Why getting your shutter speed correct matters!!

Updated: Jun 5


Hasting Pier taken with a slow shutter speed

Why is getting your shutter speed correct so important?


Get it wrong and you can end up with images either out of focus or too sharp, not to mention being over or under exposed.


It's important to first know how the shutter on your camera works.


Think of your camera as a box. Inside the box is your image sensor, the box has a lid which is the shutter. The longer the lid is lifted off the box the more light is exposed to your sensor. This also means any moving objects get recorded across more of the sensor giving a more blurred appearance.


So in technical terms a shutter is the device which controls the amount of light sent through your lens onto your image sensor.


Lets take a look first of all at how a change of shutter speed can affect your exposure.


The three images below were all taken at ISO 400 with an aperture f8. Note the difference made to the exposure just by changing the shutter speed.



Correct Exposure


Taken with a shutter speed of 1.6 sec. This has created a good exposure.











Under Exposed


At 1/6 of a second, this image is under exposed. Not enough light has been able to get to the image sensor.











Over Exposed



With a shutter speed of 6 seconds, we now have too much light hitting the sensor.










To get a good exposure you will always need to consider compensating with your aperture and ISO, especially if the shutter speed you want to use is critical to the image you want to take.


Before you start pressing that shutter button think about the image you want to achieve. Ask yourself these questions:-


Do I want everything super sharp, including all moving objects?

Are there likely to be any moving objects in the image and how fast are they going to be moving?

Do I want my moving objects to look blurred for a creative effect?


Answering these questions will give you an idea on what shutter speed range you will want to select. Slow or Fast?


For pin sharp fast moving objects you will want a fast shutter speed of 1/500 sec or above. The faster the object the faster the shutter speed you will need. A speed of over 1/1000 maybe required for some fast pace sporting events or wildlife in flight. Always be conscious of the light you are shooting in and aperture/ISO compensation, which may give you a grainer image.


For a blurred image use a much slower shutter speed. Depending on how fast the object is moving this could be anything from 1/10 sec or less.


It is generally recommended to use a tripod if you are shooting at a speed lower than 1/60 second to avoid camera shake. I personally find with an image stabiliser on my lens and a steady hand I can get away with around 1/30 sec.


The following images of the cyclist below are examples of how different shutter speeds can impact your image.



1/500 sec shutter speed


ISO 1000, Aperture f4, Shutter speed 1/500 of a second.










1/50 sec shutter speed


ISO 400, Aperture f8, Shutter speed 1/50 of a second.









1/5 sec shutter speed


ISO 100, Aperture f13, Shutter speed 1/5 of a second.









0.6 second shutter speed


ISO 100, Aperture f22, Shutter speed 0.6 seconds.








Notice how I have also adjusted my ISO and aperture to keep a good exposure. You can also see how the cyclist becomes more blurred the slower the shutter speed. In the last image you can hardly see him.


Handy tip if you want to lose moving people in a landscape, a long exposure (e.g. slow shutter speed) can be the answer. If I had shot the last image at around 2 seconds you would probably not see the cyclist at all.


What happens if there is too much light to get the long exposure you want? This is where neutral density filters come in handy. They block out light allowing for those longer exposures.


These images below are great examples of the different effects you can get when using different shutter speeds. All taken within an hour with the same light conditions. Take note how the different shutter speeds affect the look of the waves.



Shutter speed 1/500 Second

Shutter speed 1/2500 of a second

Shutter speed 15 seconds

Shutter speed 3.2 seconds

Shutter speed 15 seconds

Remember photography is all about PRACTICE. Don't be scared to experiment.


For more information on my workshops and tuition courses please visit my website at https://www.louiseehubbardphotography.com

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