DSLR starters' guides: Shutter Speed

Tue 18 March

Julie Kim explains Shutter Speed

By moving from 1/60 to 1/125 and thus reducing exposure time, you are halving the light entering the camera.

By moving from 1/30 to 1/15 and thus increasing exposure time, you are doubling the light entering the camera.

You'll also find speed settings longer than a quarter-second, increasing in increments up to 30 seconds of longer. There’s also a special B setting (for Bulb) where you can leave the shutter open for as long as the shutter is held down. It's great for taking pictures at night of light trails, fireworks and fairground rides.

Why is shutter speed important?

To take a sharp picture requires you to shoot at the 'right' shutter speed. Blurry images are the result of either you or the subject moving and at slow shutter speeds even the tiniest of movement will be recorded. As a general rule, shoot on 1/60 or faster.

Top tip

Before you take a picture, decide what you’re trying to achieve. Do you want a sharp picture? Are you trying to freeze action or show it by using blur?

It’s your turn

Experiment with changing your camera's shutter speed using the following techniques:

Step by step: Stick your camera on a tripod and set your camera to Shutter Priority, to let your camera figure out the aperture. Take pictures of a moving object starting at 1/500, moving incrementally to 1/4 second.

Ready steady: How slow a shutter speed can you take a picture, handheld? Start at 1/125 and keep slowing the shutter speed down. Brace yourself against something and hold your breath.

Panning for gold: Try 'panning', which is taking a picture while tracking a moving object. Experiment with different shutter speeds starting at 1/60 then switching to 1/30. Find someone running or cycling. Track the subject and take the picture as you do it - keep moving as you are taking the picture and follow through after the shutter’s been released.

Freeze frame: Freeze movement. Ask a mate to do some jumps in the air. Press the shutter at the top of the jump. Experiment at different shutter speeds – you’ll find that you don’t need very high shutter speeds to freeze the motion.