10 Vital Facts about Camera Shutter Speed

In 10 Vital Facts about Camera Aperture I wrote that “The aperture of a camera is the centre of the photographic universe – well maybe – the other centre, as some would argue, is the shutter.” 

Let’s go to the other centre of the photographic universe, the Shutter and specifically Shutter Speed.

In all honesty, I must admit that shutter speed is just as important as your aperture setting. In another post Understanding the 3 points of the exposure triangle I make it clear (I hope) that ISO, Aperture and shutter speed all influence each other. Adjust one and the other changes.

So, you can see how important it is to get the right setting.


BTW make sure you scroll to the bottom of the page for an Infographic summary


Moving on let’s get straight to the 10 Vital Facts about Camera Shutter Speed.


1 The Shutter Speed is the speed that it takes to open and close the flap that sits in front of the aperture.


2 It’s measured in seconds and fractions of seconds e.g. 1/500 of a Second


3 To freeze action you need a fast (or quick) Shutter Speed


4 To show movement you need a slow Shutter Speed


5 It’s a big contributor to Camera shake or lack of


6 To calculate the minimum speed you need to prevent camera shake, use this rule of thumb. At 100 ISO- the Shutter Speed = the focal lens setting of a lens. More on this below


7 Shutter Speed becomes less important, in most situations, the better or brighter the light you have


8 When taking hand held photos in poor light i.e. indoors without a flash you need to use the fastest speed you can get.


9 The faster the shutter speed the lower the F Stop number which can in turn, can influence how much you can get in focus.


10 Taking photos with a lower F stop gives you much more freedom with your shutter speed in good light but reduces as stated in 9, how much you can get in focus.


11 The slower the shutter speed the higher the f stop number


12 Only use Shutter speed priority when you are trying to achieve something specific.


I’ve just realised I’ve given you 12 vital facts about camera shutter speed! Oh well you’ve got a bonus 2!


So why do you need to worry about it?

Well the most important reason overall is point 5; It’s a big contributor to Camera shake.

Camera shake is pretty much irreversible and whilst shutter speed is not the only contributing factor, it can be the deciding one. Unless you are wobbling around with camera in hand snapping away.

As I said in 6, a rule of thumb to get the slowest minimum shutter speed is to match the shutter speed to the focal length of the lens you are using.

As an example, if you are using a 200mm lens then the closest shutter speed will be 1/200.

But, there are complications.

If the lens or camera has mage stabilisation then you can reduce the shutter speed by a couple of settings e.g 1/50.

Then there are other factors that will come into play see 5 Ways to Eliminate Camera Shake

The size of the sensor in a camera can also affect the shutter speed. An Olympus OMD _M5 for instance has a crop factor of 2 which means you need to double the focal length to get the minimum shutter speed.

So if it was 100mm it would now be 1/200.

Now I don’t want to confuse things but it works out the same.

The reason is that a 100mm lens on a 2 x crop factor sensor camera is actually 200mm on a full frame so the minimum shutter speed is 1/200


Here are some other reasons for adjusting the shutter speed:


Freezing action

Let’s say you want a picture like this one of a surfer to freeze the moment. You want it to be crisp and clear so the shutter speed needs to be on the high side.


10 Vital Facts about Camera Shutter Speed


This one was taken at 1/1600 Sec at an aperture of f5.6 ISO 200.  Whilst the foreground spray is little bit soft that’s due to the point of focus not the shutter speed.


Slowing action

On the other hand, with the waterfall below we’re looking for that fluid almost viscous look of the water flowing down the rocks.


10 Vital Facts about Camera Shutter Speed

At the Medenhall Glacier reserve. 13 miles from the city centre this is one of Juneau’s main tourist attractions in Alaska


This one was taken at much lower speed 1.6sec at an aperture of f32 ISO 100 which is roughly 10 times lower than the surfing picture


Interior light

If you don’t have a flash or don’t’ want to use it then having a fast shutter speed can help.


10 Vital Facts about Camera Shutter Speed



So to summarise these last points, as promised here’s an infographic.



10 Vital Facts about Camera Shutter Speed


Did you understand all that? I’m happy to clarify anything you’re not sure of.

Just post in the comments section below. Don’t be shy.


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Categories: How to, stock, Technical, travel photographyTags: , ,

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