Shutter Speed measures the length of time that your shutter stays open to allow light to expose the sensor. Shutter speeds are measurements of time that can range from 30 full seconds to 1/8,000 of a second. Of course that depends on which camera you have.
Full shutter speed increments are: 30, 15, 8, 4, 2, 1
Fractions of seconds are: 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000, 1/2000, 1/4000, 1/8000
Each Full Shutter speed is one stop apart from the one that precedes it and the one that follows it. Therefore each full shutter speed is one-half as much light as the one that precedes it and twice as much light as the one that follows it.
So if you have your shutter speed set at 1/30 of a second – that lets in twice as much light as 1/60
if you set your shutter speed at 1/30 of a second – that lets in one-half as much light as 1/15.
Today’s camera you can have 1/2 or 1/3 stop shutter speed increments.
Three Important Points about Shutter Speed:
- To freeze motion you want to use a faster shutter speed, for example to stop someone running you would want to use at least 1/500. Depending on how fast they are running you can stop motion at 1/125 – 1/250 slower when panning for motion blur. (Thanks @cyberjim for your tips on motion speed!)
- To show motion you would use a much slower shutter speed, for example blurring the motion of running water you might want to choose around 1 second.
- If you are holding the camera while taking a picture typically you don’t want to go under 1/60 second unless you have a tri-pod. You want to shoot fast enough to prevent camera shake to blur your photo. Shoot at a speed that is faster then your focal length. For instance a s00mm lens don’t shoot hand held less then 1/250 of a second of faster.