What Is Shutter Speed
We won’t go into unnecessary detail as to what a shutter speed definition is. But let’s summarise it.
The shutter speed is the exact amount of time or exposure time that your camera records an image for.
It does this through the use of the camera shutter. The camera’s shutter is what allows the light to hit the film plane or digital sensor.
As a general rule of thumb, a shutter speed value under your lenses’ focal length with cause camera shake. For example, a 300 mm lens (without image stabilization) will need a minimum of 1/500th. Similarly, a 50 mm lens will need anything above 1/60th of a second.
Anything slower than this will require a tripod. Or, as most telephoto lenses will have, image stabilization.
More often than not you’ll want to take your photo within a fraction of a second, such as 1/1000th of a second. This will help freeze the movement of the subject. But, this largely depends on the speed of your subject and how close you are to it.
In most situations, slow shutter speed results in blurred images.
Motion Blur and Freezing
Controlling your shutter speed is a great way to show movement in a still scene. You can create it using a slow shutter speed or panning the camera to follow a subject.
If you are looking to add blur into your image, there are many ways to do so. One way is to use the focal length of a lens to create a selective focus.
Telephoto lenses need a faster shutter speed to capture an image without blur. These lenses pick up and magnify even the slightest movement of the camera. A wide angle lens requires a slower shutter speed as the details in the image are a lot smaller.
Freezing your subject requires a fast shutter speed. It occurs when you take a photo at such a high shutter speed (1/500 and above) that there’s no motion blur. I don’t like shooting at these speeds as the images produced tend to appear flat.
The faster the subject is moving, the faster the shutter speed needs to be. For example, a jet plane will require a 1/2000th of a second or higher. A person riding a bike might only need 1/500th of a second.
When shooting a fast moving object, I like to include a small amount of motion. Otherwise, it may as well have been sitting still.
The Right Shutter Speed for the Right Situation
When using a telephoto lens, it’s important to use fast shutter speed photography (1/500 or faster). To avoid camera shake, I used a tripod and remote release for the camera’s shutter.
This allows the camera to sit still, preventing movement when taking a photo and having sharp images as a result.
There are times when you want to focus on selective focusing or a shallow depth of field. Here, it is best to use the aperture priority mode setting. This will keep the aperture the same, changing the shutter speed to account for the light setting.
Creative Uses for Different Shutter Speed
To create creative blur, you will need a few items. You need a remote trigger and a tripod to hold the camera steady. Then you can play around with the shutter speed settings.
This can create interesting images in which the blur is the main point of interest. For inspiration, try a fairground carousel.
Creative Blur With Flash
Adding flash to a photo with blur will freeze motion in the frame.
You can then move the camera around to capture the light and blur for artistic effect. This will create a ghosting effect.
Panning is where you move your camera to complement a moving subject. It results in an image where the background is blurred but the subject is sharp.
This shot was taken from a sidewalk, panning the camera while using slow shutter speed photography. The sense of movement is obvious because of this technique.
For light painting, all you need is a long exposure and a light source. The photo below was taken on a 30-second shutter, which is a slow shutter speed setting.
During the exposure, I set off flashes of light onto the beach huts.
This fills in the light exactly where you want it and is great for shooting at night.