Slow Shutter – 1/4, f/22, ISO 50
What is Shutter Speed?
Your camera’s shutter speed is one of three elements that decides the exposure of your images. The other two elements are aperture and ISO.
Shutter speed refers to the amount of time that your camera’s shutter is open. Your shutter speed controls how much light you let in. It also controls whether or not you are freezing motion or showing motion.
Shutter speed is measured in fractions of seconds. 1/2000 of a second is very fast, whereas 30 seconds is much slower.
Want to learn firsthand about shutter speed? I will be covering this in depth in my photography workshop this spring.
Fast Shutter – 1/6000, f/7, ISO 250
A fast shutter speed is one that freezes motion. Generally, anything above 1/500 will freeze motion.
Slow Shutter – 1/15, f/2.8, ISO 640
A slow shutter will show motion. Your shutter speed will vary quite a bit here depending on what you are photographing. A good starting point for waterfalls is .3 seconds if it’s not silky enough you would make it slower.
Fast Shutter – 1/2000, f/5, ISO 50
Changing Your Shutter Speed
Most cameras have a dedicated dial for changing your shutter speed either in the front or the rear of the camera. I recommend checking your manual to find yours.
Practice Makes Perfect
The best way to wrap your head around shutter speed is to practice. I recommend putting your camera into Shutter Priority Mode which is usually marked with an S or TV (Canon). In this mode, the only element you are controlling is the shutter speed.
- When using a slow shutter speed you should always put your camera on a tripod.
- If you are shooting in Shutter Priority mode and can’t get your shutter slow enough, check your ISO. You want this to be pretty low with a slow shutter start at ISO 50 or 100.
- There is no one fits all shutter speed for showing or freezing motion, you really have to experiment to find the best speed for your shot.
- If you are shooting in bright daylight and want to use a slow shutter, I recommend getting a neutral density filter for your camera. This will allow you to use slow shutter speeds.
- Most cameras only stay open a maximum of 30 seconds, to make your shutter stay open longer you will need to put your camera into bulb mode and use a remote to set and stop the shutter.
- When doing portraits, try to keep your shutter speed above 1/200 so that you don’t get blurry humans in your shots.
Panning – 1/125, f/13, ISO 50
For a really neat effect try camera panning. Panning refers to using a slow shutter speed while tracking a moving object. To try this you lock your focus on your subject and move your camera with the subject while pressing the shutter. Recommended shutter speeds are anywhere between 1/15 sec and 1/125 sec depending on how fast your subject is moving. Try 1/15 sec for moving animals or people, 1/125 sec for fast cars.
Slow Shutter – 30 sec, f/2.8, ISO 500
Shutter Speed Guidelines
While these guidelines aren’t written in stone, these are good starting points for shutter speeds based on what you are shooting.
- Freezing People/Animals Walking – 1/300 second
- Freezing People/Animals Running – 1/500 second
- Freezing Vehicles – 1/1000 second
- Panning – 1/15 – 1/125 seconds
- Blurring fast-moving water – 1/8 – 1/4 seconds
- Blurring slow-moving water – 1/2 – 2 seconds
- Blurring people – 1/4 second
- Milky water effect – 1 – 30 seconds seconds
- Streaking clouds – 10 seconds +
- Fireworks – 2-10 seconds
- Stars – 15-30 seconds
- Star Trails 15 minutes +
About the Instructor
Hi there, I am Beth Mancuso a portrait and landscape photographer based out of Minnesota. I have been in business as a portrait photographer for over ten years now. I have spent the last six years working as an instructor and mentor. I am a National Geographic Your Shot Contributor. My work has been featured by National Geographic, Huff Post, My Modern Met, Peta Pixel, Sony, and Lensbaby. My work has been published in Click, Midwest Living, and Black and White Magazine. You can read more about me here. You can find my portfolio here – https://intothewildwego.photography/portfolio/