Sarah Harbuck your Click-a-Pic Challenge hostess here with a quick lesson on shutter speed.

Shutter Speed is simply the amount of time the shutter is open. The longer it is open, the more light is let through the film or image sensor.

Shutter speed & aperture (& ISO) go hand in hand when it comes to exposing an image. On your camera shutter speed is represented by a symbol Tv also referred to as “shutter priority”. Shutter speed is measured in seconds and range anywhere from 30 seconds of exposure to 1/8000 of a second of exposure time. Most cameras have a “Bulb” setting where you use a shutter release cable and the photographer can hold the shutter open for as long as he/she wants.

A shutter speed with the value of 1/125 is faster than a shutter speed of 1/20. As with aperture, shutter speeds are faster the smaller the number. The larger the number the slower the shutter speed. On the camera, the shutter speed isn’t listed as a fraction but looks more like a whole number. The display on the camera will usually read 0”4 or 2”5 or 5″ to indicate that you are no longer dealing with fractions of a second but whole seconds.

Shutter speed can be utilized to bring creativity or artistic flare to a photo. It is especially helpful in capturing motion or freezing the motion. This is illustrated below using my 50mm 1.8 lens, the subject being photographed in “open shade” and my white balance was set on “shade”. See how the motion of him jumping is frozen…there is no motion blur.

ISO 400 1/125 at 4.0

In the shot below, the motion has been slowed down a bit and you can see that his body isn’t in focus.

ISO 400 1/30 at 9.0

The image below is blurred the subject is clearly out of focus. Notice how each corresponding aperture changed with the shutter speed. Obviously when experimenting with shutter speed one should use a tripod to ensure the image is in focus.

ISO 400 1/8 at 18


Short tips for using shutter speed in digital SLR photography

  • Slow shutter speed, slows motion.
  • Fast shutter speed, takes the image almost instantly as in frozen in time.
  • Use slow shutter speeds of at least 10 seconds or more for night shots of cities, buildings and streets etc.
  • When using a slow shutter speed it’s also a good idea to use a tripod and remote shutter release to avoid camera shake.
  • If for any reason you don’t want to use a tripod, then a general rule to avoid camera shake is to never set your shutter speed slower than the reciprocal of the focal length value. For example, if your lens focal length is set at 50mm then don’t use a shutter speed any slower than 1/60th of a second and so forth.
  • To photograph a running child or animal while blurring the background, set the shutter speed to between 1/40 sec and 1/125 sec. Then follow the running child or moving animal as you press the shutter button. This is often referred to as panning.

Here are some examples (found on Wikipedia) on how shutter speed can be used creatively in a photo.

The best way to experiment with shutter speed is to photograph moving water. Take your camera, and your tripod and try it out!

If this is new to you just give it a shot and experiment with your camera. Take several shots at different shutter speeds and see what happens.

Stop by the forum every Friday for a brand new Click-a-Pic Challenge! Everyone is welcome regardless of shooting experience or equipment – just come and play along!

Article by: Sarah Harbuck for

Want more? Check out other related posts:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...