This is page 2 of 3. "Shutter Speed" begins here.

There are three interdependent variables in digital photography.

Shutter Speed


Film Speed

Throughout the pages of my site I talk about how these three interrelate. For now just remember each will affect the other two. When you understand and find the correct balance your snapshots will transform into photographs.

Click on any blue lettering for the relevant page.

I am going to discuss how shutter speed affects your pictures. I will talk about when to use fast or slow speeds and the reasoning behind it. It may seem pretty elementary but I feel consciously considering variations will make it easier to know when and why to use each shutter speed.

Every camera on the market that I know of uses a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second when using the flash. That is because it is commonly accepted as the slowest speed that can be hand held. Flash used on this page is only as filler flash. Therefore it has no bearing on any of the mentioned settings.

I like hand holding my camera. I don’t like carrying and setting up a tripod unless it is absolutely necessary. I will use any object available to steady the camera rather than use a tripod. This works pretty well for me. I find I can shoot at speeds as slow as 1/30th of a second this way.

That being said, let’s start with slow shutter speeds and when to use them.

Then we will move on to medium and finally to fast.

For each category you can always use a faster speed should you so choose. Though there are times a faster speed will not give the desired result. How fast your subject is moving determines the end result.

When a camera is mounted on a tripod you can use as slow a shutter speed as you want, provided your subject is still. Landscapes, as the sun is setting and night shooting are examples of tripod mounted photographs that often require slow speeds.

It was dark. I was experimenting. This shot took a full ½ second. I had no tripod. I used the rail to steady myself and the picture turned out nicely. All that to say this is an example of an extremely slow shutter speed.

In order to get a picture in very low light you have to use a high film speed or an extremely slow shutter speed. I used both. Had I use a slower film speed, which would require even a slower shutter speed than I used, the boat would definitely be blurred because the water moves which in turn will move the boat.

I also timed the shot for the bottom of a passing wave. That way the boat was motionless for the 1/2 second it took.

In the case of a completely immobile landscape the shutter speed can be as slow as you like. So you can use a slow film speed, combined with a slow shutter speed, to get maximum picture quality. Generally a balance between a little faster film speed and shutter speed works out well.

The darker it is the slower the necessary shutter speed. Internally it can be dark as well as outside your camera. Case-in-point.

It was plenty bright outside to take this picture. Problem is, in order to have all the boats in focus I had to have a small aperture. That means internally there was little light and that mandated a relatively slow shutter speed.

Notice all subjects of a slow shutter speed are motionless regardless of available light. When you start to get motion in your shots you will need a faster shutter speed. The actual speed, of course, will depend upon the speed of your subject.

A final still shot. It was bright enough to shoot this boat at a very long depth of field, yet maintain an acceptable shutter speed because the boat was stationary. I wanted the background somewhat blurred so I used a short depth of field. This substantially sped up the shutter.

The end result was a crisp, detailed picture of the boat while easily hand holding my camera. I had a lot of play in the settings I used for this shot.

Finish "Shutter Speed" here.