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Photography 101 Shooting in Manual: Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is one of the most important aspects of the exposure triangle. In this intro to shooting in manual mode, today we are discussing SHUTTER SPEED and how it affects exposure.

What is shutter speed? How do you use shutter speed to capture motion?

Taken with Canon 7D and Tamron 28-75 2.8 lens

Settings:  Aperture f/3.2 Shutter Speed 1/1600 ISO 100

First, let’s talk about Shutter Speed.

What is Shutter Speed?

Shutter speed is one of the most important variables in the exposure triangle.

Shutter Speed is the amount of time that your shutter remains open. Yesterday, I told you that you decide how long you want to let light inside of your camera by adjusting your shutter speed. Your shutter speed.


A long shutter speed ( also called a slow/low shutter speed)=more light.

A short shutter speed( also called a fast/high shutter speed) = less light.

How is Shutter Speed Measured?

The numbers that tell how slow/long or how fast/short your shutter speed are measured in seconds or fractions of seconds such as the 1/1600 in the photo above.  So, the bigger the denominator( number on the bottom) the faster the shutter  speed. So a 1/1600 is faster is than 1/60. Shutter speeds that are full seconds long are usually shown as 1( 1 second) or 60 ( meaning 60 seconds).


Do you want to freeze or show motion?

One of the  most important questions to ask yourself when photographing subjects that move is: do you want to freeze the movement or show the movement?

A fast shutter speed freezes the motion of a moving subject while a slow shutter speed blurs the motion of a moving subject.

choosing the right Shutter Speed is useful when photographing children

Taken with Canon 6D and Canon 35mm 2.0 lens

Settings: Aperture: f/3.5 Shutter Speed 1/1250 ISO 800

The majority of the time, you want to freeze motion because when you take a photo, you want your photos to be sharp and in focus.  If your subject is not sharp and in focus, it can look..a hot mess! So, your goal should be to shoot with a shutter speed that is fast enough to prevent any motion of your subject.


Recording motion is done when you correct the right shutter speed.

Taken with Canon 6D and  Tamron 24-70 2.8 lens

Settings: aperture: f/4.0 Shutter Speed: 1/20 ISO 250

If you do want to imply motion, it looks best if your subject appears as though it is in motion and everything around it is in focus. Like the photo above.

When trying this, remember it is very unpredictable! I took A LOT of photos of the cabs before I got this one that looked like what I was going for.

But look at my settings: I knew I wanted to show the motion, so I lowered my shutter speed to 1/20.( meaning my shutter was open for 20 seconds)  But keeping in mind the exposure triangle: I then had to adjust the rest of my settings so that I would get a properly exposed image. So I had to lower my ISO to 250( making my sensor less sensitive to light) and I increased my aperture to 4.0( allowing more light to hit my sensor) so that my shutter could stay open longer increasing the chance of capture the movement of the cab.

Well, that’s all for today! Hope you are not on information overload!!

To help you out, I’ve created a cheat sheet for shutter speed! Just click here for your Shutter Speed Cheat Sheet or click the photo below to download immediately so you can have it in your phone or print out!Shutter Speed Cheat SheetSee you tomorrow when we discuss ISO!

If you want to start at the beginning of this series,  check out the first post below!

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Lucky Ibeakanma

Friday 17th of January 2020

The Iso part needs more clarification especially for beginners. Nice post

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Thursday 9th of January 2020

[…] adjust your aperture, shutter speed and your ISO in order to create that properly exposed […]

Aaron C.

Tuesday 5th of September 2017

Excellent article! The aspect of learning photography that was most challenging for me was adjusting apature to match shutter speed. Any tips?

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Tuesday 13th of December 2016

[…] Check your settings: Set your white balance BEFORE you start shooting. This is where step one can come into play: you can practice a few mornings before to make sure you will get it right. Use Kelvin, a grey card or an expodisc to get it right IN camera and save yourself time when editing later. Also, remember to crank up that ISO to let in as much light as possible and make sure your shutter speed is at least 1/125. […]