New To Photography:Experimenting with Shutter Speeds

Previous: New To Photography:f/stop chart Experimenting with Shutter Speeds Next: Experimenting with ISO (sensitivity)
This page is a chapter in the book Experimenting with Shutter Speeds.
By taking your camera off auto and playing with its shooting speeds, you can have a lot of fun and get some great results to boot! On your camera you will probably have it called either S or Tv mode.

There are some times when you need fast speeds such as with sports or action photography to freeze the action, but there are other times that you can slow things down a little and get some very nice results indeed. eg, waterfalls with the soft silky water effect.

Probably the most used setting for an SLR used outside are 125th/sec at F8. This is the average reading for a normal day at ISO 100. The speed of 125th is ok for most subjects but for faster moving objects you will have a certain amount of blur. F8 will ensure that whatever you focus on will be sharp enough. It works, but it isn't creative. Photography is about being creative, so learning to use shutter speeds effectively allows you to do so.

Here is a quick list of shutter speeds starting from slowest upwards, what they can be used for and the probable result:

Speed Usage
5 - 30 seconds or more Great for night shots where you want the illumination of the city lights to glow brightly, or to get the effect of milky smooth water from a waterfall at dusk or dawn. If you keep the shutter open for a couple of hours and directed at the night sky, you should end up seeing star trails on your image as the Earth rotates.
1 second If you are at a wedding reception or a dance and want a spooky but nice effect, try this. Have your flashgun charged and switched on to auto, set your cameras shutter speed to 1 second and aperture to approximately f.8. Take some shots whilst moving the camera about and the effect of the flash will "freeze" your subject, but the long shutter speed will give some amazing background effects from the lights.
15th - 30th/sec If you have image stabilisation on your lens, this is about the absolute limit that you can hand hold a shot. But using a tripod, this speed will give you a small aperture creating large depth of field and is good for dusky or dawn landscapes. These speeds are also good for panning shots of moving objects such as cars. Panning creates a feeling of speed with motion blur as the background blurs while the subject stays in focus.
60th - 250th/sec Anything in this range is good for everyday general photography. In normal light, these speeds should give sufficient depth of field from the aperture setting for most subjects, whilst allowing you to hand hold your camera without causing camera shake.
1000th - 8000th/sec These speeds, if your camera has them, will freeze most objects in their tracks. You can get really experimental here and keep your eyes open for fast subjects that you can practice on! You will need either bright sunshine, a high ISO (400/800/1600), or fast lens (f2.8/1.4) to be able to shoot at these speeds whilst exposing correctly.
Have fun experimenting with Shutter speeds.

Refer to f/stop chart for a shutter speed vs f/stop table.
Previous: New To Photography:f/stop chart Experimenting with Shutter Speeds Next: Experimenting with ISO (sensitivity)

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