What is shutter speed

Shutter speed is a common term used to discuss exposure time, the effective length of time a camera's shutter is open. You can think of the shutter in your camera as a bit like a window shutter, you open up the shutters to let light in through the window, and when you close the shutters, the light is cut off. When you open and then close the shutters, the room gets brighter for a brief period and then goes dark again.
That’s pretty much what a camera does on your SLR or mirrorless camera.

Play this 5 second video to see a slow shutter speed action

That was a very slow shutter speed, which in the majority of cases would let in too much light. The faster the shutter speed, the less light gets in, so I’m going to switch to a typical fast shutter speed, say 250th of a second, I doubt that you’re even going to see it.

Play this video to see a fast shutter speed action (blink & you'll miss it!)

For most photos the shutter speed is a fraction of a second, generally speaking out in the bright sunlight it could be anywhere between 125th of a second and several thousandth of a second, depending on other camera settings like your aperture or ISO.

In low light the shutter speed might be somewhere between 30th of a second and 125th of a second, and at night, taking a night scene or maybe fireworks, the shutter speed can be several seconds. Obviously at night, the shutter needs to be held open for longer to let more light in to give a good exposure.

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This chart shows some actual shutter speed values.

As you go down this chart, you’ll notice that the actual speed values are doubling up, so 1/500th of a second is twice as fast as 1/250th of a second and 30th of a second lets in twice as much light as 60th of a second. Each of these shutter speed is sometimes referred to as a ‘Stop’, so going up a stop might mean changing the shutter speed from 250th of a second to 125th of a second to let more light in, but it can also mean changing the aperture from F5.6 to F4, again to let in more light.

And that’s all there is to it! Obviously the shutter speed is used primarily to help control the exposure, but it also has a creative aspect to it. I’m talking about controlling motion, you can learn more about that by watching my 'Creative shutter speed' videos, see

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