what is shutter speed in photography

What is shutter speed in photography

Hey there my awesome readers, hope you’re doing well. In this article, you will learn what is shutter speed in photography and what effects can produce on the images.

When you press that black button called shutter release to take a picture, you will hear a click sound. That sound is from the mechanism of the shutter when is opening and closing to let light into the sensor.

Sometimes you will hear a fast click, sometimes slow. This depends on how is set in the camera’s settings. So, what exactly does when we hear that specific sound? Follow along to find out.

What is shutter speed in photography?

Consider shutters like a curtain or a sliding door which you have to lift to open it. Every time you press the button to take a picture, the shutter will go up to let in light. It is more of a technical function.

The shutter is mounted in front of the sensor inside the camera and is connected to the shutter release button. When you take your pictures, it will open and close fast or slowly, depending on how you set it, exposing the sensor to light and letting it record everything in the frame.

Anatomy of a camera

It is also part of the exposure triangle, a crucial setting along with ISO and aperture which helps you create well-exposed images. Will make your images look brighter or darker.

With proper shutter speed settings, you can also create motion blur or freeze moving subjects in the image. It is measured in time, more precisely in seconds. When you set your camera to a certain shutter speed, you will also have to stop down in one of the elements from the exposure triangle, to compensate for lighting.

>>>>Learn more about exposure triangle<<<<

What is shutter speed in photography

In the image above you can see different shutter speed settings. Those with a quote mark ” are seconds and those with 1/… are fractions of a second.

So, when you set your camera to 2″, for instance, the shutter will stay open for two seconds, letting more light into the sensor and creating motion blur.

On the other hand, when you set your camera to, let’s say 1/250th, the shutter will open and close fast freezing the movement of the subject.

Slow shutter speed settings

Slower shutter speed settings are often used in waterfall and night photography. The photographer tries to smoothen out the water flow and create a silky look in the photo, this is called long exposure.

To create this kind of image, you have to set the camera to a slow shutter speed like 2″ or slower, and adjust the aperture to capture the silky effect. Keep the ISO at 100 or 200. If necessary mount a Neutral-Density (ND) filter to reduce the harsh light.

In night photography, slow shutter speed settings are used to capture more light and get a well-exposed image, and to capture star trails.

For this type of photography, you have to set your camera to an even slower shutter speed (i.e 30″). To capture more light and properly expose the image.

Now probably you are asking, what about fireworks? To capture fireworks set the camera between 2″ and 5″ shutter speed. You will capture both flare trails and awesome explosions.

What is shutter speed in photography

If you have a hard time setting the shutter speed in manual mode, set the camera to aperture priority by turning the dial to Av or A. The camera will automatically set shutter speed according to the environment. For these settings use a tripod, because, you’re a living being, and you will produce camera shake, it is impossible to hold the camera in hand for this long.

Fast shutter speed settings

Fast shutter speed settings are used in sports and macro photography or when the subject is constantly moving.

With fast shutter speed, you will freeze the subject and capture it in focus and sharp.

To capture fast-moving subjects like Jetski, set the camera to 1/1000 or faster to capture the movement sharp.

For family or party photos where everybody is constantly moving, set the camera between 1/250 and 1/500 shutter speed.

If you prefer to shoot at 1/60 or slower, use a tripod to avoid camera shake. And also, for hand-held, if you have different lens sizes, for instance, a 200mm lens, set the shutter speed according to the lens to avoid camera shake. You will have to do a little math, multiply the mm with the camera’s sensor size. For example, 200mm x 1.6 sensor size = 320, the shutter will be a minimum of 1/320.

Shutter speed settings in macro photography

For macro photography, if you want to shoot flowers set the camera between 1/60 and 1/250. If it is a windy day, set it to 1/500.

If you love to shoot bugs, set the camera to 1/500 or faster shutter speed, depending on how fast the bug is moving.

And also if you love to get really close to your subjects, shooting in extreme macro, set it to 1/250 or faster to avoid camera shake. When you have extension tubes attached, you will find it hard to shoot without any support.

In macro photography even if you shoot at fast shutter speed settings, use a tripod, because as you get close to your subjects, the sensor records every detail of it and also every shake and movement, and this will be visible in the image.

Final words

Shutter speed is the easiest setting in the exposure, you will get familiar quickly if you play with it.

Go outside and try different shutter settings, try to capture a moving car or a bug, a flying bird, or try to shoot stars at night time to see how every setting affects the images. Practice.

Don’t forget that when you set the shutter speed, you will also have to set aperture or ISO to compensate for the light entering into the sensor.

I hope you learned something from this article and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to drop them below, and I will be more than happy to help you. Be safe and take care.

Post image by MikeRun, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This post may contain affiliate links. I receive a small commission only when you make a purchase using my link. Read the full disclosure here.

Spread the love


  1. I like the topic you have processed, I have a camera, but I rarely take pictures in macro mode. I have a canon 1.8 stm 50mm lens, can I take good macro photos with it? And that I have a canon 600D from the camera. I know that it is important and iso value and exposure not to be too dark or light image. Every part of the choice of topic I wish you much success in your further work

    1. Thank you Dragan. You can take macro photos with the Nifty Fifty lens but there is a downside, you will have to get way too close to your subject, and often times, invades their space. On the other hand, it’s a good lens for portrait because of the wide aperture and sharpness in the pictures.

  2. shutter speed photography is not very new and not very familiar to me as well. A click sound appears after pressing a shutter release button for real. A fast click sound appears sometimes as well. From my presentation classes, i understand that the word shutter comes from ”swipe”. All in all the your article was exhausively informative. 

    1. Thank you Paul. Shutter speed is one of the exposure settings which makes the picture bright or dark. And the click sound you hear is because is opening and closing to let light into the sensor when you press the button.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Download icon icon by Icons8 KeyShot icon by Icons8 Open Book icon icon by Icons8 Info icon by Icons8
error: Content is protected !!