time lapse photography of road during night time

Mastering Shutter Speed: A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding This Key Photography Concept

As a beginner photographer or videographer, you may have heard the term "shutter speed" thrown around but aren't quite sure what it means. Understanding shutter speed is key to taking stunning, well-exposed photos, so it's worth learning about.

As a beginner photographer or videographer, you may have heard the term “shutter speed” thrown around but aren’t quite sure what it means. Understanding shutter speed is key to taking stunning, well-exposed photos, so it’s worth learning about.

What exactly is shutter speed?

In simple terms, shutter speed refers to the length of time that the camera’s shutter is open when you take a photo. Shutter speed is measured in seconds, with faster speeds indicated by smaller numbers (e.g. 1/2000) and slower speeds indicated by larger numbers (e.g. 30).

But why is shutter speed important? One reason is that it allows you to freeze or blur motion in your photos. When you use a fast shutter speed, you are able to freeze fast-moving subjects, such as a speeding car or a sports player in action. On the other hand, when you use a slow shutter speed, you can create the illusion of motion by blurring moving subjects. This can be a creative effect, such as capturing the blur of a waterfall or the trails of light from a car at night.

In addition to freezing or blurring motion, shutter speed also plays a role in the overall exposure of your photos. Shutter speed, along with aperture and ISO, is one of the three factors that make up the exposure triangle. When you use a faster shutter speed, you are allowing less light to reach the camera’s sensor, which can help to darken a photo. Conversely, a slower shutter speed will allow more light to reach the sensor, resulting in a brighter photo.

Understanding shutter angle

In addition to being measured in seconds, shutter speed can also be expressed in terms of “shutter angle.” Shutter angle is a term often used in videography and refers to the size of the shutter opening in relation to the frame rate of the video. For example, a 180-degree shutter angle is considered “standard” and will produce a natural, cinematic look. A higher shutter angle, such as 270 degrees, will create a more stuttered, strobe-like effect, while a lower shutter angle, such as 90 degrees, will result in a more fluid, smooth look. Understanding and manipulating shutter angle can be a helpful tool for videographers looking to achieve a specific look or feel in their footage.


Now that you have the basics of shutter speed, you can start experimenting with your photos and video along with your knowledge of Aperture to help you take your work to the next level. Don’t be afraid to play around with different shutter speeds and see how it affects your shots’ motion and overall exposure. With a bit of practice, you’ll soon be a pro at mastering shutter speed!

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