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How to Choose Your Shutter Speed

How fast can you go? Choosing your shutter speed is one of the most vital artistic decisions a photographer has to make when snapping a photo.


  • Step 1: What shutter speed is Shutter speed denotes how long the shutter is held open to allow light to reach the film or, in a digital camera, the image sensor.
  • TIP: Along with the aperture—or the opening in the lens—shutter speed regulates how much light the camera will record.
  • Step 2: Determine shot Determine what you want to shoot and how the shutter speed will affect your images. Fast shutters will freeze the action, slow shutters leave motion blurs.
  • Step 3: Estimate speed of subject Estimate how fast your subject is moving. Also, higher shutter speeds are required when your subject is moving across the frame as opposed to coming directly at you.
  • Step 4: Decide on lens Decide on what lens you will be working with. This will determine the minimum shutter speed at which you can hold the camera and still get a sharp image.
  • TIP: Holding your camera at shutter speeds lower than one over the focal length of your lens may cause blurry images (from camera shake). Thus, for a 200 mm lens, the fastest feasible shutter speed would be roughly 1/250 of a second.
  • Step 5: Mount camera on tripod If shaking is a problem, mount your camera on a tripod or place it on a steady surface like a table.
  • Step 6: Set shutter speed Based on your analysis and artistic decision, set your shutter speed—then shoot the action.
  • TIP: Many digital cameras offer a Sports mode with a rapid succession shutter release. Try this setting to get a sequence of stop-motion images.
  • Step 7: Test shutter speeds Test different shutter speeds until you get the effect you want. You can even have a friend stand in for experiments.
  • FACT: The first photographer to game fame through stop-motion photography was Eadweard Muybridge, who in the 1870s proved there was a point when a trotting horse had all four legs off the ground.

You Will Need

  • A digital SLR
  • or single-lens reflex
  • camera
  • Tripod

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