Shutter Speed.

What’s the best shutter speed for the photo you are taking? Slow shutter speed or fast? Normally the camera will sort that out. However, if you want ultimate control and want to stand out from the crowd then knowing and controlling the speed of the shutter is the way to go.

A reasonable rule of thumb, depending on camera and lens type, is 1/60th of a second or above to avoid camera shake.

One example of manually controlling the speed of the shutter for better results is water. Of course, we’ve all seen the photos of that blurring water smoky effect? Yes, that’s shutter speed control!

Slow Shutter Speed Photography Tutorial

As can be seen below, shutter speed can make a huge difference! 

How to photograph water tips
How to blur water photograph water tips
1/80th sec F5.
1 sec F32

The top photo is with a faster shutter speed than the photo at the bottom. With a shutter speed of 1/80th second With a shutter of 1 second, the water has time to move and that is captured on the film, giving a pleasing effect.

How can I do this?

Firstly, a tripod. That’s all I’m saying! You can’t hold the camera still for long enough!

The photo below left is of Frank Gehry’s ‘The Dancing House’. It was taken with a tripod and a shutter speed of 1/30th of a second at F22.

The sunrise below right was taken on a beach in Ibiza. Yeah, I wasn’t there for the music! Once again a tripod is essential. Taken at 1/8th of a second at F22.

Slow Shutter Speed Photography
Slow Shutter Speed Photography

Aperture and Shutter Speed

They have a direct correlation to each other.

Slow Shutter Speed Photography Settings

Shutter speed is how long the shutter is open.

Aperture is how much light is let into the camera.

At F4.5, that’s a big hole, that means it will let a lot of light in.

F22 is a small hole which doesn’t let much light in.

Consequently, the time required to take the photo is longer with a small hole. 

So, if you have a shutter speed of F22 or similar it will be a slower shutter speed. That means it takes a longer time to take the photo thus it will blur any water or car lights like in the above photos.

Slow Shutter Speed Photography

Slow Shutter Speed Photography Tutorial

As can be seen above, the sea has turned into mist! This is a long exposure with a tripod too. The white caps of the waves have shown up more than the dark water. Therefore they have come out as a smoky misty effect. This is an effect of slow shutter speed photography.


You know what I said about a tripod earlier? Well, that’s not entirely true. As can be seen below, these slow speed photographs were actually taken by resting the camera on the wall on the rooftop of the hotel we were staying in, in Barcelona . It would have been so much easier, however, had I bothered to go get my tripod!

Slow Shutter Speed Photography Tutorial
Slow Shutter Speed Photography Tutorial

A Fast Shutter Speed

There are times when you want a quick shutter speed. Either to freeze the action or to get everything in pin-sharp focus.  For example, see the image below.

Shutter Speed

You don’t need an all singing and dancing camera. With this in mind, the picture of the cannon firing was taken on a Samsung S7 phone. Because there was plenty of light, I knew the speed of the shutter would be high, therefore freezing the action.

Fast Shutter Speed Freezes Movement

Fast Shutter Speed Freezes Movement

This fountain in bright sunlight also has frozen the water in time because I have used a fast shutter speed.

How to photograph water tips

You can see the pattern, can’t you? Lots of light = a fast shutter speed!

Choosing the right speed for the situation

If the speed of the shutter is slow, you will blur things like water. You will also blur the rest of the photo if you are not careful! Using a tripod or resting the camera on something is the way to go. Because it’s almost impossible to hold the camera perfectly still. Leaning against something can also help steady the camera, but probably not enough!

Take lots of photos at varying speeds. That way you have many to choose from, and more chance you got a good shot! Practice frequently, so it becomes second nature, know your camera. You don’t want to miss the perfect photo because you were fiddling with the camera!

What gear should I use?

Below is the exact gear I used to take these photos, it’s what works for me. As I said, a tripod is essential and below are two that I use.

For all my tips and tricks see my Photography Tutorials page.

Photography Tutorials

To see all my gear, check out What’s In My Camera Bag.

Definitive Guide to the Basic Essentials

Below is a list of my most popular tutorials on photography.

They form the Basis of  My Top 10 Photography Tips

Click here for my Photography page with all the links on.

For more on shutter speed see Wikipedia

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Shutter speed

Shutter Speed

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