top of page
  • Writer's pictureMadison Plyler

What is shutter speed and why does it matter?

Beginner's Guide to Shutter Speed

The shutter speed on your camera can be found when you switch your camera's mode over to the "M" or manual. Shooting in manual gives you control over the settings of your camera that shooting in automatic mode cannot.

To understand your camera's shutter, think of an eye blinking. The shutter is similar to the lid of your eye. When it's open it lets in light, when it's closed its dark. Your camera's shutter opens and closes when you click your shutter button (the button that takes the photo). The speed that the shutter opens and closes at is known as the shutter speed.

The shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second. 1/8 is one eighth of a second while 1/500 is one five-hundredth of a second. Remember that these are fractions so 1/500 of a second is faster than 1/8 of a second. This time measures how long the sensor is exposed to light.

The shutter of your camera has two main purposes in photography- to control exposure and to control blur.


Blur is caused by movement and while it can be a great creative tool in photography, it can also be the downfall to an otherwise great image. Intentional blurring may enhance your image while unintentional blurring may ruin the perfect shot.

The longer your shutter is open, the more time an object has to move. Movement may come from the simple camera shake in your hands, the wind blowing through someone's hair, a car passing by, or dancing.

With your shutter speed you can control how much of a scene is captured. The smaller the fraction, the quicker the shutter closes, the less blur (movement) that will be let into your photo. The larger the fraction, the longer the shutter is open, the more blur (movement) allowed in the photograph.

You can use intentional blurring to your advantage to give your photograph a creative edge.

waterfall, long exposure, shutter speed
Using a long shutter speed to purposely blur the stream's water adds an artistic flare to the image. Photo from

You can also ruin your perfect shot if you intended your subject to be in focus but movement caused the subject to be blurry.

long exposure, dancing, shutter speed
With this shot, I tried to capture the subject's feet with less blur. My shutter speed was not fast enough which is why everything is just a blur!

In action photos like sport photos and moving cars, you will want a higher shutter speed to keep the subject looking crisp without blur.

wedding photography, wedding dress, shutter speed
I used a faster shutter speed for this image to capture the movement of the dress without blur.

Mess around with your shutter speed and the amount of blur you want in your photos. This will vary depending on the situation and the image that you're capturing, but it's great to be familiar with your settings so when the perfect shot comes you can capture it perfectly!


Shutter speed is a great tool to create the perfect exposure in your photographs.

Your shutter can control light depending on the speed that shutter opens and closes at. The smaller the fraction, the quicker the shutter closes, the less light that is let into your image. On the contrary, the larger the fraction, the slower the shutter closes, the more light allowed in your image.

exposure, shutter speed, camera

Keep in mind that shutter speed isn't the only tool to control exposure. You should set your shutter speed to control the amount of blurring you want and adjust your aperture and ISO to give you the best image.


Shutter speed is one of the basic tools to help create a great image.

The smaller the fraction, the less time the shutter is open, the less light is let in, the less movement and blur is allowed.

The larger the fraction, the more time the shutter is open, the more light is let in, the more movement and blur is allowed.

Play around your with camera and become comfortable changing your shutter speed as lighting and subjects change, and trust me, subjects and lighting are always changing!

40 views0 comments
bottom of page