The shutter speed is how long it takes for the shutter to open and allow light to enter the camera sensor. Essentially, it is the amount of time your camera spends taking a photo. When we take a photograph, the camera's shutter opens, allowing light to reach the recording medium and thus creating an image. We can control the appearance of the resulting image by maintaining how long the shutter remains open. 

How Shutter Speed is Measured

When shutter speeds are less than a second, they are typically measured in fractions of a second. For example, 1/4 denotes one-quarter of a second, whereas 1/250 denotes one-two-hundred-and-fifty-fiftieth of a second.

Shutter Speed and Exposure

The critical effect of shutter speed is exposure, which refers to an image's brightness. When you use a long shutter speed, your camera sensor collects a lot of light, resulting in a bright photo. 
Shutter speed is an essential tool for capturing a photo with the right amount of brightness. On a bright day, you might need to use a fast shutter speed to avoid overexposure. If it's dark outside, a long shutter speed may be required to prevent a dark image.

Fast, Slow, and Long Shutter Speeds

Faster shutter speeds result in the shutter remaining open for a shorter period, resulting in less light on the sensor. Faster shutter speeds also freeze movement and are commonly used to photograph fast-moving subjects such as sports or wildlife.

The shutter stays open for a more extended period when you use a slow shutter speed. This allows for more light to be recorded while also blurring moving objects. Slow shutter speeds are commonly used when photographing in low light or when capturing motion blur. Use a tripod to avoid any unwanted extra motion caused by camera movement.
Slow shutter speeds are used for creative techniques like panning or combined with flash to capture frozen and blurred movement.

Long shutter speeds are typically greater than one second, at which point a tripod is required to obtain sharp images. Long shutter speeds would be used for low-light / night photography or to intentionally capture movement. When you use long shutter speeds, anything in your scene that is moving will appear very blurry.

blurry shutter speed

How to Set Shutter Speed

When you set the camera to "Auto," the camera chooses the shutter speed for you without your input. You can still manually adjust the shutter speed if necessary:

  • Setting the camera to "Shutter Priority" mode allows you to choose the shutter speed while the camera selects the aperture for you.
  • Setting the camera to "Manual" mode allows you to select the shutter speed and aperture manually.

The shutter speed you choose will be determined by what you're photographing and where you're photographing. A fast shutter speed is the best option if you want to freeze motion when photographing fast-moving objects. However, because the amount of light reaching the sensor will be limited, you may need to compensate using a larger aperture.

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