Rules Of Thumbs For Shutter Speed

Some rules of thumb for shutter speed

Part 2

Here are some rules of thumbs for Shutter speed shooting.

Rule #1: Stay above 1/60

If you are using a tripod, you can go below this speed, but when hand holding the camera, always stay above this speed. If you do not, you will tend to get blurring from camera movement. Image Stabilization (IS or VR in the lens or sensor shift in the camera body) can help, but only for 2 or 3 shutter steps lower. Just remember the rule, it’s easy.

Rules of Shutter speed
The shutter speed was fast enough to create a sharp image, but slow enough to blur the foot.


Rule #2: Focal Length and Shutter Speed

Another thing to consider when choosing shutter speed is the focal length of the lens you’re using. Longer focal lengths will accentuate the amount of camera shake you have and so you’ll need to choose a faster shutter speed (unless you have image stabilization in your lens or camera). The rule of thumb to use with focal length in non image stabilized situations is to choose a shutter speed with a denominator that is larger than the focal length of the lens. For example if you have a lens that is 50mm, 1/60th is probably okay but if you have a 200mm lens you will probably want to shoot at around 1/250.

Rules of Shutter speed
The minimum safe shutter speed varies for different focal length

Rule #3: Shutter Speed and Flash

Knowing how an electronic flash works with your camera can help you use the shutter speed setting creatively in conjunction with a flash. Newer cameras sometimes offer synchronized flash settings of 1/125 of a second or faster. Check the owner’s manual to determine your camera’s flash synch speed. Important note: if you exceed these shutter speeds you will start to see black bars on your frame. These black bars are shadows from the shutter curtains falling on the sensor and happens when the shutter takes part of the exposure before the flash fires.

By using shutter speed settings creatively, you can do far more than minimize camera movement. You’ll be able to make your subjects stand out from the background, stop the action, show motion, blend flash and natural light and unleash the creative potential of your camera.

Rules of Shutter speed
Shutter speed synch in flash photography


Rule #4: Recommended Shutter Speed for Sport

Regardless of the subject you are shooting, if you intend to freeze the action in all types of sports photography you will need to use a fast shutter speed. Typically, DSLRs allow you to dictate the shutter speed, leaving your camera to automatically set the aperture to obtain an accurate exposure. So what shutter speed should you use? The shutter speed you need will depend on how fast the subject is moving. The faster the motion and the bigger it is in the frame, the faster the shutter speed will need to be. You will also need a faster shutter speed if the subject is moving across the frame, rather than simply heading straight towards you.

A good starting place is a shutter speed of around 1/500 sec and work up (or down) from there.

Rules of Shutter speed
Slow shutter speed made me almost disappear!
Rules of Shutter speed
Fast shutter speed can freeze the action

That wraps up this article. These are some rules of thumbs for shutter speed and how to use shutter priority in more creative way. Stay tuned for the next article in this series: Creative uses of shutter speed in photography.

Slow shutter photography is very creative. We are going to have a Night Time Photography workshop on September 11. In this fun workshop we will take photos at night using slow shutter speeds and also play with light painting. Plan to join us for Night time Photography!

Ted and the Omnilargess Team

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