Advanced Techniques

The effects of changing shutter speed

Written by Gail Bjork

Capture dazzling photos with your digital camera. Freeze the action or capture movement by simply changing the shutter speed.

Shutter speed, the amount of time the shutter remains open, can be used creatively to create special effects in photos. By adjusting the shutter speed you can freeze the action or capture the feeling of movement.

FreezeTo freeze action, use a fast shutter speed.

In the sample photo, exposure time was 1/120th of a second and the aperture was f/4.3.  The shutter speed was fast enough to capture detail in the carnival ride, Tornado.

MotionTo capture the feeling of movement, use a slow shutter speed.

In the sample photos, the Exposure Time  was 1/13th of a second and the Aperture was f/4.6. Because the shutter speed was slow, the movement of the Tornado was is apparent.

PanningPanning

By tracking a moving subject, called panning, the subject stays in focus while the background is blurred. Successful panning requires practice. Make sure to lock focus on the subject.

If your camera has a Continuous Mode or Panning Image Stabilization mode, use either or both.

Fully automatic options

If you can’t manually control shutter speed:

  • For freeze action – Sports mode
  • For motion action – Night scene mode, which uses slow-synch flash (camera support recommended)

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.

11 Comments

  • hello, I am a new user of the canon EOS 1100D, and when i set the shutter speed at 1/1000 sec, the picture become black. Any advice ?

  • Chris, the camera will do well for action shots in good light but for inside shots, it will be a mixed bag. I’m sure you’re tempted to zoom in to get some action shots but when lighting is low, shoot at or near the widest angle where the aperture is widest. The aperture range of your camera is f/2.7 (W) – f/5.8 (T), so the more you zoom, the less light gets through the lens. So zoom by walking closer to the action, or crop when editing.

    To get a faster shutter speed, you may have to raise the ISO, but do so to a level where the noise is acceptable. Give these a try and it should help.

    Unfortunately, the SX30 like most compacts, just can not capture images like a DSLR in low light and at higher ISO numbers.

  • I have a Canan SX30 IS and have been trying to take live action shots at my son’s basketball games.  I originally tried AUTO, but found that ineffective, so I move to TV mode and increased the shutterspeed a little bit at a time, but regardless of what I did I could not get enough light.  Maybe it’s just the gym, but more than likely the user!

    I tried the Sports mode as well, while lighter, the images were blurred.

    Am I expecting too much from this camera?  Seems like I should be able to get some average quality action shots.

  • jim, it will be a difficult camera to capture the lights from moving cars because in Programmed AE mode the longest shutter speed is two seconds. Generally, for these types of shots, you should use shutter speeds between 10 and 20 seconds. I don’t know if you can extend the time by changing the aperture manually in M mode. From what I’ve read, make sure your aperture ring is set to A otherwise the shutter speed will be locked at 1/60th second.

    The best thing to do is experiment. Use a tripod to steady the camera and use the self-timer or Remote Switch to trigger the shutter button.

    One of the best times to photograph moving cars is during the time the sun goes down so there is some ambient light.

  • HI, i have a T-50 canon camera and i was wondering if i am able to take rays from moving cars
    using a slow shutter speed
    thanks

  • Steven, take a look at some of the cameras with long zooms, such as those made by Canon, Panasonic and Nikon. You’ll want to zoom in. Like all compact digital cameras, they’ll do best in good light. Up the ISO a bit if you need a faster shutter speed. Invest in a camera that has image stabilization. In your price range, something like the Panasonic TZ4, Nikon Coolpix S630 or the Canon Powershot A2000IS may meet your needs.

  • Returning to Seaworld Thanksgiving.  Would like to actually get pics of Shamu out of the water. Know I need high shutter, Not sure about burst mode.  Don’t want slr. so what are my options under $250?
    Thanks

  • I don’t think your camera has Shutter-priority mode so try manual mode to adjust the aperture and shutterspeed for your desired effect.  If you prefer to use preprogrammed  modes,  use Hi-speed shutter mode to freeze action of moving water. Try the Twilight mode for evening shots. Check your manual for additional info about these modes.   For shots with long exposures, use a camera support such as a tripod and trigger the shutter button with the self-timer. When using a tripod, many manufacturers recommend turning off image stabilization.

    These articles should provide additional helpful information:

    Photographing water

    Photographing the moon

  • Hi…
    Good article…
    I am having a Sony DSC H10….
    How can i control shutter speed on tht…i want to take rays from the moon  or a waterfall effect…
    Thanks..