Monday, July 27, 2009

How to Choose a Shutter Speed Part One

(If you haven't read our other posts about shutter speed, click here for some important foundational information.)

When taking control of your camera's exposure, one of the first things to consider is what shutter speeds are "allowable" for the lighting conditions under which you are photographing. The answer to this depends on two main factors:
  1. The speed at which your subject is moving
  2. The focal length at which you are photographing
We'll tackle the first issue today . . .
If you want your subject to appear still, then your shutter speed must be fast enough to "freeze" any motion. Here are a few bench marks to keep in mind.
  • If you are photographing people who are trying to stand still (and doing a good job of it) then 1/60 is a safe shutter speed. If you need to go slower, you can fire off a few pictures in a row and maybe get a sharp one, but the more people in the picture, the more likely someone will be a bit blurry.
  • If your kids are walking around, playing, or running around outside, you want to be up to 1/125 or even 1/250 to be safe.
  • If you are taking pictures of kids swinging a bat or driving a race car, you'll need a shutter speed of 1/500 or faster.
  • If you are photographing a rock that isn't moving, any speed is safe as far as subject movement, but then photographer movement comes into play.
Keep in mind these are guidelines. You can always try something slower if you want, or you may need something faster than what I've suggested. Just remember to think about this when you are controlling your shutter speed.
Also keep in mind that these are guidelines for freezing the motion. If your subject is moving, you need to consider whether or not you want it to appear still and sharp or you want to allow for some motion blur. Sometimes motion blur is a good thing, so don't get locked into thinking you need sharp, motion-free images.