What Is Shutter Speed? – How To Use Shutter Speed Effectively!

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Shutter speed is one of the crucial aspects that you have to consider while purchasing the best DSLR camera. Apart from this, the two other essential settings are Aperture and ISO.

Now in this article, we will focus the light on every detail that you have to know about shutter speed. It will help you to enhance your photography skills.

It mainly determines two things. One is the brightness of the image, and the other is to create or remove the blur from the picture.

What is Shutter Speed?

Shutter speed is the amount of time that the shutter opens for while clicking an image. In film photography, it was considered as the length of time that the film gets exposed to the particular scene you are capturing.

Long Shutter Speed Image
Milky Way Captured at 30 second Long Shutter Speed

Similarly, in DSLR photography, it is considered as the length of time that the image sensor sees. In a camera, it acts as a curtain for the image sensors that get unveiled only at the time while capturing a picture.

So, when you click to capture a photo, the shutter gives the way to expose the sensor to light that is filtered through the lens. As the sensor properly gets exposed to the light, the shutter closes and stops the light to interact with the image sensor.

The button you click for capturing the image is known as the shutter button as it commands the shutter to open and shut when required.

How to Understand The Shutter Speed?

During photography, the variation in the exposure time results in several effects that change the way an image looks from the other pictures.

Fast Shutter Speed Image
Man surfing Image captured at Fast Shutter Speed

For instance, if you keep the shutter of your camera open for an extended period, you will let the sensor take more light for a longer time. Sometimes it leads to motion blur.

If the sensor will be exposed for a long time, the subject will appear blurred and will leave a trail behind. You have seen such blurs in cartoons to create an illusion of motion and speed.

On the other hand, if you keep the shutter open for a shorter period, you will get a clear and crisp image. In the picture, if you want everything sharp and want to remove the blur, then reduce the exposure time.

If you’re going to capture any landscape with details, then you need to open the shutter for a short time. You also can use the shutter speed in another way, that is to freeze the moment during photography.

Running Cheetah captured at fast shutter speed
Running Cheetah captured at fast shutter speed

By using long shutter speed, you can freeze a frame for fast moving objects, such as capturing a Cheetah running after its prey. You can also use it to capture dew in the air.

By controlling the shutter speed, you can do all these and many more. You can keep the shutter open for the 300th of a second or for a quarter of a second.

After knowing all these tricks, you will be able to capture some masterpieces surely.

DSLR Camera Shutter Speed Setting
DSLR Camera Shutter Speed Setting in LCD Display

More You Need to Know About Shutter Speed

Presently, most of the cameras are capable of shutter speeds up to 4000th of a second. The advanced cameras can capture images with the shutter speeds up to 8000th of a second.

On the other hand, the longest available shutter speed on most DSLR or Mirrorless cameras is typically 30 seconds.

Shutter speed also puts a deep influence on the brightness of a picture.

shutter speed dial
A film camera shutter speed dial

For example, you can see that if the shutter gets opens for a longer time, the sensor captures more light and provide brighter images. But, if you keep the shutter open for a shorter time, the sensor captures less light and provides darker images.

Also, keep in mind that the brightness of a picture also depends on the ISO and Aperture. And the surrounding light controls the picture quality.

Therefore, you have to choose a suitable shutter speed by using other variables to get a high-quality image. It helps you to capture images that are properly lit up.

During an outdoor shooting, if the sky is bright and sunny, you can use fast shutter speed to get all the required light without exposing the image. But, if the surrounding is a bit cloudy, increasing the shutter duration will help you to capture all the available light and will provide a moderate bright image.

Image 1: Slow shutter speed causing unwanted motion blur; Image 2: Fast Shutter Speed gives a fully freezed Object

Remember one thing, when you are using long shutter speed during photography, you have to keep the camera firmly steady to avoid motion blur. You can use a tripod to remove the blur.

Photographers play with the shutter speed to get proper brightness in the picture.

Slow, Fast and Long

If you are going to capture a bird flapping its wings continuously, you must need fast shutter speed to freeze the movement and to capture it. For example, you need a shutter speed of 1000th of a second to capture such images.

Swan flying over water
Flying Swan captured at shutter speed 1/2000

For some other purposes, like if you want to capture a person walking, you may need to slow the speed so that you can capture more details while capturing the image without any blur.

After knowing about the application of slow and fast shutter speed, you have to know about the long shutter speed. It varies from second to half of a minute.

When you use long shutter speed, a slight shake in the camera can spoil the whole image. So, always use a tripod or hold the camera firmly while capturing an image.

If you are shooting in a dark environment you need longer shutter duration.

Also you can set longer shutter duration to create a motion blur for capturing artistic images. Here the shaking of hands come into play.

long exposure night photography
A long exposure photograph causing night light trails

Today, most of the camera manufacturers are using image stabilization algorithms to keep the image stable.

But, the basic thing is that you have to hold the camera steadily to reduce the shaking of images.


In DSLR cameras, you will get the chance to set the shutter speed manually. Generally, the camera automatically selects the shutter speed to capture the best image. Still if you find that there is motion blur in the picture, you change the speed on your own.

Overall, we can say that the more you will play with the camera, the best you will get.

Happy Clicking!

Source: Wikipedia, Photography Life, Digital Photography School


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