What Is Shutter Speed?


It is not complicated to understand the definition of the shutter speed: It is the duration that the camera opens the shutter. The camera image sensor will receive a larger amount of light when the shutter is opened in a longer duration. With a shorter shutter opening, a smaller amount of light comes into the sensor.

When you completely understand how to use the camera shutter and the certain shooting situations in which the shutter should be changed, it becomes easier to use the shutter speed. What does shutter speed mean?

  • For the majority of time, the measurement of the shutter speed is a fraction of a second. A number of 1/500 shows you that the camera opens the shutter in 1/500th of a second only. However, you can lengthen the shutter speed to 30 seconds or even more. This is optional
  • For most digital models, you can find the speed options such as 1/1000th, 1/500th, 1/250th, or 1/125th of a second. It is common that the higher shutter speed settings increase about as twice as the speed of the previous number and decrease by about half the speed of the previous number
  • When you are capturing images in normal lighting conditions, the shutter speed can be higher and you find it easier to stop” the action. Under inadequate lighting conditions, perhaps the shutter speed needs to be slower.
  • A tripod is recommended to use for the situations that the shutter speed is not equal to or faster than 1/60th of a second. At this shutter speed, it is hard to keep the camera firmly in your hand in a long duration, which results in the image blurriness (known as camera shake).
  • The shutter speed can be set manually or you may refer to the “shutter priority” mode (you’ll often see the “S” abbreviation on the camera mode dial). When you use this mode, you have the shutter speed set in the first priority and then, other configurations will be properly set to work well with the selected shutter speed.
  • The shutter speed and the aperture (or f-stop) setting of a camera have a close relationship because the aperture settings decide the opening level of the lens. When the opening is larger, the camera will receive more light into the sensor and less light comes into the sensor as the opening is smaller. To say it in the most simplistic way, when the shutter speed is increased while the opening is larger, your image sensor shall receive the same amount of light. The trade-off is not always exact but you can understand the relationship between the two above settings in this way.

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