Shutter Speed Made Simple – Photography Tips & Tricks

shutter speed example

Shutter Speed set to ensure a sharp image

shutter speed example abstract

Shutter Speed dragged while the lens is zoomed during the exposure to produce an abstract zoom effect

Photography Tips & Tricks Tip – Shutter Speed Made Simple

This tip is all about Shutter Speed.

What we’re aiming to do in this quick post is to break down Shutter Speed, what it is and how to use it and demystify it for you.

“In photography, shutter speed or exposure time is the length of time a camera‘s shutter is open when taking a photograph.[1]The amount of light that reaches the film or image sensor is proportional to the exposure time.” – Wiki

Basically when you click the button to take an image, how long the camera takes to complete the image is the Shutter Speed, this directly affects how much light is coming into the camera and therefore how your exposure is lit (there are other factors such as f/stop and ISO but we’ll talk about those in another Photography Tips & Tricks).

The first image above is taken using a Shutter Speed of 1/200 (200th of a second) which has ensured that the subject is sharp in the final image. The rest of the settings were changed to ensure that 1/200 would produce an even exposure (for reference the average camera user can take a photograph at as low as between 1/60 and 1/100 for still subjects and maintain a sharp image – this is trial and error and the more you shoot the more you’ll realise your own capabilities).

When you approach a subject that you wish to capture you need to do a quick analysis over what the subject is doing, movement wise (including natural movement such as the wind for plants etc) in order to give you a guide on your Shutter Speed.

For example an adult sitting on a bench is usually fairly static and so as low as 1/60 or 1/100 should be ok (depending on your skills) however a young child running about a play area will render the subject blurred at these settings and so you’ll need a faster Shutter Speed to match the movement of the subject. For reference for this we’d start around 1/250 or even up to 1/500 if the child’s particularly energetic and fast to ensure a tack sharp image throughout.

While you’re practicing (and even sometimes in professional situations) you can use your SLR’s ‘Shutter Speed Priority’ marked as ‘S’ on Nikons and ‘Tv’ on Canons (consult your instruction booklet for guidance locating the setting) to allow you to take control of just the Shutter Speed (the camera will work out the f/stop and ISO to use). When using Shutter Priority Mode make sure to look back over your images after to see the settings the camera chose to help you understand what and why it chose those settings, this will help you to understand how Shutter Speed affects Aperture and ISO within the Exposure Triangle.

As you get more and more used to Shutter Speed you can learn to manipulate it to produce abstract images such as the image on the right at the top of this post which was taken at 1/10 (10th of a Second – quite a slow exposure) with the lens being zoomed in while the camera was taking the photograph. Alternatively you can rapidly (carefully) move the camera whilst it is taking the photograph to produce an image like one on the right.

I hope this has helped and as always please feel free to subscribe to get notified when new Tips & Tricks go live or drop me a comment below with any feedback or questions for future Photography Tips & Tricks.

Take Aways

– Shutter Speed is the time it takes the camera to complete the image.

– A slow shutter speed will render a moving subject blurred in the final image

– Try to match your Shutter Speed to the environment and subject

– Use Shutter Speed Priority mode while learning to get used to how Shutter Speed is linked to Aperture and ISO.

shutter speed example blurred

Too slow a Shutter Speed choice and the subject is blurred

shutter speed example very blurred

Moving the camera during a longer exposure can produce some abstract effects.

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