Shutter Speed Photography Series


If you missed the Photography series you can start here:

  1. Basics to Photography
  2. Aperture Photography
  3. Learn about your ISO setting
  4. Shutter Speed Photography
  5. The Exposure Triangle
  6. Photo Composition
  7. Capturing the every day moments
  8. 10 Photography tips to help you edit your pictures
  9. Some more  Photography tips
  10. My Photography Tips

Hi, my name is Shari Hanson and I’m a photographer from Huntington Beach, CA.  I’m excited to be a guest on I Heart Naptime to tell you about shutter speed photography!

The easiest way for me to understand how my camera works is by comparing it to the way my eyes work.  With ISO determining how sensitive your eyes (or camera) is to light, the aperture acts like our pupil by expanding (opening wider) to allow more light, or contracting (squinting) to limit light and shutter speed acts like our eyelids by controlling the length of TIME that the shutter is open.


Shutter Speed is in fact measured in fractions of a second or in seconds.  So, if you set your shutter speed to 1/1000s, that really means 1/1000th of a second (FAST!).  If you set your shutter speed to 1/30s, that really means 1/30th of a second (SLOW!).  The larger the denominator is, (denominator=the number on the bottom of the fraction), then the faster the shutter speed.  Whereas the smaller the denominator, the slower the shutter speed.

One thing to always consider with shutter speed is the focal length of the lens you are shooting with.  For example, if I’m using a 50mm lens, I should generally set my shutter speed to 1/50s or higher.  So, if you’re shooting with an 85mm, then set it to at least 1/85s; 100mm, then set it to at least 1/100s.  Setting your shutter speed to anything lower than the focal length will most likely result in some sort of camera shake or blur (unless you are using a tripod!).

When you want to show motion, you should use a slow shutter speed (small denominator, or imagine opening and closing your eyes very slowly).  The following image is an example of using a slow shutter speed to blur the sand that the girls were throwing up in the air.

shutter speed photographyIn this case, I was using my 16-35mm lens at 33mm.  My shutter speed was set to 1/30s – which is pretty slow for a hand-held image.  However, the image stabilization in my camera, plus a higher ISO and me holding my breath while I depress the shutter button resulted in an image where the girls were still in focus, but the sand was blurry.

Another way to show motion is called panning.  The basic idea is that you pan, or move your camera along in time with the moving subject and end up getting a relatively sharp subject but a blurred background.  This technique gives the image a feeling of movement and speed.  In order to get the right blur, using 1/30s is generally a good place to start, but depending on lighting, you might have to bump it up or down a little.  Just play with it until you get it right.  The key to panning is to move your camera (pan) at exactly the same speed as your subject.  The following image is an example of panning:

shutter speed photography

When you want to freeze or stop motion, you should use a fast shutter speed (large denominator, or imagine quickly blinking).  The following images are examples of using a fast shutter speed to STOP the motion of the baby being tossed into the air and the runner crossing the finish line.

shutter speed photography

Now you try it!

Exercise #1:  Find something moving, like a ceiling fan, a child running/jumping/riding a bike, cars driving past, etc.  Open and close your eyes slowly.  What did you see?  It probably looked a tad blurred.  Now blink quickly, what did you see?  More like watching a filmstrip?

Exercise #2:  Now use your camera to do the same thing you just did with your eyes blinking.   The easiest way to do this experiment is to set your camera to Shutter Priority Mode, “Tv” or “S” on your dial.  This will allow you to control the shutter speed while your camera does the rest.  Does this mean your pictures will come out perfectly exposed every time?  NO!  But with adequate lighting, it will work for the purpose of this exercise.  Take pictures of something in motion at 1 second, 1/8s, 1/30s, 1/100s, 1/250s, 1/400s, 1/1000s, etc.  And then compare your images.  What do you see?

 Here is a small chart to guide you in different situations with motion:

To SHOW motion (keep in mind you WILL need a tripod for the following):

  •  Rides (ferris wheel/carousel): around 1 second
  • Moving water (waves, waterfalls, etc.):  4 or more seconds
  • Fireworks:  .5 to 4 seconds
  • Street scene at night:  8-10 seconds

 To FREEZE motion:

 Children:  at least 1/160s

Sports: 1/500s – 1/2000s

Moving water/cars: 1/1000s and up

I hope this helps!  Don’t be afraid to experiment!  That is the best way to learn, and don’t get discouraged if you don’t get it right the first time around!  Thank you for having me Jamielyn!


Shari Hanson is a self-taught, natural light portrait photographer based in Huntington Beach, California.  She has been lucky in love and happily married for 10 years and is the proud mama of 4 adorable sons.

 Website:  www.sharihansonphotography.comBlog: Facebook:


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Jamielyn Nye

Creative director and founder of I Heart Naptime. Jamielyn aspires to reach women, get their creative juices flowing, and to genuinely inspire. When she’s not creating, Jamielyn loves to chase her three little monkeys and snuggle up on the couch with her man.

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9 comments on “Shutter Speed Photography Series”

  1. First off, thank you so much for this post! Secondly, I was just playing around with my camera to see if I could get the hang of it. We were doing the photos indoors and I noticed that if the shutter speed was too fast the picture was completely dark. So, is the better place for action photos outside in natural light? Thirdly, I grew up in Fountain Valley! ; )

    • Hi Courtney! My advice to you when taking pics inside that require a fast shutter is to bump up your ISO, and make sure you have a wide aperature (low number, like f2.8, f1.4, etc.) to allow the most light. The only issue with bumping your ISO is that you’ll probably end up with grainy shots, but if you don’t really care about that (if you’re not printing them large) then don’t worry about it! OR pull out your flash! ha ha…i’m not one to ask about tips for using a flash though… i am still learning! My husband was born and raised in FV…went to FVHS class of ’96! Best of luck with your photos!! xo, Shari

  2. This is a great post! I have been loving this series. I just got a DSLR and it really helps to have these tips broken down into seperate posts. I got overwhelmed reading a huge book but this series makes it seem less intimidating!

  3. This is such a great post Shari! Thank you so much for taking the time to break it down. My pictures are always blurry with my Nikon and I am wondering if shutter speed is the problem. I was too scared to shoot on manual because I couldn’t understand all those letters and numbers, but this is so easy to understand…I will be practicing with these tips for sure!

  4. Thanks so much for this helpful post! I will be trying out these techniques especially the panning. Love it!

  5. Yay, I love Shari! great explanations, LOVE that first paragraph about the eyes;)

  6. Hi, ms. Jamielyn, thanks for this wonderful post about photography, im a begginer and really wanted to know how to capture this & that. Allow me to browse your blog, it would be an amazing learning for me. THANK YOU!

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