How Does Shutter Speed Work?

Your camera has a shutter in front of the sensor. When you take a picture the camera focuses, closes the aperture blades and then opens the shutter exposing the sensor behind it to the light travelling through the lens. Viola you have a photo.

Depending how long the shutter is open affects not only how much light hits the sensor but also how much movement you will capture in a photo.

At slower shutter speeds you will capture more movement and motion as the shutter is open for longer. On the other hand faster shutter speeds will freeze motion as the shutter is only open for a split second.

Let me show you with a couple of photos below.



This first photo was taken at 1/2000th second.

Look at how we were able to freeze the motion here using  fast shutter speed. The water has been frozen in time because the shutter was only open for such a short time.

On the flip side to this check out what happens when you use a slower shutter speed.



This was taken at 1/30th second, because the shutter was open a lot longer than the photo above more movement has been captured.



By increasing the shutter speed from 1/30th to 1/200th I was able to freeze the motion in this scene.

A good rule to use is the faster the subject is moving the faster shutter speed you should use. But like all rules in photography these are there to be broken!

Once you understand this you can really start being creative with your photography!



Shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second. Most cameras go from 1/8000th of a second all the way to 30 seconds. When you get into second you will see speechmarks appear next to the shutter speed like in the picture below.

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How to change shutter speed

This is just to let you know you are now working in whole seconds and not a fraction of a second.

To change your shutter speed you will need to be in either manual mode or shutter priority mode. Shutter priority mode might be under the TV (time value) setting on your cameras mode dial or just an S for shutter speed. This just depends on your make of camera.

Start being creative and testing out how your photos look at different shutter speeds. The possibilities are endless here. Just imagine capture a moment frozen in time your eyes would just never see. Or capturing some movement in water or the sea next time your at the beach.



Another great rule to always remember in photography is try and keep a shutter speed above the focal length you’re using. So say you are using a kit lens which is 18-55mm, when shooting at 18mm try to keep a shutter speed of 1/20th or more. 50mm keep your shutter speed at 1/50th or above.

Keeping a shutter speed above your focal length is a great way to minimize the risk of camera shake. So no more blurry photos for you!



You can even start to play around with really long shutter speeds (long exposure photography). A great time to try this is at night. I’m sure you’ve seen the photos of the car light trails shot from a bridge or even some really cool night cityscapes.

How about using really long shutter speeds and capture the stars?


Shutter speed of 30 seconds

Shutter speed in photography really allows you to be creative. There are so many photography techniques to try out and keep in you photography arsenal.

Next time you have some free time why not try out some steel wool photography. I wrote a full article on how to shoot the picture below and it’s a lot easier than you think!


A great resource for long exposures and shooting some really cool photos is Trick Photography and Special Effects Ebook. This ebook gives you so many amazing photo ideas you will never be short of inspiration after getting your hands on this I promise you!

Now you have all the tools you need to mastering shutter speed. So get out there and start capturing the world through your eyes!

If you still need a bit of help mastering shutter speed or anything else why not try my beginner photography course. It’s completely FREE and yours today!

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