7 Tips about Digital Camera Shutter Speed

Learn seven tips about digital camera shutter speed from commercial photographer Dan Bracaglia in this digital photography lesson from Howcast.

Other than aperture, other things that control the final outcome of the exposure of your image are shutter speed and ISO. Shutter speed is a really simple concept and really easy to break down. And I’m going to show you first on this camera and then I’m going to write it out on the white board.

So I got my camera here. I’m going to set it to exposure of 1/400th of a second, which sounds like this. Real fast. But as I dial it down, and let’s say I go down to a tenth of a second, it’s a lot slower. So on and so forth. Really just sort of common sense. To one half, one over one half a second. And then this is a full one second exposure.

So if I was shooting something like a race car race or a horse race, obviously an exposure like this, a shutter speed like this, isn’t going to work. Kind of the rule of thumb is a 1/500th of a second is generally the lowest you want to go when shooting sports or action.

Shutter speeds are an equation. It’s always a one over something else. You know, so some really very basic shutter speeds are 1/30th of a second, 1/60th, 1/120th, 1/250th, 1/500th. And again, these relate back into your F-stop. If you’re shooting something that’s fast, you want a faster shutter speed. If you’re shooting something stationary, you can use a slower shutter speed.

Another thing you really need to keep in mind, though is that human hands really can’t hold a camera steady at slower than about a 60th of a second. So if you’re going down to a 30th, a 15th, a tenth, you going to want to put your camera on a tripod. If you have enough light to work with and you can get over a 60th, you should be okay.

One really important factor to keep in mind is every time you double the speed of your shutter, you’re letting half the light in. So to compensate, you’re going to have to adjust either your aperture or your ISO to make sure you’re still getting the same amount of light. That’s something we’ll touch on more in exposure basics.