Mastering shutter speed is key to capturing crisp, well-exposed photos. Shutter speed charts provide photographers with recommended settings to freeze action or intentionally blur motion. Rather than memorizing shutter speeds, photographers can refer to a shutter speed chart for guidance in various shooting situations. Having a printable shutter speed chart makes it easy to select the right speed while working in the field.
In this article, we’ll discuss how to use these charts to dial in ideal shutter speeds based on the amount of motion in your subject. We’ll also provide free downloadable shutter speed charts to print or access digitally. With the help of a shutter speed reference, photographers can confidently apply settings that best fit their creative goals.
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Purpose of the Shutter Speed Chart
The shutter speed chart is a crucial reference tool for photographers looking to master control over exposure and motion capture. Shutter speed is measured in seconds or fractions of seconds, with each setting doubling or halving the amount of light let in. The chart displays shutter speeds ranging from long exposures of 30 seconds or more to fast speeds of 1/4000th of a second or faster. Each change in shutter speed either doubles or halves the amount of light exposed to the camera sensor.
Understanding and memorizing this chart allows photographers to quickly adjust shutter speed depending on the amount of light available and the desired effect. For example, photographers can use a fast shutter speed like 1/500th to freeze action in sports or wildlife photography. Or they may choose a slow shutter speed like 1/30th to intentionally blur motion in rivers or waterfalls. The shutter speed chart provides a reference to select shutter speeds based on the creative goals, helping photographers better control exposure and convey motion artistically. With practice, photographers can quickly correlate standard shutter speeds with lighting conditions and subject motion without referring to the chart.
Shutter Speed Charts
A shutter speed chart is an essential photography resource for mastering exposure. This guide details durations from fast speeds like 1/4000s for freezing action down to 30s for artistic motion blur. The increments demonstrate how shutter speed controls light amounts.
Faster speeds of 1/500s or faster freeze subjects motionless. These high speeds use less time to expose the camera sensor. Slowing the shutter uses more time to expose. 1/60s adds motion blur on moving objects. The chart correlates shutter durations with recommended uses like sports, portraits, and landscapes.
Photographers reference the chart to select shutter speeds that fit their creative intent. Fast shutter removal of motion or slow shutter artistic blur. The guide helps dial in settings for desired effects. Beyond mastering exposures, the chart assists with flash synchronization, reducing shake, and capturing low light scenes. Shutter speed charts are indispensable tools for photography mastery.
What is Shutter Speed?
Shutter speed refers to how long the shutter in a camera remains open to expose the camera’s sensor or film to light. It is typically measured in fractions of a second – for example, 1/125 means the shutter opens for 1/125th of a second. A fast shutter speed like 1/500th of a second will freeze motion because the shutter does not stay open very long.
A slow shutter speed like 1/30th of a second will blur motion because the shutter stays open longer, allowing moving subjects to traverse across more of the frame while the shutter is open. Photographers adjust shutter speed depending on their creative goals, using fast shutter speeds to freeze action or slow shutter speeds to intentionally blur motion.
What Is Aperture?
Aperture refers to the size of the opening in the lens through which light passes before entering the camera. The aperture is one of three key settings, along with shutter speed and ISO, that determine exposure in photography.
The aperture size is expressed in f-stops – a numbering system that indicates the diameter of the aperture in relation to the focal length of the lens. Common f-stop values are f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11 and f/16, with each full f-stop allowing half as much light to enter compared to the previous one.
A wider aperture opening (lower f-stop number) allows more light into the camera and creates a shallower depth of field, which blurs the background. A narrower aperture opening (higher f-stop number) allows less light in and creates a deeper depth of field with a sharper background. Aperture also affects sharpness, with images generally being sharper when using mid-range apertures like f/5.6-f/11. Photographers manipulate aperture for creative effects and to control exposure along with shutter speed.
What is ISO?
ISO refers to the camera sensor’s light sensitivity when capturing a photograph. It is one third of the ‘exposure triangle’ along with aperture and shutter speed that determines how bright or dark the photo will be.
The ISO setting controls how sensitive the camera’s sensor is to incoming light. It is measured in numerical values like 100, 200, 400, 800, etc. A lower ISO like 100 means the camera’s sensor is less sensitive to light, while a higher ISO like 800 means the sensor is more sensitive to light.
Using a lower ISO requires more light to get a proper exposure, while a higher ISO needs less light for the same exposure. Higher ISOs allow photographers to shoot in darker conditions without having to use a slower shutter speed, but the tradeoff is that higher ISO settings often produce more image noise or graininess.
Photographers may opt for different ISO levels depending on the lighting conditions and desired effect. The goal is often to use the lowest ISO possible that can produce a properly exposed image to maximize image quality. ISO gives photographers added flexibility when the lighting conditions are not ideal.
The Shutter Speed Chart
One of the most fundamental yet often overlooked skills in photography is understanding how to use shutter speed effectively. Shutter speed refers to the length of time the camera’s shutter remains open as it exposes the camera sensor to light. Mastering shutter speed is critical, as it directly impacts the photograph’s brightness as well as its ability to freeze or convey motion. Photographers rely on shutter speed charts as a guide to select the optimal shutter speeds based on their creative goals. Whether desiring a sharp photograph that freezes action or an intentionally blurred and dreamy image, the shutter speed chart provides a useful starting point. With key shutter speeds ranging from long exposures of 30 seconds to fast speeds like 1/4000th of a second, photographers must understand how to leverage this crucial setting. Learning to pair optimal shutter speeds with aperture and ISO will enable photographers to take their skills to the next level.
How to Read the Shutter Speed Chart
A Shutter Speed Chart is an essential tool for photographers aiming to master their camera settings. It’s usually presented as a series of numbers, often in a linear or logarithmic scale, that correlates to the amount of time the camera’s shutter remains open. Standard shutter speeds are often displayed as fractions of a second (e.g., 1/1000, 1/500, 1/250, 1/125, etc.) and sometimes as full seconds (1”, 2”, 30”, etc.). To read the chart, you start by identifying your current or ideal lighting situation, then match it to the corresponding shutter speed for your desired photographic outcome. Some charts may also provide visual examples or annotations to indicate the typical effects you’ll see at different speeds, such as freezing motion at fast shutter speeds or adding motion blur at slower ones. The chart may also include guidelines for the relationship between shutter speed, ISO, and aperture, helping photographers balance all three variables for the perfect shot.
Standard Shutter Speeds
Standard shutter speeds typically double or halve the amount of light entering the lens as you move from one speed to the next. Commonly used speeds include, but are not limited to, 1/1000, 1/500, 1/250, 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, and 1 second. More advanced cameras may offer a broader range, even extending to bulb mode, where the shutter remains open as long as you hold down the release button. These speeds are standardized to simplify the photographer’s task of setting the exposure. By understanding these standard speeds, you’ll be able to quickly adjust your settings in response to changes in lighting conditions or creative objectives.
Effect of Different Shutter Speeds on Photos
The shutter speed you select will have a profound impact on the final image. Fast shutter speeds like 1/1000 or 1/500 of a second are perfect for freezing fast-moving subjects in sharp detail. For example, in sports photography, a quick shutter speed will capture the minute expressions and movements of athletes, rendering each droplet of sweat and blade of grass with crystalline clarity.
Conversely, slower shutter speeds, such as 1/30, 1/15, or even several seconds, allow for the introduction of motion blur and other creative effects. For instance, if you’re shooting a waterfall and you use a slower shutter speed like 1/2 a second, the water will take on a silky, flowing appearance, as opposed to appearing frozen in time. Slow shutter speeds are also essential for low-light conditions, such as astrophotography, where you might need to leave the shutter open for several seconds or even minutes to capture the dim light of stars or galaxies. However, it’s crucial to remember that slower speeds are more susceptible to camera shake, so a tripod is often necessary to ensure a sharp image.
To sum up, understanding the Shutter Speed Chart and its associated elements—standard speeds and their effects—is crucial for anyone aiming to master photography. Whether you want to freeze a hummingbird’s wings or capture the languid flow of a river, the chart provides an invaluable point of reference for setting your camera to achieve your creative vision.
How to Change the Shutter Speed on Your Camera?
Changing the shutter speed on your camera involves a series of steps that are generally similar across different camera brands, but with some variations in button layouts and menu options. Below is a step-by-step guide for changing the shutter speed on popular camera brands: Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Panasonic.
For Canon Cameras:
Step 1: Turn On the Camera
Turn on your Canon camera by rotating the power switch.
Example: On a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, the power switch is located on the top-right side, near the mode dial.
Step 2: Select the Appropriate Mode
Turn the mode dial to either ‘M’ (Manual) or ‘Tv’ (Time value, which is shutter-priority mode).
Example: On the Canon EOS Rebel T7i, the mode dial is on the top-right side of the camera, near the shutter button.
Step 3: Locate the Shutter Speed Dial
Find the dial or wheel that controls the shutter speed. It is usually near the shutter button.
Step 4: Adjust the Shutter Speed
Rotate the dial to select your desired shutter speed.
Example: On a Canon EOS R, you would rotate the main dial near the shutter button to change the shutter speed.
For Nikon Cameras:
Step 1: Turn On the Camera
Switch on your Nikon camera using the power button.
Example: On a Nikon D850, the power button surrounds the shutter button.
Step 2: Choose the Correct Mode
Rotate the mode dial to ‘M’ (Manual) or ‘S’ (Shutter-priority).
Example: On the Nikon D5600, the mode dial is located on the top-right side of the camera.
Step 3: Identify the Shutter Speed Dial
Find the dial or wheel that allows you to adjust the shutter speed.
Step 4: Set the Shutter Speed
Turn the dial to your desired shutter speed.
Example: On a Nikon Z6, the main command dial near the back of the camera will change the shutter speed.
For Sony Cameras:
Step 1: Power On the Camera
Turn on your Sony camera using the power button.
Example: On a Sony A7 III, the power switch is next to the shutter button.
Step 2: Select the Right Mode
Go to the mode dial and select ‘M’ (Manual) or ‘S’ (Shutter-priority).
Example: On the Sony A6400, the mode dial is located on the top-right corner.
Step 3: Access Shutter Speed Controls
Locate the control wheel or dial that adjusts the shutter speed.
Step 4: Modify the Shutter Speed
Turn the wheel or dial to set your preferred shutter speed.
Example: On the Sony Alpha 1, the control wheel at the back can be rotated to adjust the shutter speed.
For Panasonic Cameras:
Step 1: Activate the Camera
Turn on your Panasonic camera with the power switch.
Example: On a Panasonic Lumix GH5, the power switch surrounds the shutter button.
Step 2: Opt for the Suitable Mode
Switch the mode dial to ‘M’ (Manual) or ‘S’ (Shutter-priority).
Example: The Panasonic Lumix S1 has its mode dial on the left top side of the camera.
Step 3: Locate the Shutter Speed Dial
Find the control wheel or dial designated for shutter speed adjustment.
Step 4: Change the Shutter Speed
Turn the dial or wheel to choose your desired shutter speed.
Example: On a Panasonic Lumix FZ300, the rear dial changes the shutter speed when in the appropriate mode.
What is the Best Shutter Speed for…?
Shutter speed plays a critical role in how your photos will look, and different types of photography call for specific shutter speed settings. Below is a detailed breakdown of the best shutter speeds for various scenarios:
For night photography, you typically want to use slower shutter speeds to allow more light to hit the sensor, capturing the dim details of the night sky or cityscape. Shutter speeds may range from a few seconds to several minutes, depending on the amount of available light and your creative intentions. For example, astrophotography might require a 20- to 30-second exposure to capture the brilliance of a starry sky adequately. However, too long of an exposure might cause the stars to form trails due to the Earth’s rotation. It’s crucial to use a tripod in these situations to avoid camera shake and ensure sharp images.
When shooting portraits, your primary focus is usually on capturing sharp details of the subject’s face while potentially blurring the background for artistic effect. Standard shutter speeds like 1/60, 1/125, or 1/250 of a second are generally adequate, assuming your subject isn’t moving rapidly. Faster shutter speeds can be used to freeze even the most subtle movements, like a strand of hair blowing in the wind, while slower shutter speeds may introduce intentional motion blur, for example, if your subject is walking or dancing.
Outdoor photography encompasses a wide range of scenarios—from landscape to wildlife. For stationary landscapes, 1/125 or 1/250 of a second is usually sufficient to get crisp, clear images, but this could change based on weather conditions. If you’re photographing objects in motion, like birds in flight or athletes in action, you’ll want to opt for faster shutter speeds like 1/1000 or 1/2000 of a second to freeze the action. On windy days, even foliage can be considered a “moving subject,” so you may need to increase your shutter speed accordingly.
Capturing moving objects with clarity and precision often necessitates a fast shutter speed. Speeds like 1/500, 1/1000, or even 1/2000 of a second can freeze fast-moving subjects, such as cars zooming down a highway, a sprinter crossing the finish line, or a dog catching a frisbee. These fast speeds ensure that you capture every intricate detail, from the expression on a person’s face to individual droplets of water splashing around a swimmer.
Creating a sense of motion or speed in your images requires slower shutter speeds, generally anything below 1/60 of a second depending on the speed of the subject. This technique is commonly used in panning shots, where the camera follows a moving object like a cyclist or a car. By keeping the subject sharp but blurring the background, you create a dynamic sense of movement. Slower speeds like 1/30, 1/15, or even several seconds can be used for artistic effects, like smoothing out flowing water in a river or waterfall, but you’ll usually need a tripod to keep the stationary elements of your image sharp.
Capturing fireworks requires you to hold your shutter open long enough to catch the full burst of light but not so long that the scene becomes overexposed. Shutter speeds ranging from 1 to 10 seconds are commonly used, depending on the firework’s size and brightness. A tripod is essential here, and using a remote shutter release can further reduce camera shake.
When you’re working on macro photography, even the slightest movement can result in an out-of-focus shot. Shutter speeds of 1/125 or faster are often required, especially if you’re hand-holding the camera. Some photographers go up to 1/500 or even 1/1000 of a second to freeze the minutiae, like the details of an insect’s wing or the intricate patterns on a leaf.
For capturing phenomena that happen in the blink of an eye, like a water droplet hitting a surface or a balloon popping, you’ll need extremely fast shutter speeds. We’re talking about settings like 1/4000 or 1/8000 of a second. These speeds are so fast that they can freeze almost any kind of motion, revealing details that are invisible to the naked eye.
Architecture and Cityscapes:
For architectural photography and cityscapes where the subject is static, you can afford to use slower shutter speeds like 1/60 or 1/30 of a second. If you’re capturing a scene in the evening or at night, you might need to go even slower, down to several seconds or more, to get sufficient light exposure. Again, a tripod is invaluable in these situations.
Indoor settings often present challenges due to lower light conditions. Depending on the subject and your goals, you might opt for a slower shutter speed like 1/30 or 1/15 of a second. However, if you’re capturing people or animals that may move, a faster shutter speed may be necessary to prevent motion blur. Using additional lighting can also allow for faster shutter speeds.
Wildlife photography often involves unpredictable subjects. For fast-moving animals like birds or deer, a fast shutter speed like 1/1000 or 1/2000 of a second will help you capture sharp images. For more stationary subjects, you could use a slower shutter speed like 1/250 or 1/500, but be prepared to adjust quickly if the animal moves.
Aerial and Drone Photography:
When capturing images from a moving platform like a drone, it’s essential to use a faster shutter speed to counteract the motion of the drone and any wind interference. Shutter speeds of 1/500 or 1/1000 of a second are often recommended for sharp, clear images.
Tips and Techniques for Shutter Speed
Understanding how to manipulate shutter speed is essential for any photographer looking to capture high-quality images in various settings. Below are some advanced tips and techniques related to shutter speed that can help elevate your photography.
Panning is a technique often used to capture moving objects while giving the impression of speed or movement. It involves moving your camera horizontally along with the subject during the exposure. The idea is to keep the subject as sharp as possible while blurring the background, thereby adding a sense of motion to the image.
- Shutter Speed: Use a slow shutter speed, usually between 1/30 and 1/125 of a second, depending on the speed of the subject.
- Focus: Pre-focus your camera on the path where the subject will pass.
- Camera Movement: As the subject approaches, move your camera smoothly along with it, keeping it in the frame.
- Shutter Release: Press the shutter while continuing to move the camera at the same speed as the subject.
Example: For capturing a cyclist in motion, set the camera to Shutter Priority mode, choose a speed of 1/60 of a second, and pan your camera horizontally as the cyclist moves from one side of the frame to the other.
Using ND Filters:
Neutral Density (ND) filters are essentially sunglasses for your camera. They reduce the amount of light entering the lens, allowing you to use slower shutter speeds in bright conditions. This can be useful for capturing motion blur in bright daylight conditions or achieving a shallow depth of field without overexposing the image.
- Choosing the ND Filter: ND filters come in various strengths, from 1-stop to 10-stop reductions. Choose the one that fits your needs.
- Installation: Screw or clip the ND filter onto your lens.
- Shutter Speed: Adjust the shutter speed to achieve the desired effect, like blurring a waterfall while keeping the surroundings sharp.
Example: In a sunny outdoor setting where you want to capture flowing water, you can attach a 3-stop ND filter to your lens, allowing you to use a slower shutter speed (like 1/15 of a second) without overexposing the image.
High-Speed Sync for Flash Photography:
High-speed sync (HSS) is a feature available on some external flashes that allows you to use flash at shutter speeds faster than the camera’s native sync speed (often around 1/200 or 1/250 of a second). This is particularly useful in bright conditions where you might want to use a fast shutter speed to darken the ambient light while using a flash to illuminate the subject.
- Enable High-Speed Sync: Activate the HSS mode on your flash unit.
- Camera Settings: Set your camera to a fast shutter speed that exceeds the native sync speed.
- Test Shots: Take a few test shots to ensure that the flash is correctly syncing with the high-speed shutter.
Example: For outdoor portraits in bright sunlight, you can use a shutter speed of 1/800 of a second to control the ambient light while enabling High-Speed Sync on your flash to properly expose the face of your subject.
Shutter speed is a crucial photographic skill that enables creative control over exposure and motion capture. While learning to master shutter speeds takes time and practice, the shutter speed chart provides an invaluable reference guide to help build competency. Keep a copy handy in your camera bag, and consider downloading our free printable PDF shutter speed chart as well for easy access. With repeated practice using the chart as a reference, the correlations between shutter speed, lighting conditions, and motion blur will become intuitive over time. Paired with an understanding of aperture and ISO, the shutter speed chart is the first step to gaining creative control over your photography. Download our free shutter speed chart PDF today and start developing a mastery of this fundamental photographic skill.
Can I Use Shutter Speed to Control Exposure?
Yes, shutter speed is one of the three pillars of exposure, along with aperture and ISO. Faster shutter speeds result in less light hitting the sensor, producing a darker image, while slower speeds allow more light, creating a brighter image.
What is “Bulb” Mode?
Bulb mode allows you to manually control the shutter’s opening and closing for an extended period, beyond what is usually available in manual mode. This is useful for long-exposure photography like astrophotography or capturing fireworks.
What Equipment Do I Need for Slow Shutter Speed Photography?
For slow shutter speed photography, a sturdy tripod is essential to avoid camera shake. In some cases, you may also benefit from using a neutral density (ND) filter to control the amount of light entering the lens.
Can I Achieve Motion Blur and Freeze Action in the Same Shot?
It’s challenging to achieve both effects in a single shot without post-processing. However, techniques like panning can create a sense of motion in the background while keeping the subject relatively sharp, offering a blend of both effects.
Why Are My Photos Blurry at Slow Shutter Speeds?
Photos taken at slow shutter speeds are susceptible to blur from camera shake or subject movement. Using a tripod and remote shutter release can minimize camera shake, while selecting an appropriate shutter speed can reduce motion blur.
How Does Shutter Speed Affect Depth of Field?
Strictly speaking, shutter speed itself does not affect depth of field; that is primarily controlled by the aperture setting and the distance between the camera and the subject. However, shutter speed can indirectly influence your depth of field if you adjust the aperture to compensate for a change in shutter speed while keeping the exposure constant.
What is Shutter Angle, and How is it Different from Shutter Speed?
Shutter angle is a concept primarily used in cinematography that describes how long the film or sensor is exposed to light during each frame. While shutter speed is usually given in fractions of a second, the shutter angle is described in degrees. Although different, both serve the same fundamental purpose: to control the amount of light hitting the sensor or film.
Can I Create Bokeh Effects with Shutter Speed?
Bokeh, the aesthetic quality of the out-of-focus areas in an image, is primarily influenced by the aperture, not the shutter speed. A wide aperture (small f-number) will produce a shallower depth of field and more pronounced bokeh. However, you may need to adjust your shutter speed to maintain proper exposure when you change your aperture.
How Do I Use Shutter Speed for Astrophotography?
For astrophotography, you generally want to use a slower shutter speed to capture as much light as possible. However, too slow a shutter speed will result in star trails due to the Earth’s rotation. The “500 Rule” is often used as a guideline: divide 500 by the focal length of your lens to get the longest exposure time before star trails become apparent.
Is a Shutter Speed Chart Still Relevant With Modern Cameras That Have Image Stabilization?
While image stabilization can allow for slower hand-held shutter speeds without blur, a shutter speed chart is still relevant. Image stabilization can’t freeze subject motion, and it has its limitations in extremely low-light conditions.
What is Rolling Shutter and How Does Shutter Speed Affect It?
Rolling shutter is a type of distortion that occurs when the camera sensor scans the image sequentially rather than capturing it all at once. Faster shutter speeds can exacerbate the distortion in fast-moving subjects or when the camera is panning quickly. It’s most often a concern in video capture rather than still photography.