













Indoors sunny day, ISO 1600, 1/160th second










So if you are trying to photograph your toddler moving around like a maniac outdoors will give you more light and faster shutter speeds than indoors. Indoors on a sunny/bright day is better than trying to capture it indoors with artificial lighting at night. Flash can help but only to a point. Most flash units top out at 1/200th of a second.

Indoors sunny day, ISO 1600, 1/160th second
Outdoors bright cloudy, ISO 100, 1/320th second















You can adjust the ISO to get faster shutter speeds in low light, however realize that you lose quality with the increased grain. Regardless a sharp grainy image is preferable to a blurry image. Click on the image below to see the grain. Please note I am using a 5D Mark II Canon that has very good quality at ISO 6400. Cameras vary widely with ISO quality based on model, cost and age. Next time we’ll talk about blurring action with shutter speeds.

Indoors artificial light no flash, ISO 6400, 1/320th second

Canon Camera Errors

I have owned Canon cameras since I began shooting in the 90’s. I still have my old film camera and occasionally break it out, but mostly I use my digital versions. I have owned the 10D, 20D, 1D Mark III, Mark IV and 5D Mark II. They have all been great cameras but as with all equipment they eventually start to break down.

I remember my first encounter with the dreaded error 99. What did this mean? Not much, just that something was wrong. Canon equates it to the check engine light on your car. The camera detected some issue but there’s no way of knowing where the problem lay. You usually turned the camera off, cleaned the battery off or changed it out, changed out the media card and wiped off the contacts between the body and lens. FYI Don’t use an eraser to clean these connections! They may ruin the coating and cause you real problems.

Now Canon has a variety of error codes. Just this past week I got the Error 20 code on my 5D Mark II. So what does that mean? I could hear the shutter sticking or lagging. Canon says it’s an unspecified mechanical error. Well I already got that. The fun part is you try all of things you did with error 99. Change out the battery, reformat the memory card, wipe the connections and see what happens. After my shoot with frequent error 20 displays I changed out the battery and now it is working fine again. For the moment anyway. I can’t imagine how the battery would affect the shutter unless there is a power fluctuation. Anyway we’ll see what happens.

So the bottom line when you get an error? Change out the battery, reformat the media card and wipe down all connections with a soft cloth, no eraser! Pray some and see what happens. The camera may work fine for a while and then have a recurrence or you may be lucky and it’s all better or you may end up sending it back to Canon to be repaired. Pretty vague I know, but here is a link to Canon’s own article on the error codes:

Good Luck!