Controlling the Shutter Speed for Better Pictures

Article 2 min
Aperture, ISO and shutter speed are three factors that determine the amount of light entering the camera. Not only does shutter speed affect the amount of light allowed to enter and for how long, it also affects how much motion is captured.

The number one priority for a photographer is telling a story. To tell a story in an exciting way, you need many techniques at your fingertips. Knowing how to control the shutter opens up a world of creative possibilities for you to communicate with your audience.

The shutter is a mechanism that opens and closes to admit light into a camera for a measured length of time. It can be fast (a fraction of a second) or long (whole seconds, minutes or hours). The shutter speed you choose will affect your exposure, and have a direct effect on stopping (freezing) or blurring motion.

Setting your camera to the Shutter Priority Mode allows you to select the shutter speed, and the camera will set the aperture and ISO to produce the correct exposure. Review the photos taken with various shutter speed effects.

Slow Shutter Speed Effect:

  • Adds blur to a moving object
  • Emphasizes movement

The slow shutter speed creates a blur effect on the football players. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Bradley Church
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey holds the Gen. George C. Marshall plaque for Army Black Knight football players to touch as they rush the field to start the Army versus Air Force game in West Point, N.Y., Nov. 3, 2012.
The slow shutter speed creates a blur effect on the football players.
Photo by: Tech. Sgt. Bradley Church
VIRIN: 121103-F-IE715-779

Slow Shutter Speed with Panning Technique Effect:

  • Blurred background
  • Sharply focused subject
  • Note: Photographer tracks movement of the subject while making the exposure.

This photo of the F-35B Lightning II is made more exciting by the use of slow shutter speed with the panning technique. Photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist William Tonacchio
As fast as its name, an F-35B Lightning II screams past a flight deck handler as it takes off during flight operations aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1)
This photo of the F-35B Lightning II is made more exciting by the use of slow shutter speed with the panning technique.
Photo by: Chief Mass Communication Specialist William Tonacchio
VIRIN: 150522-N-BQ308-107

Slow Shutter Speed with Tripod or Monopod Effect:

  • Capture more light in dark conditions
  • Prevents camera shake

In this image, which features members of the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, perform morning turn-up operations at Naval Air Facility El Centro, California. The slow shutter speed with tripod or monopod technique creates a unique light tracking effect. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cody Hen
Members of the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, perform morning turn-up operations at Naval Air Facility El Centro, California.
In this image, which features members of the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, perform morning turn-up operations at Naval Air Facility El Centro, California. The slow shutter speed with tripod or monopod technique creates a unique light tracking effect.
Photo by: Petty Officer 2nd Class Cody Hen
VIRIN: 200208-N-YO638-1016

Fast Shutter Speed Effect:

  • Stops the action of a fast moving object
  • Sharply focused object
  • Note: The faster the object is moving the faster the shutter speed required to stop the motion.

In this image, the fast shutter speed technique stops the casing in midair (upper right corner). Photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau
A coalition force member fires his M4 carbine during live fire training on a base in Herat province, Afghanistan, Nov. 9, 2012.
In this image, the fast shutter speed technique stops the casing in midair (upper right corner).
Photo by: Sgt. Pete Thibodeau
VIRIN: 121109-M-BO337-028