So you’re finally getting out of the easy, automatic mode and experimenting with your creative side. Maybe you’ve been looking at awesome photos online wishing you could achieve that level of artistic ability and skill. Or maybe you just want to be more proficient with your camera. Either way, learning how to control the shutter speed is one of the most important things you can do to improve your photography skills.

How to Change the Shutter Speed on Your Camera: Quick Tips

  • Put your camera into manual mode. If you have a Canon, you can also put it in TV (Time Value) mode. If you have a Nikon or Sony, S (shutter priority mode) will also work.
  • There should be a dial or arrows somewhere on your camera. Move the dial left or right/ arrows up or down depending on the shutter speed you want.
  • The shutter speed format is usually in 1/1000, 1/250, 1/30, etc. The higher the bottom number, the faster your shutter speed.
  • Shutter speeds are measured in seconds. A shutter speed of 1/1000 means “keep the shutter open for one one-thousandth of a second.”
  • The higher your shutter speed, the less light it lets in. In general, higher shutter speeds are better for daytime photography, whereas lower shutter speeds are better for nighttime photos.

Feeling overwhelmed when thinking about shutter speed? We’re here to make it easy for you!

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, the shutter speed is part of the exposure triangle. The exposure triangle consists of three elements that make up your camera’s exposure settings. If you have just recently ventured out of automatic mode on your DSLR, or are thinking about it, you need to understand these three elements on your camera and know how they work, both individually and together, to take the creative, artistic photos you’re wanting.

 shutter speed

Learning how to control the exposure triangle is crucial to taking good photographs. These settings include the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed.

ISO is the setting that refers to the light sensitivity of the image sensor in your DSLR. The lower the setting (for example ISO 100) the more sensitive your camera is to light and the sharper the image will turn out. When you are shooting in darker environments, it is recommended to raise the ISO (ISO 2800 for example) and set the other two elements of the exposure triangle in accordance. Remember though, the higher the ISO number, the grainier the photo.

The aperture is also referred to as the f-stop. This is the most important element to master on your DSLR because knowing how the aperture works will give you the power to control the depth of field of your photos. Read this informative article explaining the f-stop and how you can get creative with it.

Many photographers shoot in a semi-automatic mode called aperture priority. This means that the camera lets you choose the f-stop and then decides the shutter speed and ISO.

What is Shutter Speed?

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Now, this brings us to shutter speed. When we talk about the shutter speed, we are basically talking about the amount of time the shutter inside your camera stays open when snapping a photo. This is measured in seconds and it greatly affects the outcome of your photos.

The formal definition of shutter speed is: The time for which a shutter is open at a given setting. 

When your camera is in automatic mode, it will try its best to take the sharpest photo in the best exposure possible for the situation you are shooting in. This is fine, but the camera cannot read your intentions and know exactly what you want at that moment. If you have seen some interesting and creative photography from other amateurs or photo enthusiasts and want to reach that level of shooting, then you must get into manual mode and understand how to tell your DSLR exactly what you want it to do in order to achieve this level of photography yourself.

It may seem a tad confusing at first and a lot to learn all at once, but when you have nailed the concept of the exposure triangle and are regularly shooting in manual mode, you’ll soon find yourself taking the artistic photos you’ve been striving for.

Practice makes perfect in the case of photography! There is no doubt about that.

Let’s take a look at how to quickly and easily understand shutter speed and how it affects your photography and final images. There are a lot of creative projects that require you to have complete control of the shutter speed.

 shutter speed

How to Change the Shutter Speed on Your Digital Camera (In-Depth Instructions)

All DSLR cameras and some point-and-shoot cameras use the same basic technology when it comes to taking photographs; aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. But the setting parameters may vary between makes and models. The settings may not all be in the same area on each digital camera body, even within the same brand.

If you have your camera guidebook or manual on hand, you can use it to look up information about your exact camera model. If you don’t have your manual anymore, that’s OK. You can always search for it online. Most camera manufacturers include PDF versions of their manuals on their website.

Shutter speeds are measured in seconds and you will see numbers like 1/2, 1/250, 1/50, 1/500, 2”, or bulb (on certain cameras) on your display screen telling you how fast or how slow the shutter will open, remain open, and then close. You can actually hear the click when it opens and closes. Usually, a well-exposed photo will have a fast shutter speed for clarity and sharpness, whereas a low-light or night photo will have a slower shutter speed to allow more light into the camera.

Let’s take a look at some the most popular brands out on the market today and where to find the shutter speed setting on each.

You will have to be in manual mode or one of the semi-automatic modes in order to change the camera’s shutter speed.  The semi-automatic mode that allows you to only adjust the shutter speed is called shutter priority (TV or S depending on the camera brand).

How to Change the Shutter Speed on a Canon

Where Is Shutter Speed on a Canon Rebel?

The Rebel series from Canon is one of the most popular models for amateurs and enthusiasts. Some of the models, like the t3i, t5, and t6, are great entry-level cameras that provide access to professional-level photography. Canon has TV mode (Time Value) which lets you adjust only the shutter speed. The camera will automatically choose the aperture and ISO depending on the shutter speed you decide.

  • Turn the dial to M (manual), or TV (Time Value) mode.
  • Turn the black dial below the shutter button until you reach your desired shutter speed.

How to Change Shutter Speed on Nikon

Nikon also has some great entry-level models that allow you get creative while providing professional features. The semi-automatic mode that lets you change the shutter speed is “S” (shutter priority).

Where Is the Shutter Speed on Nikon D7000

The Nikon D7000 is one of those entry-level cameras that come pretty close to the professional quality ones. Other Nikon models in this category are also great for amateurs and enthusiasts.

Let’s take a look at where do you find the shutter speed on the Nikon D7000.

  • Turn the mode dial to M (Manual) or S (Shutter priority)
  • Turn the dial on the right-hand side left or right, depending on the shutter speed you’re wanting.

How to Change Shutter Speed on Sony

Sony has risen to professional-level grade with mirrorless cameras that give you all the professional settings you need to take amazing photos. Sony mirrorless models are now popular with travel photographers because of the smaller sized camera body and general low weight.

Where Is Shutter Speed on Sony A6000

The Sony A6000 is a great starter camera to get you started in your photography hobby. Other models in the same category have the same basic shutter speed controls.

  • Turn the mode dial to M (Manual) or S (Shutter priority)
  • Turn the main dial left or right depending on the shutter speed you’re wanting.

When to Change Your Shutter Speed.

 shutter speed tips

The best way to learn about shutter speeds and the best settings for each situation is by playing around and experimenting as you shoot. However, we do have a few tips and guidelines for some of the most common photography situations.

Remember that when you change one setting in the exposure triangle, the other two settings are invariably affected. For example, when you have a high shutter speed, you will need to compensate for the amount of light you’re letting in by raising the ISO. A high ISO adds grain to your photos, so achieving a good balance is key to successful images.

What Does the Shutter Speed Do?

The shutter speed allows you to control how fast the camera absorbs light and images. Have you seen those action shots where there is a fast moving object and a still object in the same photo? This is achieved by using a slow shutter speed. Those photos of soft, flowing water are also achieved with a slower shutter speed. If you want a crisp, sharp photos of a moving object frozen in action, you will need a very fast shutter speed. This is the shutter speed meaning in a nutshell.

So basically, when you see a blurry photo (that obviously wasn’t planned that way) you will immediately recognize that the shutter speed was possibly too slow for that photo. There are other reasons why a photo may be blurry, it could be out of focus or have a shallow depth of field, but many of the times the shutter speed is the culprit.

We all want sharp and clear photos that are not blurry. This is why we try to use the fastest shutter speed possible in our immediate situation. But some situations or projects require slow shutter speeds; like low light environments or motion blur photography. These projects also require a tripod or some type of stabilizing method to avoid camera shake. A general rule is that any shutter speed under 1/30 will require a very steady hand or a tripod.

Do you want to have fun trying things like motion blur and sports photography? You will need to understand and learn how to master the shutter speed setting on your DSLR in order to do this successfully.

 shutter speed 101

Quick Shutter Speed Settings for Specific Situations

The main rule of thumb about achieving sharp photos is to use a shutter speed that is higher than your lens focal length. Meaning if you are shooting with a 200mm lens, your shutter speed needs to be above 1/200. You can search for a shutter speed chart online for more detailed information, but keeping this rule in mind will help with your decisions.

Let’s take a look at a few situations where you may want to experiment and we’ll give you some helpful tips to achieve the photos that you want.

Sports Photography

Photographing live sports is a sport in itself, but it can be so much fun! Obviously, there are a lot of action and moving objects, and you will want to freeze that action in your images. The key here is to have the highest shutter speed possible.

1/1000 is usually a good place to start for freezing motion. This is easily achievable if you are outside during the day. Nighttime or inside sports photography may require you to raise the ISO because the fast shutter speed does not allow enough light in.

Panning

Panning photography means following a moving object with your camera and clicking the shot while you, the photographer, is moving along with the object. The shutter speed does not necessarily need to be low and there is no golden rule here to accomplish good images.  What you want to achieve is the frozen moving object (like a runner, a bicycle, a car) and have the background blurred out.

This is a technique that requires a lot of practice and also a lot of trial and error but is worth it once you master it.

Kids/Groups/Portraits

When taking portraits or group photos, obviously the focus in on the people in the photo and you want them to be clear and not blurry. People move, especially kids, so it’s wise to use a higher shutter speed in these situations.

A good rule to think about when doing portrait photography is to adjust the shutter speed higher than the focal length of the lens that you are using. Example: If you are using an 80mm lens, your shutter speed will have to be above 1/80.

Motion Blur

Motion blur photography is really fun to try! There is a lot of trial and error that goes into motion blur photography, but the more you do it the more experience you will have and you will eventually gain your own go-to set of settings for whatever situation you are in. Slow shutter speed photos can be very creative.

The main rule for motion blur photography is slow shutter speeds. This usually means that a tripod is required, a remote shutter, and possibly some lens filters.

You can open your shutter for as long as 30 seconds to a few minutes to achieve the blurry, soft waves that make a photo look creative and unique. This may mean that you will have to limit the light intake with a filter on your lens.

The look you want to achieve will determine your shutter speed. Just remember to keep your ISO as low as possible, experiment and have fun!

Action

Taking photos of moving objects that we can’t control, like wild animals, can be quite challenging. They are unpredictable and we need to be ready to hit our shutter button at any time.

Assuming you are outside, use the highest shutter speed that you can without having to raise the ISO too much.

Using the shutter priority mode in this situation is recommended because you need to be quick on your feet. Having your camera decide the ISO and the aperture depending on the shutter speed will help you spend less time fiddling with the controls.

Low Light/Night

Low light and nighttime photography require slower shutter speeds and higher ISOs. There are plenty of nighttime photography projects that are fun but require you to have complete control of the exposure time.

guide to shutter speed

Remember, the slower the shutter speed, the greater the chance that you will need a camera tripod, monopod, or other camera stabilizing mechanism.

Long Exposure

Have you seen those fun nighttime photos with the light trails of cars? This is achieved by using slow and long shutter speed. The aperture and shutter speed need to work together here to achieve a cool look. There is no magic formula for this. Start with an f/8 f-stop and a 10-second shutter speed and take it from there.

Light Painting

Light painting is somewhat of a new technique that has gained popularity in the last few years, even with the amateurs. These projects can get extremely creative as you actually paint with light! You can use flashlights, neon lights, or any other source of light and have your model move it in distinct patterns while you shoot with a slow shutter speed. The results can be very cool!

Experiment

The best way to fully understand something is to get out there and practice. You can read all the articles and tutorials in the world, but if you don’t put it into practice, you will never know just how much you have grasped.

Here’s a fun activity to do with your DSLR to practice your new shutter speed knowledge. Go outside and pick a setting that has moving objects, like a street corner. Stand in the same spot and take several photos, changing your shutter speed as you take your shots. You can try putting your camera into shutter speed priority (TV on the Canon or S on the other brands). This way the camera will automatically adjust the ISO and the aperture in accordance with the environment. See what happens to the photos when you change the shutter speed?

shutter speed

Make sure to watch the settings change on your screen. Take notes and learn what happens to the final images.

This is also a great place to practice panning, nighttime, and long exposure photography.

Go Out and Have Some Fun!

Now that you are experimenting with your camera settings and learning how each component of the exposure triangle works, you are definitely on your way to achieving those great photos you’ve always dreamed of taking. If other photographers can do it, so can you.

Understanding shutter speed and how it affects your final photos is only one step of this learning process, but a very important one. Remember that a slow shutter speed may create blur or cause camera shake. Unless you are going for a specific creative look, keeping the shutter speed as fast as possible is the best idea. That being said, it is worth trying those creative projects that require slower shutter speeds. You may even impress friends and family who will ask how you achieved such amazing shots!

Remember that you need time and patience to learn these new skills. Be patient with yourself and don’t give up. You may get the urge to give up and go back into automatic mode, but try to resist this impulse. As your skills grow, it will become easier to understand and control your settings. It may get frustrating at times when you are not getting the shots you want, but give yourself time to learn and grow.

Get out there and practice! Learn from your mistakes and keep trying new things. This is how great photographers are made.

How to change your shutter speed

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