Changing the shutter speed on your camera allows you to control motion blur —
Releasing the shutter lets light into the camera for a fixed amount of time. I encourage you to try various shutter speeds, especially at the extremes of your camera. For most cameras, that is 30 seconds for the longest time (slowest shutter speed) and 1/4000 of a second for the shortest time (fastest shutter speed).
Motion blur is controlled by changing the time the shutter stays open. If the shutter opens and then quickly closes, even objects in motion in front of the camera do not have time to move visibly. If things are moving in front of the camera, or the camera is moving, longer shutter times — we call them slower shutter speeds — produce more blur.
Emphasize Motion Blur
Motion blur can be especially interesting if something is moving in front of the camera, like a waterfall or people running. In some situations, moving the camera at long exposures produces nice images, as in my image in the upper right. Here is a link to some of my long-exposure photos of neon lights with the camera dancing wildly:
In 2016 and 2017, I was enamored with images shot a 1/3-second. Here is a link to my exhibit “Those Who See Slowly” at the Washington Printmakers Gallery in June, 2018.
Eliminate Motion Blur & Camera Shake
Usually motion blur is something photographers want to get rid of. Usually people want to see details. To get details, increase the shutter speed enough to stop the motion of the object, perhaps 1/500th of a second or faster.
Camera shake can be a problem also solved by going to a higher shutter speed or putting the camera on a tripod or resting it on something solid. If you do not have something solid on which to rest the camera, you can lean against something solid while you hold the camera with your arms tight to your sides. Rest the camera in your open hand. Release the shutter gently rather than stabbing that button.
Click here or the photo at right to see a separate post on creating images in focus that have detail and clarity.
Shooting in Shutter Priority Mode
Shutter Priority Mode is semi-automatic; that is, if you set the shutter speed, the camera will adjust the ISO and Aperture to give you a good exposure. You can also set the ISO; the camera will then set the Aperture. If you set the ISO, it may need to be low for long shutter times, high for short shutter times.
Shutter Speed Samples
St. Peter’s Quarry in Pennsylvania. A fast shutter speed (say 1/500 second or faster) freezes motion; that is, the camera sensor is exposed to light for such a short period of time, there is no noticeable motion.
Slow shutter speeds make waterfalls look milky. Above is a photo taken at 4/10 of a second (0.4″) at Buttermilk Falls State Park in the Finger Lakes area of western New York State. I did not have a tripod with me, so I rested the camera on the rock wall next to the path.
Bicyclist, Philadelphia, 2017. If you move your camera in sync with objects moving in front of it, the motion blur of the moving object is minimized while the background motion blur is maximized. This is call panning. In this case, because the camera is moving left to right, the pavement, the cars, and the background is blurred a lot. Because the camera is more or less following the bicyclist, he and the bike are blurred less.
Frog Fountain, Longwood Gardens. The shutter speed is fast enough to freeze the girl’s slow movements but not so fast that the falling water is frozen in time.
“Twilight Walk” won 2nd place in the 3rd Annual Rehoboth Art League Regional Juried Photography Competition. This image was shot at one-third of a second while I shook the camera.
Community Fun Fest, downtown Wilmington, 2018. People jumping up come to a stop before they start coming down. That’s the time to click the shutter. In this case, the shutter speed was fast enough that it stopped the jump rope as well.
July 4 Games, Arden, Delaware, 2018. The water droplets from the fire hydrant are moving so fast, they blur into short lines. At a faster shutter speed, they would not be blurred and might not look like spray.
Click here to see all the posts in Danny’s “Take Better Photos” blog.