How Still Photographers Choose the Right Shutter Speed at the Right Time

Without a doubt a powerful tool for videographers and photographers, today, we are focusing on shutter speeds for photography and have a video to share that will help you photographers out there pick the right shutter speeds at the right times.

Tony & Chelsea Northrup, from the YouTube channel of the same name, go deep into shutter speeds in their table discussion. In the discussion, they show you how you can use your camera's shutter speed to find the right setting to convey the story you want to convey and how you can the cleanest images possible.

One of the big takeaways from the video is known when you should be using a low or high shutter speed. When lowering your shutter speeds, subjects in motion will become blurrier and blurrier as it lowers. The opposite is for faster shutter speeds; when you raise the shutter speed, subjects in motion will become crisper and crisper.

For great pictures in motion, you have to find the shutter speed for the effect you want to convey. For Tony & Chelsea Northrup, they find that it’s a dance between raising and lowering your shutter speeds. For instance, let's say you are photographing a guitar player. You want the player to be sharp, but you also want to show that his hands are moving to show the energy of the music he’s playing. If you were to go to a high shutter speed, you’d lose the movement of his hands. You would then have to lower the shutter speed to get that movement back.

“A concert is filled with action,” says Tony Northrup. “They just don’t freeze there.”

Watch: Shutter Speed & Angle

There is a place for using lower shutter speeds and that’s to smooth movement. With lower shutter speeds, things like water and clouds give your picture a type of ethereal look. This look may not be realistic, but it’s an effect that you can use to tell the story you want to tell through your photo.

“It changes the composition of a photo as well,” says Chelsea Northrup. “So a longer shutter speed can be a … compositional element, because it can take it from a few trickles of water to a line in a photo.”

Using lower shutter speeds will also allow you to obscure movement, allowing you to blur moving subjects to maybe focus on an element that you wouldn’t have focused on if they weren’t blurred, like the street pavement in a busy street filled with people.

At the end, the Northrups stress that you just need to experiment. Finding the right shutter speed for the picture you want to take will require you to play around and adjust your shutter sheep until you get what you want.

Sean Berry
Sean Berry
Sean Berry is Videomaker's managing editor.

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