Camera Shutter Speed Explained



Camera Shutter Speed Explained


Even though we are going to talk about camera shutter speed you need to be aware of the fact there are three main factors that all work hand in hand with each other. In other words, when you adjust anyone of these three settings it will affect the other two.

photograph of shutter speed example

The three settings are:


  • Camera shutter speed
  • Aperture adjustment
  • The Cameras ISO


For this post, we are going to talk mainly about explaining the shutter speed. The other two you can check out the posts on each of them to see how they have their primary function on how and why they link together.


So getting back to the topic of camera shutter speed explained I want to pass on this phrase to you.


Shutter Speed = the Length of Time Light hits the Recording Media


The recording media is what we refer to as the sensor in a Digital SLR camera. The light is being directed there to get your picture. So the faster the shutter speed is, the more amount of light is required to hit the sensor to be able to reproduce your image. An example of this would be when you set your camera on a shutter speed of 60; you are telling the camera 60 = 1/60th of a second.




photograph of shutter speed setting


With your camera on this setting, you would be able to take good photo shots of people posing for instance. If you were to select anything slower than this 1/15, for example, you would end up with blurring from any sudden movements. A 1/60 of a second is fast enough to capture some great shots.


In photography, there is a term when using shutter speed called bulb.


Bulb = the shutter will open for as long as you press the shutter button.


This camera effect from controlling the shutter speed in this manner is recognized when you can look at a photograph and see everything in focus except what you could call light streams. The picture below will demonstrate the effect of the street in perfect focus with light streams.


photograph of shutter speed bulb effect


From this photo, you can see the clarity and perfect focus of the street. You will also notice red and white light streams up and down the street as well. When you focus your camera, and this works best on a tripod, so you will eliminate any chances of jiggle. The red lights as some of you may know will be the brake lights and the white are obviously the front headlights of cars driving by in the picture. You see by holding the shutter button pressed everything that is stationary will be in sharp focus and the cars driving by will show their path of trailing lights.


Now faster shutter speeds allow you to capture fast-moving objects that some will refer to Shutter Speed Barriers.


There are two main shutter speed barriers we can look at next.


Shutter Speed Barrier 1:

  • When you are shooting people or animals and especially if you are hand holding your camera, try to stay at shutter speeds faster than1/60th of a second.

Shutter Speed Barrier 2:

  • When you are attempting to capture the action of a fast-moving subject like a bird in flight, sports, always try to stay at shutter speeds of 1/500th of a second or faster.


The photo of the osprey shows a crisp, clean shot of a bird of prey in perfect focus from wing tip to wing tip. You can also do this with water droplets and spray from moving water to see everything in great detail.


With shutter speed, there is also one more thing I would like to mention that so many people saw the photos but not always known how to accomplish the shot. That is the blurred water flow. If you set your shutter speed for 1/15 of a second or slower, the result will be the blurred water flow look. Again you want to have your camera mounted firmly on a tripod to accomplish this properly. Have your aperture dialed down to f 22 and dropped your ISO to the lowest setting it will go to create shots like below.



photograph of blurred water


So there you have camera shutter speed explained with a few photographs to help see the difference in outcome by the variations you adjust your settings to achieve your results.


To see and learn more about what you and your camera can do than


click through to my site for more FREE Tutorials.


” Hi once again, I’m Travis Smithers author of Say It With Photographs where you will find tutorials on photography, editing software, cameras, and accessories. The use of post production equipment and their operation to the creation of fantastic gifts for you, friends and family, enjoy. Comments and questions always welcomed here!



  1. Excellent explanation – I’ve been looking for something like this over the last week. I was handed a free copy of Lightroom last week and I’m a bit of a newbie to the whole concept. Tell me, in your opinion, is Lightroom a better option than Photoshop or PS Elements?

    • Hi Chris, first just let me say excellent friend to give you LR he must have up graded or perhaps decided to go with PS. Here is how you can look at these three in a simple break down.
      PS is a full blown editing software package used for photographs and creating graphics etc the full meal deal that works in great detail.
      LR is designed to handle photographs for quicker and easier use than PS with some extra built in features for handling large amounts of photos at once. Not for creating Graphics like PS.
      PSE is what most would classify as a beginner software package between PS and LR. Very simple to use can do limited editing on photos compared to LR and can do limited graphics like PS.
      Later I will write a post on these three in more detail.

  2. Hi Travis, interesting article on a subject I know nothing about. Now I can see why you see those braking lights as a stream! Cheers, Jerry

    • Hi Jerry glad you found the article interesting and there are quite a few people that do not realize how photographers where getting the streaming light effect. One of the reasons I decided to start showing others who are interested on learning that and many other tips and tricks to photography and the creation into post production gifts.

  3. You really have explained in full details about what a shutter speed of a camera is. This is a great information relevant for would-be photographers and the hobbyists alike. Your website could be a good source of training lessons for those who are in love with photography.

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