Shutter Speed

Learn the best shutter speed to use for every situation

What is Shutter Speed?

Shutter speed in simple terms is exactly what it sounds like — it is the speed at which your camera opens and closes the shutter. But what role does the shutter plays in making a photograph?

The shutter opens and closes to let light into your camera, which is then picked up by the image sensor at the back. Changing the shutter speed changes the time the shutter is open for, which lets more or less light fall onto the sensor.

You can dramatically change the look of a photograph just by changing the speed of the shutter. At fast shutter speeds, motion gets frozen in time, like the waterfall below on the left. At slower shutter speeds, any motion becomes blur. The photo on the right below is of the same waterfall, but a different shutter speed was used so the water looks silky smooth.

Image Source

Image Source

The trick, of course, is to figure out which speed is best for which situation. This month, I'll show you how to use each of the shutter speeds available on your camera. I'll explain what situations are best for each, and when to know which shutter speed to use.

Shutter Speed Course Content

  • Day 1: Intro to Shutter Speed
  • Day 2: Fast Action - 1/500 and above
  • Day 3: Portraits - 1/250 sec
  • Day 4: Panning - 1/125 to 1/30 sec
  • Day 5: Capturing Slight Movement - 1/15 sec
  • Day 6: Motion Blurred Water - 1/8 to 1/2 sec
  • Day 7: Twilight Photography - 1 sec
  • Day 8: Creative Motion Blur - BULB mode

In Detail

A fast shutter speed can be used to capture spectacular birds in flight images.

On Day 4, I'll teach you a technique called Panning - where you use a slower shutter speed and move the camera with your subject to give the illusion of movement in your photo.

Long shutter speeds can be used to create amazing photos we never see in real life - like light trails

Day 1: Intro to Shutter Speed - First up, I'll explain how your shutter works and why it's key in determining the final result. I'll provide a summary of all the common shutter speeds we'll be covering in the course, and give you an overview of when to use each one. I'll also explain what (if any) extra gear you'll need for specific shutter speeds.

Day 2: Fast Action - Using a very fast shutter speed like 1/500 sec and above is perfect for capturing fast moving action shots with no motion blur. But a super-fast shutter is not always the answer to motion blur problems - you sometimes need to make other sacrifices. Today, I'll explain what sacrifices you might need to make in which situations.

Day 3: Portraits - 1/250 sec is a perfect shutter speed for taking portraits. Great portrait photos spark memories and document our lives with our loved ones. Today, I'll show you the techniques for consistently high quality portraits worthy of those memories.

Day 4: Panning - At fast shutter speeds, you can freeze any moving thing. But that's not always a good thing - what good is a photo of a racecar passing the finish line at 200mph when it just looks like it's parked there! Fortunately, we have a solution in the 1/125 to 1/30 sec shutter speed range called panning. Using this technique, the background is a streaky blur (communicating speed) while the subject is sharp. Today, I'll explain exactly how to achieve this.

Day 5: Capturing Slight Movement - 1/15 sec is the shutter speed where most photographers get stuck. It's too slow for most subjects (and your photos just look a blurry mess). But you can get some cool effects at 1/15 sec shutter speed. We'll delve into those today.

Day 6: Motion Blurred Water - Slowing down our shutter even more, 1/8 to 1/2 sec is the perfect range for misty waterfall photos (like the one at the top of this page). While they look like they can only be taken by pro photographers, you'll be pleasantly surprised to hear that it's not difficult to do at all!

Day 7: Twilight Photography - Twilight is that fleeting time between when the sun disappears over the horizon, and the world is taken over by darkness. Because of the low light, you'll need a slow shutter speed (like 1 sec). If you haven't tried it, Twilight photography is magical and a real buzz when you get it right. And I'll show you exactly how today.

Day 8: Creative Motion Blur - Finally, we'll get into the realm of very long exposures - 30 seconds and longer. This is where the creative possibilities are endless and you'll find yourself staying up late capturing new and unique photos. I'll show you lots of examples of how and when to use a long exposure, and explain some of the drawbacks. And I'll clear up a mystery of why this is called 'bulb mode'.

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