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Remember my tutorial on Basic Aperture? Well here we are going to go over Shutter Speed and how it can affect your photos!

Now, as I’ve said before, photography is all about light. The LONGER the shutter is open, the MORE light is let through, the SHORTER amount of time a shutter is open, the LESS light is let through.

Another way to not only control the amount of light but to control the mood, action, movement, and flow of a photo is by using your shutter speed to either slow it way down or speed it way up.

I suggest (if your camera has this option) you shoot in shutter priority (usually SP or S on the dial). You can control the shutter speed and it will automatically select the aperture.

1/4th sec

1/13th sec

1/30th sec

1/100th sec

1/500th sec

As you can hopefully see in the progression here, going from a slower shutter speed made the water more smooth, silky, and less defined, by the end of the progression you can see how it caught a lot more of the action, the water was VERY defined and almost “frozen”.

When it comes to shutter speed, it’s defined by time. How many seconds or fractions of a second does it take to shoot that photo. For example having your shutter speed be 1 second would be considered a “slow” shutter speed, while 1/500th of a second would be considered a “fast” shutter speed.

Here are a few random examples of photographs I’ve shot over the years.

8 seconds
Never Alone

1/1600 sec

1/4th sec

1/8th sec

By using a slower shutter speed you really should use a tripod otherwise the photo can be blurry, generally everything BELOW 1/80th of a sec will need a stable base like a tripod or wall or table.

So to sum it up, if you want to take a photo that you want well defined and crisp, use a fast shutter speed andi f you want a more moody or silky photo, a photo that shows movement, use a slow shutter speed.

posted on May 30th 2010 at 3:47PM CDT

I love that you break it all down in a simple, easy to understand format. I can’t wait to go out and play around with my shutter speed. The tutorial on aperture was great as well! Thanks Sarah.

posted on May 31st 2010 at 7:47PM CDT

I can’t wait to see your results!

posted on May 30th 2010 at 6:00PM CDT

Sarah, just now getting a chance to stop by your blog, though I’ve been following you on Twitter for a bit now. Love your design! Your photos are gorgeous and I love the tutorials. Just starting out in the DSLR world and I’m learning all I can. I think I’m officially obsessed with my camera. Now following…. :)

posted on May 31st 2010 at 7:50PM CDT

Thank you so much!! What camera do you have?

posted on June 1st 2010 at 12:42PM CDT

I have a Canon Rebel T1i. Again, still learning but having a blast figuring it all out.

posted on May 30th 2010 at 6:36PM CDT

I love watching the progression of the water fountains. Very cool.

posted on May 31st 2010 at 7:57PM CDT

Thank you! I LOVE those low fountains at the gardens, I have way too many photos of them!

posted on May 30th 2010 at 8:49PM CDT

Once again, knew nothing about this so YAY awesome :) I learned something new today. Good job explainin, love the examples

posted on May 31st 2010 at 7:57PM CDT

Yay I’m glad it helps!

posted on May 30th 2010 at 9:10PM CDT

I’ll have to dig my manual book and find out how to change the speed but OMG those pictures are so awesome, girl! What camera are you using? I’m using Canon Rebel for almost 2 years now but still haven’t venture outside P & AV mode hahaha. Thanks for this!

posted on May 31st 2010 at 7:58PM CDT

Thank you! I currently use the Nikon D90 with a variety of lenses, previous to that I used the Nikon D50 (which we still have).

posted on May 31st 2010 at 12:09AM CDT

Stopping by from SITS. I love playing with Shutter Speed & water fireworks or anything that moves. It gives photos such an artistic feel. Although, most of my photos remain over 125 with my kiddos being so active. I love your 8 second lapse photo- I’m going to have to play around with taking photos with people! Never tried that before. :) Great Post! Happy Memorial Day.


posted on May 31st 2010 at 8:00PM CDT

Oh yes, especially with water, you can really change the mood of a photo by adjusting the shutter speed.

It’s so fun to try a “ghostly” image by using a super long shutter speed! My son was a great sport for me that day!

posted on May 31st 2010 at 4:22AM CDT

This is off-topic but I saw your comment on SITS and wanted to stop by to let you know your uncle is in my thoughts and prayers. I live in one of the towns that is the last stop for soldiers going over and coming home. He may have passed through here on his way over. Maybe we’ll see him on his way back. Please come over to read this and click on the link to learn more about the Pease Greeters who give back every day.

{Shared blog entry Heroes}

posted on May 31st 2010 at 8:01PM CDT

Thank you so much! He’s been in the military for over 30 yrs now, he’s a lifer that’s for sure! What area are you from?

posted on May 31st 2010 at 7:37AM CDT

I love the examples you give. They are all amazing, but the 8 second one of Danny is awe inspiring. :)

Everyone with a dSLR definitely needs to read their manual and figure out how to change shutter speed, aperture and ISO. I also think spot metering is much better than matrix metering, too. It’s terribly easy to shoot manually when you know how to adjust the settings.

I never shoot in shutter priority mode. It’s either aperture priority or fully manual. I never like letting the camera choose my aperture for some reason. Maybe I’ll try shooting in shutter priority all today as an experiment.

(I really truly love this comment box. So original!)

posted on May 31st 2010 at 8:08PM CDT

Thank you!

Oh yes, when I still was working, I can’t tell you how many times I would see a customer walk in with a dSLR and get let down when they complained how shooting with the kit lens on auto didn’t give them just MAGICALLY AWESOME photos so the camera HAD to be “defective”.

Or how people praise the camera instead of the photographer, MAJOR pet peeve of mine.

I also shoot mainly in AP or manual mode only as generally my subjects are flowers or the kids lol.

posted on May 31st 2010 at 1:05PM CDT

Oh I love playing around with shutter speed! Mostly I set my aperture to 5.0 and change shutter speed to capture the moments.
Great tutorial!

posted on May 31st 2010 at 8:25PM CDT

Sounds like you shoot mainly in manual, awesome!!

Joni Rae
posted on May 31st 2010 at 4:28PM CDT

You take such amazing photos. I am in awe.

posted on May 31st 2010 at 8:26PM CDT

Awww thank you so much!!!

posted on May 31st 2010 at 8:42PM CDT

So here’s a question (because I have never read the instructions on any crappy camera I’ve ever owned) – is this the kind of thing that can be manipulated on a point & shoot? Or is this only for the fancy-pants DSLRs? I always wonder if my camera is crappy because I don’t know how to use it, or if it really is just completely limited to one button usage.

posted on June 1st 2010 at 1:23AM CDT

Actually you CAN adjust shutter speed and aperture on most point and shoots these days! Keith has an old Kodak he gave Daniel and sure enough, has manual adjustment settings! Have you read your manual to see if it’s an option?

posted on June 1st 2010 at 12:04AM CDT

I love your pictures – and your very beautiful visual explanation!

posted on June 1st 2010 at 1:24AM CDT

Thank you so much!

Audrey at Barking Mad
posted on June 1st 2010 at 1:17AM CDT

Love how simple you make this sound!

I’m a semi-professional Sony shooter and am ALWAYS looking for hints and tips from others whom I admire. So glad I found your site through SITS!

BTW, were you using a neutral density filter on the shots of the water cascading down and over the rocks? If not, then I’d love to know how you achieved that wonderful soft effect?

Lovely captures! Look forward to visiting your site more, and getting to know you.


posted on June 1st 2010 at 1:27AM CDT

Thank you!!

I did NOT use a ND filter. By using a slower shutter speed and my tripod I was able to create that silky water effect. I also will use my circular polarizer if I need to cut out some reflections or get rid of some light. I will also use a small aperture to get rid of light as well so I can leave the shutter open longer.

I try to shoot those photos on overcast days when possible so I don’t have to do too much lol.

posted on June 1st 2010 at 4:57AM CDT

I love photography tips – your pics are a great demonstration of what aperture speed does! :)

posted on June 1st 2010 at 6:16PM CDT

Ah thank you! I think you may have meant aperture AND shutter speed?

posted on June 1st 2010 at 8:56AM CDT

So nice and simple. I love this. Perfect.

posted on June 1st 2010 at 6:16PM CDT

Thank you!

posted on June 1st 2010 at 12:28PM CDT

That’s awesome. I wonder if my crappy camera is capable of doing something like this. I’ll definitely have to play with it and find out ;) Thanks for the tip!!

posted on June 1st 2010 at 6:18PM CDT

LOL it’s very well possible your camera has the ability to control some manual functions. I highly suggest reading your manual!

posted on June 1st 2010 at 5:13PM CDT

Thanks for this one! I’m just starting to get interested in photography. Great info., now I need to apply it. :)

posted on June 1st 2010 at 6:18PM CDT

Yay awesome!! I can’t wait to see what photos you take!

posted on June 4th 2010 at 4:01PM CDT

Thank you for sharing this!
I am still learning my own camera and I need as much help as I can get.

I hope to see more posts like this!

posted on May 31st 2011 at 2:23PM CDT

I can’t wait to get my new Nikon D5100 any day now… and I’m trying to learn some stuff before I get it. Thanks for your info! It helps with the pictures as well. I’ll have to come back when I get the camera to recap again. :) It’s been thumbs uped on Stumble for me so I’ll be easily able to get back!

Thanks again!!