Understanding shutter speed

A camera’s shutter opens to allow light into the camera and then closes to stop more light from entering. Controlling how long the shutter is open for is another way of determining how much light is used for the exposure. This enables photographers to either freeze or imply motion. It is also a way how taking photographs in low light without a flash.

The shutter speed is controlled by turning the camera dial to TV (Time Value). The camera will automatically adjust the aperture to make a correct exposure based on the shutter speed. Shutter speed is measured in fractions of 1 second.

Freezing Motion

1/500 sec or 1/1000 sec would open and close the shutter fast enough to freeze the action. This is ideal for sports action.


This involves moving the camera parallel to – and at the same speed as – a moving subject. A shutter speed of 1/60 to 1/8 sec would be ideal. This technique works best against a varied background,which becomes streaked by the motion of the camera.

Implying Motion

The camera remains stationary, whist the subject move, creating a blurred effect. I investigated the effect of altering the shutter speed whilst photographing a moving robot in Project 4: Shutter Speeds.


About Matt

Photography degree student with the Open College of the Arts.
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