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Following on from our popular F-Stop Chart Infographic, we bring you our handy Shutter Speed Chart Infographic / Cheat Sheet.

You may have picked up all the basics of the Exposure Triangle from this site already, but delving into a deeper understanding of the three pillars of exposure is never a bad idea.

Knowing all about aperture, shutter speed and ISO opens up a world of artistic opportunities, such as the use of creative motion blur in your photography that we talked about recently.

Our F-Stop Chart got heaps of positive feedback from those of you who prefer visual learning, so we thought it was only fair to bring you a shutter speed chart too!

So here it is! You can refer back to this Shutter Speed Chart throughout this article, save it for future reference or even print it out.


Shutter Speed Chart Infographic

Shutter speed chart

Shutter Speed Explained

Unlike apertures and f-stops, shutter speed is actually very simple to explain – It’s just the length of time that the shutter inside your camera stays open, exposing the sensor to light and capturing an image.

As long as you have a working knowledge of the Exposure Triangle, you should find this pretty easy. Just remember, if you double your shutter speed, you then need to either stop down your aperture or half your ISO to maintain the initial exposure and vice versa.

Photography exposure triangle

Despite its simplicity, variations in shutter speed can both open new creative avenues and introduce some potential problems.


Problem – Camera Shake

Unless you’re practising Intentional Camera Movement, camera shake is an issue you want to avoid.

No matter how steady your hands are, there will come a point where the shutter speed is too slow and the movement of the camera during exposure introduces camera shake. The result is often a completely ruined, blurry image.

There are two ways to avoid this:

  1. Use a tripod to stabilize the camera.
  2. Increase the shutter speed to counteract the hand movement.

How fast should my shutter speed be when hand holding?

There’s a simple rule of thumb that works in the vast majority of situations. You can calculate the maximum usable shutter speed with the formula 1/focal length.

So using a trusty Nifty Fifty lens (50mm focal length) would yield a maximum usable exposure time of 1/50 second (1 divided by 50).

A 15mm wide-angle lens would be 1/15 second, while a 300mm telephoto would be 1/300 second.

Basically, the longer the focal length, the faster you need your shutter speed if you want to use it hand held. Simple, right?


Opportunity – Long Exposure Photography

How to use Motion Blur in Photography

The potential for blurring may be a problem when hand holding the camera, but once it’s mounted on a tripod that problem transforms into an opportunity.

We can use the moving elements within a scene to creatively introduce motion blur to our images.

This can be anything from dreamy, ethereal landscapes that blur the water and clouds into a silky-smooth mist to bustling cityscapes full of streaks of light created by car headlights.

How to use Motion Blur in Photography

Opportunity – Panning

Panning is a technique where you track the movement of a subject with your camera and capture an image using a relatively slow shutter speed.

When done correctly, this results in a moving subject being sharp while the background is blurred, evoking a sense of movement and speed.

The shutter speeds used depend entirely on the speed of the subject and your accuracy in tracking that subject.

For example, a Formula 1 car is moving so fast that a shorter shutter speed of around 1/100 second would be enough to convey movement, whereas a person walking down the street would require a much slower shutter speed of around 1/4 second.

How to use Motion Blur in Photography

Opportunity – Intentional Camera Movement

You know I said about camera shake being something to avoid a short while ago? Well…. Maybe don’t always avoid it.

Intentional Camera Movement (or ICM) is a technique where we move the camera… Yep, you guessed it: Intentionally.

We do this while using a relatively long shutter speed, introducing extreme levels of camera shake to create abstract images of our subject.

It’s very much a trial and error approach, so experiment with your shutter speed, subjects and the type of movement you do with the camera.

You can find more about all of these techniques here.

How to use Motion Blur in Photography

There you have it, a quick guide to shutter speed. You can also find some examples of what type of subject works well with certain exposure times on the right hand side of our shutter speed chart, so make good use of it!

Along with our F-Stop Chart, you should be well on your way to mastering the Exposure Triangle now!


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