Photography Fun! Volume 3 Shutter Speed

The last couple of photography fun posts were very popular, so here we are for a third installment!

Today I’ll be talking about shooting action. Now that Spring has sprung and the kiddos (or ourselves) will be getting outdoors to enjoy the weather, you’ll want to know what camera settings are best to use when photographing action!

When you know that you are concerned with action shots, you can be assured that you will need to be focusing on your shutter speed. Shutter speed is basically what can stop action dead in it’s tracks, or blur a moving object to create a sense of motion. It’s one of the most creative things you can adjust to make your photos come alive!! It’s ALIVE!!! (okay, enough of that!).

How do you change your shutter speed on your camera? If you are shooting with an SLR camera, the easiest way to do that is to change it to S mode, or TV mode on some models. Look in your manual and see what mode is Shutter Priority mode. Usually it’s on the little dial on the top of your camera and you’ll see it on your viewfinder like below. Set it to that mode, and you’ll be able to choose the shutter speed while the camera figures out the rest of the settings.Or on this dial – set it to the ‘S’. I know on Canons it’s usually Tv instead of ‘S’.

If you are shooting with a point and shoot – you can try seeing of your camera has an ‘M’ mode, or if not – use the presets like Sports mode (which will give you a very fast shutter speed for stopping action).


Let’s say you want to photograph someone jumping in the air, or your kiddo kicking that ball through the soccer net! Here is what you will want to do. USE A FAST SHUTTER SPEED. What is a fast shutter speed? Well, shutter speeds are expressed anywhere from seconds to fractions of a second. The faster the shutter opens and closes, the more it freezes action. The slower the shutter speed, the more blur you’re going to get.

So, an example of a fast shutter speed might be something like: 1/1000 of a second or even faster. That might give you a shot like this:I had to use a fast shutter speed to capture the insanity prevalent in my husband’s family :)Or a shot like this tortuous one of my DD:

There are a couple of things to keep in mind, though, when shooting with a very fast shutter speed. Remember when we talked about how the camera uses three things to make a correct exposure? Those things are shutter speed, Aperture, and ISO. Each of those things lets light onto the sensor (or film, if you’re shooting old school – ha!) so when you adjust one of them, the others need to adjust too, to keep the exposure right – otherwise you’ll end up with a black photos because not enough light is coming in, or a white one because too much light is getting in!

1. So, keeping that in mind, when you set a fast shutter speed on your camera that the shutter won’t be open long enough to let a lot of light in, so the camera is going to change the Aperture (F stop) to be as open as possible (meaning you’ll have a lower F-stop and therefore a shallower Depth of field). So, when shooting with a fast shutter speed (like at a sporting event etc.) make sure it is well lit. If it’s in a dark place, you’ll probably need to use a flash to get enough light. OR you could set your ISO to a higher setting like 1600 or something. You’ll get more light in your camera, but the trade off is your pictures will be grainier.

Did any of that make sense? Just keep in mind when using a fast shutter speed, that less light will be getting into your camera, so if you plan to photograph something where you want to freeze action, use the sports mode, or (if using an SLR camera) set it to S or T mode, set your fast shutter speed, then maybe change your ISO to a higher number (like 800 or higher). Then you’ll be set! Of course, if you’re shooting an action shot outdoors on a bright, sunshiny day – you’ll have plenty of light as is.

2.Now, as far as composing the shot – try to aim your camera to where the subject is GOING to pass by, that way you can time their approach and capture them in the action shot! NICE!


1. Another fun thing you can do with Shutter Speed is BLURRING action. If using a really fast shutter speed FREEZES action, you can guess what will BLUR action – that’s right, using a SLOW to MEDIUM shutter speed. This is usually something like 1/80 sec or slower. Using a speed like that gives you a couple of options. One of them is an all out blur. Basically, that is kind of the same as what you did above, aiming for where you subject is going have their action shot, then snapping while they do it. Just stand in one spot, hold the camera firmly, then snap when the action takes place. Since the shutter is opening and closing slower, it will blur the action!
(I did not take the above picture – it was from Google images – sorry, couldn’t find a good example in my own archives. I guess I don’t like blurry images! LOL!)

2.Another technique that is fun to try is something called “Panning”. This is done while still using a relatively slow shutter speed (like around 1/20 or so) and follow your subject through the viewfinder in a smooth sweeping motion as it approaches, and snap the picture as your subject goes by. So, you are sort of following them through your view finder and snapping while still following them in the camera. This method will keep your subject relatively clear, but will blur the background! Cool! The timing for this type of shot takes a little practice, but the results make it well worthwhile. This was one of my first attempts at panning:

You can see how my subject is relatively in focus while the background is blurry. That’s kind of fun right?

Just like using a fast shutter speed affects how much light is getting in, so does using a slow shutter speed. The slower the shutter speed, the more light is being let it. So, your camera is going to compensate by closing the aperture (using a higher f-number) which just means more of your photo will be in focus (wider depth of field). You can also lower your ISO when using a slow shutter speed, if you’d like, which will also lessen the amount of lighting getting in.

That’s all we’ll talk about today – we can leave night photography for another tutorial 🙂 I hope you get out there and try to change your shutter speed to try some fun effects! GET YOUR MANUAL and read up on shutter speed to see how to adjust YOUR shutter speed settings. Decide before you go out shooting WHAT you want to accomplish – do you want to freeze action? Or blur it? Decide that first, then make the setting adjustments on your camera.

If you aren’t concerned at all with action – whether blurring or freezing it – then you shouldn’t be worrying about the shutter speed at all 🙂 You can, instead, read my last Photography tutorial on Aperture (getting the fuzzy background you want). I hope you’ll be brave and shoot some fun action shots, though! THEN tell me about it, send me a link so I can check it out! If you have any questions, shoot me an email. Thanks!

4 thoughts on “Photography Fun! Volume 3 Shutter Speed

  1. Again I am SOOO thankful for this! I love that panning technique– I’m gonna try that soon! I loved the aperture tutorial, but if this is the third instalment, what was the first?


  2. Boy am I happy you became a follower over at my blog! I needed this instruction!!! My daughter is an Irish dancer and my photos are been sucking big time!!!Now you are stuck with me!!!!


  3. You found the right place Bee and Rose, this girl is amazing!I’ve played with that panning one, it is tricky, but what fun stuff you can do with your camera if you even know the basics on how it works hey?!Once again I have to say you are a remarkable teacher!


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