How to Freeze & Blur Motion with Shutter Speed

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Hello everyone!  I’m back for another week of photography fun and am so excited for this week’s lesson!  If you’re just now tuning in, the past two weeks I have gone over some basic photography knowledge to help you break up with auto.  You can check out the first post to figure out whether you’re ready to use Manual Mode and then check out my post on Aperture! Last week I mentioned the three pillars of photography: Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO. This week I’m going to talk to y’all about shutter speed, because if you love taking action shots of your kiddos this is the mode you’ve probably been waiting to hear about. Are blurry action shots getting you down?  Learn how to get clear pictures by playing with your camera's shutter speed function and be on your way to better photos!

What is Shutter Speed?

Shutter Speed controls the length of time that the light is allowed to hit the camera’s sensor and gives the photographer control over how motion is captured.  If you want to freeze the movement, your shutter speed has to be faster than your subject.  This will give you a photo that is sharp and in focus.  If your shutter speed is slower than your moving subject, your photograph will be slightly blurred, and that represents a subject in motion.

Are blurry action shots getting you down?  Learn how to get clear pictures by playing with your camera's shutter speed function and be on your way to better photos!
Shutter Speed 1/800
Using a high shutter speed allowed me to freeze the vehicle as it was flipping over.
Are blurry action shots getting you down?  Learn how to get clear pictures by playing with your camera's shutter speed function and be on your way to better photos!
Shutter Speed: 2.0
I love the blurred motion of the carousel that was captured using a slower shutter speed.

How to Measure Shutter Speed

Shutter Speeds are measured in fractions of a second (when they are under a second). During the day I usually shoot at a speed of one two-hundred-and-fiftieth of a second (1/250) and above to capture motion and freeze my subjects.  Most modern cameras can shoot at speeds of 1/4000 and there are a few that can shoot at speeds of 1/8000 or faster. If you are shooting at lower shutter speeds, you’ll find that most cameras have a long speed of 30 seconds. I mostly use long shutter speeds for nighttime and fireworks photos.  Like this photo from Hallowishes at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party last month.  I shoot most of my fireworks photos between 20 and 30 seconds.

Are blurry action shots getting you down?  Learn how to get clear pictures by playing with your camera's shutter speed function and be on your way to better photos!
Shutter Speed: 29 seconds

 The Challenge

This week I challenge you to shoot in Shutter Priority Mode.  If you are unsure how to set your camera to the mode please consult your manual!  Shutter Priority Mode let’s you set the shutter speed and it will determine the aperture setting for you automatically. I would recommend taking photos of running water so you can really see the difference between fast and slow shutter speeds.

  • Set your ISO between 800 and 1600 if you are shooting indoors
  • Take a picture at 1/60 and 1/1000

Shutter Speed is probably the easiest mode to talk about, because there isn’t a whole lot to it. Just remember, faster shutter speeds freeze motion and slower speeds tend to blur motion. Thank you so much for joining me for another week of the breaking up with auto series!  I’ll be back again next week for our very last lesson, and we’re learning all about ISO!  I hope you’re feeling empowered to take control of your camera and have been able to take some pretty great pictures so far!

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