What is the “S” Mode for?

“S” means “Speed” and stands for Speed Priority.

In this mode, the photographer selects, using the appropriate controls, the shutter speed (or exposure time) with which to work, and the camera selects the other parameters like the lens aperture and/or ISO sensitivity required to get the right exposure.

The main reason to prioritize the exposure time is to control movement in the image.

A short exposure time will be used in sports photography, to “freeze” the motion of an athlete jumping into the air to catch a ball, for example.

Helicopter in flight, it's rotor seemingly stopped

Helicopter in flight, it’s rotor seemingly stopped by a short exposure time. Image © Charles Martel 2012

In contrast, a long exposure time can be used to illustrate movement, the rotation of a wheel, for example. It can also be used creatively, to get a blur effect on ocean waves, or blur cars moving by on a road, etc.

OVNI ride, La Ronde Amusement Park, Montreal, in motion, at night.

OVNI ride, La Ronde Amusement Park, Montreal, in motion, at night. Image: © Charles Martel 1985

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