Let’s Talk Shutter Speed

A white crocus coming to life at Nymans in east Sussex.
A Nice Sussex Sunset

ka-chunk‘, that noise I hear every time I take a photo.  That obtrusive noise that I have not grown fond of is the shutter opening and closing, letting in that valuable light to hopefully give me that photo that I so desire.  On a positive, that ‘ka-chunk’ does let me know it’s working, and on a negative, every animal for a hundred miles will be running.

It is this noise that lets in the light we want to capture and store in our camera, complete with all the colours and shapes, and if our camera is not set correctly then either too much or too little light will enter the camera and our image will either be too bright or too dark.  We may not expect or want this outcome, so what can we do to help avoid this?

Our aim is to capture the right amount of light, and it is the shutter that controls how much light can enter the camera by opening for a period of time then closing.  The majority of modern digital cameras and smartphones can control the shutter speed but having an understanding is very useful, especially when you step up to full manual on the camera.

A term which describes the lightness and darkness of a photograph is. exposure.  Overexposed is bright and underexposed is dark.

Consider the next three images.


Shutter speeds are measured in seconds and parts of seconds from around 1/4000th to 30 seconds, this is the amount of time the shutter is open to let all that light flood in.  I won’t cover moving objects or sharpness here, that is in another article but I will add that anything slower than 1/100th of second, you are going to need a tripod as even the steadiest hand will have trouble at those slow speeds.  Let us consider a typical scenario.

A sunny day, loads of light bouncing around and we want to capture a nice photo of a beautiful flower.  This would be quite ideal as these types of days can give us nice fast shutter speeds and reduce the need for a tripod.  We could easily expect to be using a shutter speed no slower than 1/1000th of a second and we could expect a nice sharp clean image.

In Summary

Shutter speed is how long we want the camera shutter to remain open for to be able to capture the correct amount of light.  Too long and we can expect lots of brightness and white patches and too short, a very dark maybe black photo.  To avoid under/overexposed photos, increase/decrease shutter speeds.  Play around with the effects of the shutter, some very exciting and great photos can be taken with this setting.

Good luck and happy ‘ka-chunking’


1/1000th is faster than 1/100th     and    1/25th is slower than 1/50th

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16 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Shutter Speed

  1. I must admit that the ka-chunk noise has not really grown on me in the years that I have owned my SLR camera either! I have recently been playing around with different ISO and shutter speed settings on my camera just to explore them and see which works best in different conditions! This is a very handy guide to have at my disposal so thank you very much for sharing!

    Abbey 🙂
    Abbey Louisa Rose (@abbeylouisarose) recently posted…Vegan Chocolate MousseMy Profile

    1. Generally, if you want photographs for Instagram, ISO will not make a great deal of difference but if you want bigger, maybe for a blog or printing, then try keeping that ISO right down. You are very welcome Abbey, thank you.

    1. Whenever I get a new camera I tend to just sit and play with it, just on the sofa, like learning a new mobile phone. Manuals are good but tend to be long, drawn out and look very complicated. But the time invested in just sitting there and trying settings and getting to know the camera is well worth it. Thank you, Elise.

    1. On a bright sunny day with a fast shutter speed, nice sharp pictures:) on dull days or indoors, a few changes need to be made. Lighting is an article that will appear here soon:) Thank you Joanna

  2. I’m absolutely useless at utilising my camera properly! I’ve tried playing around with ISO and shutter speed but still getting an understanding of it. I like to edit my photos a lot brighter too, so I know if I get the settings right in the original photo it will mean less editing requirements. I’ve bought a new lens too so hopefully can explore more compositions with that too.
    Amanda Rose recently posted…5 Top Tips To Be More Organised At WorkMy Profile

  3. This is so helpful. i studied photography briefly in college but don’t remember much so I’ll definitely be referring back to this when I’ve finished saving and put my money towards a proper camera for blogging! x

  4. Thank you so much for this post. I got a DSLR in June and have become obsessed with taking photo’s but don’t really know what I am doing! I just love doing it. This post explained things so easily and it made total sense to me! Off to Ka-Chunk some more

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