shutter speed front picHi everyone,
Back again with a part 2 of the new serie on my blog, in which I explain the basic aspects of digital photography as clear and easy as possible!
Today I’m explaining shutter speed; what it is, how it works and when to use it.
It is a basic photography skill which will certainly be useful at any time!

What is shutter speed?
To be exact, the shutter speed is the amount of time that the shutter is open, this can be for example one second or 1/1000 of a second.
But how does it work exactly?
It is quite a technical story which I’ll try to explain as clear as possible. In a camera, you have, what I like to call, two rolling shutters. We call the rolling shutter 1 and rolling shutter 2. When you press the shutter button, rolling shutter 1 will rise to allow the light to come into the camera. Rolling shutter 2 will rise to meet rolling shutter 1 and then they go back to the closing setting together. The photo has been made.
In a DSLR (digital single-lens camera), there is an extra step. There is a mirror at a 45 degrees angle in front of the shutter. This mirror reflects light which goes straight to the the viewer. When you press the shutter release button, the mirror pops up and let’s the light get into the shutter. Afterwards, the shutter goes to it’s normal mechanism of the ‘rolling shutter’ which I explained before. When you don’t have a DSLR, this last step is obviously not happening when you take a photograph. I know, it’s quite a technical story so let’s move on to a more practical use of shutter speed.

Why do we use shutter speed?
We now know that the shutter speed is the amount of time your shutter is open. But why do we use it? When you have long shutter speed, for example 1/2 (half a second), the shutter is open relatively long. In that half a second a lot happens. There is always motion when you take a photo so with a long shutter speed, all that motion is captured which can cause blurred photo’s. On the other side, when you have a short shutter speed, for example 1/1000, the photo will be sharp and harsh, because only a thousandth of a second is captured.
With different shutter speeds, you can create different vibes to your photo.

forest-trees-waterfall        short shutter speed


For example, the left photo which has a long shutter speed (probably 1/2 or something like that), has a more dreamy, slow vibe to it, while the right one, with a short shutter speed probably 1/2000), is sharp and harsh.
Many popular effects can be created by changing the shutter speed like the above seen waterfall effect.

When to use what shutter speed?
As an indication, the following shutter speeds can be used at certain situation. But remember; rules are made to be broken, so definitely follow your own style and vibe.

  • 1/4000: fast animals, sports
  • 1/2000: sunset/sunrise
  • 1/1000: races, extreme sports
  • 1/500: slower sports
  • 1/250: casual, day to day photography
  • 1/125: panning fast cars and vehicles
  • 1/60: panning slower objects
  • 1/30: blurring motion
  • 1/15: low light without a flash
  • 1/8: blurring  fast moving water
  • 1/4: blurring motions
  • 1/2: extreme low light, blurring slow moving water
  • 1-2″: fireworks
  • 5-30”: light painting

In conclusion.
The longer the shutter speed, the more light goes to the sensor, use long speeds when there isn’t a lot of light and fast (short) speeds, when you want to freeze a moment.

Extra tips:
– When you are the kind of person with shaky hands and your photos can’t seem to become sharp, use a faster (shorter) shutter speed and your problem is solved.
– Keep in mind that on your camera you’ll see numer such as 1000 and 2000. This means 1/1000 seconds. When you get to full seconds, your camera will use quotation marks. (1”)
– You can usually change the shutter speed close to your shutter button but that is different for every camera.

So, that was it, the (I hope) clear and basic explanation of the shutter speed. The only thing you can do now, is go out and try experiment with different speeds! You might not remember all this information at once, so just save this blogpost and when you need a reminder, just read it through!

Thank you for reading!



Credits of the photos used in this post go to Google.