Photography has always been a source of expression. If you have a passion for something you should polish it carefully and develop the ability for it. Knowing your camera is the initial part if you are interested in photography. There are some essential technical elements in a camera and shutter speed is one of them.

Along with ISO speed and aperture, shutter speed determines the exposure of an image. It makes the photo sharp or blurry depending on its settings. Let’s take a dive into what shutter speed is, how it functions, and how to set it.

What Is Shutter Speed

When you capture a photo by clicking a button, a small flap opens and closes which causes light to reach the camera sensor. This flap is called a shutter and the pace of opening and closing the shutter is called shutter speed.

The exposure time of the sensor to light can be short or long depending on the shutter speed. If the shutter is released for a short time, the speed is faster and vice versa. You may not have noticed before but the appearance of your image depends on it partly along with aperture and ISO. Depending on what you want to capture, slow and fast both shutter speeds have their value.

The Motive of Slow Shutter Speed

Image of a river by Cesare Andrea Ferrari, 123RF.

Slow shutter speed lets light hit the camera sensor for a longer time. The shutter speed means the shutter opens and closes at a rate of 1/10 of a second. The motion blur effect is the output of this function that creates a blurry image of the moving subject.

Car and bike commercials often use this effect for branding to show that the wheels are moving. This effect lets the viewers get a sense of speed of the vehicle. This method is also often used to capture starry skies at night. Star trails and the milky way can be captured in a low light environment. Same way landscape photographers use to capture images of rivers to generate a sense of motion. They keep other elements sharp and only create a motion effect on the water. When using slow shutter speed, you will also need a tripod to avoid a shaky camera.

The Motive of Quick Shutter Speed

Image of a flying bird by Petr Šimon, 123RF.

Fast shutter speed causes a freeze motion on a moving subject. The speed generally ranges from as fast as 1/1000, 1/2000 and 1/4000 of a second. It’s a go-to setting when capturing wildlife and athletes. This way, you can capture a still image of a flying bird, moving car, and even an airplane. Photographers also use this tactic to capture water droplets from running water.

The Measurement of Shutter Speed

The speed is counted in fractions of a second like 1/100 or 0.01 seconds or seconds up to 30 seconds. A camera setting of 1/250 indicates the image recording time of one two-hundred and fifty of a second and it’s so fast that it freezes a running car. Some cameras have a super-fast shutter speed of 1/8000 seconds. You will find shutter speeds in a wide range in most cameras from several seconds to thousandths of a second. Many smartphones have this option too.

Even SLRs have a mode to keep the shutter open for a long time which is called “bulb” mode. This mode lets you extend the time up to hours. Quite fascinating, isn’t it? As long as the button is pressed down, the shutter remains open in this mode. For a creative person, it offers a huge opportunity. But, a person can’t hold the button for minutes or hours-long. That’s why there is a shutter lock and release option for this kind of exceptional speed.

Another important thing is, there are different manners of indicating shutter speed in different cameras. For instance, if the shutter speed is a fraction, the camera will display only the denominator. If the speed is 1/100, you will see 100 in the viewfinder and if it’s a full one second or more than that, you will see 1.

How to Set Shutter Speed

Top view of camera settings by Oleksiy Markov, 123RF.

Normally we shoot in auto mode and that means there is an automatically fixed shutter speed and aperture. But if you want to create something exceptional, set the functions of your shutter speed and aperture manually which you can find in your camera manual.

For creative photography, maintaining proper shutter speed is a must, otherwise, the picture can be shaky or not bright enough. So, try it out and experiment with it! Once you get the hang of it, your creativity will be limitless.

Click here to find out how to use HDR correctly.