How to Use Shutter Speed in Photography?

Shutter Speed in Photography

If you want to know the secret of the professional photographer’s marvelous pictures, you need to know how to use shutter speed in photography. Learning about shutter speed can help you capture lively pictures and help you capture a moving object without getting blurred. So, let’s define it and understand how the shutter speed affects your picture.

Before that, you should know what the camera shutter is. The camera shutter is a component in your camera that gets opened when the shutter release button is pressed. It gets closed when the duration you set, elapses. However, if you set it in bulb mode, it will remain open for as long as the shutter release button is pressed. The shutter can be set to multiple speeds. Each speed has its use in photography.

Therefore, you need to know the right shutter speed to capture different moments without getting them blurred. We have written this article to provide you with a better understanding of the shutter’s speed, its duration, and how it affects the picture. So, follow us to the end of it.

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What is the Meaning of Shutter Speed in Photography?

The shutter speed defines the duration of how much the camera’s shutter remains open to permit the light to enter and hit the camera’s image sensor. In simple words, it means that how much time does your camera takes to take a picture.

The shutter speed is important for two things: Changing the brightness of your picture, and making dramatic effects by either freezing action or blurring action.

Now, how does it change the brightness? Well, when the shutter speed is low, the camera’s sensor will be exposed to light for a long time. So, it will capture a lot of light hence, making a bright photo. However, when the camera shutter’s speed is low, the camera will take darker photos as there will not be enough time to capture a lot of light.

Now, to better understand the shutter speed, you should understand its duration. Almost in all cameras, the duration of shutter speed is shown in whole numbers. If your camera shows 500, it means that the shutter will stay open until 1/500 of a second elapses.

Moreover, your camera might show the shutter speed in quotation marks. The number in quotation marks will represent seconds. For instance, if your camera shows 5″, the camera shutter will be open for 5 seconds.

Most of the time, people do not prefer to set any duration for the shutter speed. For them, there is a mode by the name “bulb mode” in cameras. The bulb mode allows a person to control the speed of the shutter. When this mode is selected, your camera’s shutter will remain open for as long as the shutter button is depressed.

How Do You Change the Shutter Speed on a Camera?

If you are a full-time photographer, you should learn to change the shutter speed of your camera. For example, if you take a photo at night time, you should set it to slow mode to make the picture bright. However, if you take a picture in bright sun, you should set it to fast mode because there will be enough light for your picture to be bright.

So, to change the shutter speed of your camera, follow these instructions:

  • Set your camera into manual mode to allow the change of shutter speed. If you own a Canon, there might be an option by the name “TV (Time Value) mode” to change the shutter speed. However, if you own Nikon and Sony, shutter speed priority mode can help you out.
  • Almost all cameras have a dial or arrow somewhere on them. For changing the shutter speed, rotate the dial clockwise/anti-clockwise or press the up/down arrow to set it to your desired shutter speed.
  • You will most probably find the shutter speed is 1/1000, 1/250, 1/30, 1/2, 1/4, etc. The higher the denominator gets, the more shutter speed increases.
  • The shutter speed is always computed in fractions of a second. For instance, if you set the shutter speed to 1/250, it means that the shutter will stay open for the 250th fraction of a second.

The professional photographers recommend learning the ISO setting. The ISO setting controls the light sensitivity of your camera. For sharpening the picture, you should keep the ISO setting low (For instance ISO 150). However, if you are shooting in dark surroundings, raising the ISO is recommended.

But if you still get confused in these settings, you should set your camera to a semi-automatic mode or priority mode. In this mode, the camera will let you choose the f-stop and decides the shutter speed and ISO automatically according to the surrounding need.

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When is Faster Shutter Speed Used?

Fast shutter speed is used to capture fast-moving objects, the objects which our eyes cannot catch—for instance, water droplets, flying birds, sports moments, and many others. However, capturing these fast-moving objects is not a piece of cake.

Some cameras feature breakneck shutter speeds that can freeze one’s movement. However, you might be thinking that you can achieve it by pressing the shutter button fast; let me explain it to you.

To capture a fast-moving object, you need to anticipate its next position. However, we cannot press the shutter button so fast, even, shutter speed shorter than 1/5 of a second is beyond our reach.

Moreover, many cameras impart a delay when a shutter button is pressed, which makes it harder to capture a fast-moving object. With SLR cameras this delay is just 1/10 to 1/20 of a second. Still, with compact cameras, it increases to 1/2 of a second, making it impossible to anticipate the right position of the object.

Also, we are still not considering the 1/2 or 1 second which cameras take to autofocus. Now, with all these delays, it is close to impossible to capture the fast-moving object in your camera.

So, for this, some advanced cameras have shutter speeds of 1/250 to 1/500 of a second, which is enough to freeze an object’s action. However, if the object is at an extraordinary speed, some cameras even feature shutter speeds up to 1/1000 to 1/4000 of a second.

Generally, these fast shutter speeds are used when you require to capture fast-moving objects like a car. However, the high-speed cars move at 350Km/h so; you would need to set the shutter speed to very fast. If it’s not set to very fast, the picture might get blurred.

Moreover, these fast shutter speeds can also be used when you wish to take a shot while moving in a car or any other fast-moving object. Now, you will require to freeze the moment to get the picture clearer; for that, fast shutter speed is crucial.

When to Use a Long Shutter Speed?

A shutter speed of more than 1 second is known as a long shutter speed. In this case, you will need a tripod to get sharp images because holding the camera still for more than 1 second is difficult.

Generally, the long shutter speed is used when the surrounding is dark or for night photography. Also, it is used to capture movement intentionally. However, if you try to capture a moving object with a long shutter speed, it will get blurred.

The shutter speed in between 1/100 to 1 second is considered low. You might not be able to handle it without shaking the camera. Therefore, a long shutter speed tripod is required, especially when the shutter speed is close to 1 second.

When to Use Slow Shutter Speed?

The slow shutter speed can be used for many situations, even, for capturing shots that were possible only with fast shutter speed and long shutter speed. However, you need to be a professional for that. In general, slow shutter speed is specifically used for a dark surrounding; the long exposure of the lens can help you get sufficient light for the shot. However, you will need a tripod for it.

Moreover, if you wish to capture a fast-moving car with slow shutter speed, you set your camera’s shutter to open for about 1/30 of a second or lower. Now, wait for the car to get in your desired position, when you see it coming, aim your camera at the car. When it comes close, press the shutter button, and pan along with the car and capture it moving towards and away from you. The main thing here is panning while aiming the camera at your desired object. This is how you can capture a fast-moving object with a slow shutter speed.


The key to brilliant photography is to know the right shutter speed required to take a specific shot. By the above examples, you might have got an idea of how to use the shutter speed effectively. When the shutter speed is used effectively, all your shots will be taken unblurred. Also, it will provide a lively feel to all your pictures.

James Pattinson is a professional photographer who likes to write about what he experiences. He loves to share his honest review with people about photography equipment such as cameras, tripods, lenses, etc.

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