>Photography Thursday: A Note About Shutter Speeds

>In previous posts I’ve mentioned that the aperture (or f-stop) of your shots is a crucial element to getting good portrait photographs. In fact, I often recommend setting the camera to an aperture-priority mode if you can. But if you only did that and paid no attention to the shutter speed of your photos, you might find yourself with a lot of slightly blurry photos. This is especially true of kids, because even when they are sitting still…they aren’t.  So here are a few tips to remember about shutter speed.

  • When shooting portraits, even adults, try to keep the shutter speed under 125…that’s 1/125th of a second. That should prevent even the slight blur of someone moving a hand slightly while they pose. 
  • When shooting wandering kids, speed it up even more. If there is enough light I might set my shutter speed to 1/250th of a second. If there isn’t enough light, bump the ISO higher to 400 or 800. 
  • Soccer mom or dad? I used to think 250 was good enough when I was outside at my son’s soccer games, but I heard a professional sports photog speak once and she shoots at a minimum of 500, sometimes up to 1000. So I cranked the speed to 500 and I was AMAZED at how much better my action shots were. 
  • I shoot a lot of concerts, which are really tough because they are very low light, you can’t use flash, and the musicians tend to move A LOT. This is where you really test the limits of your camera with high ISO, because if you don’t you can’t shoot at a minimum of 125. 
  • Wanna freeze moving water, like in a fountain? That’s a shutter speed of at least 500, sometimes even 1000. Check out the dolphin show I shot below. 
Outdoor kid candids. ISO 200, f/4.5, 1/250 sec
No blurry concerts! ISO 3200, f/1.8, 1/200th sec
Freeze! Stopping action, ISO 400, f/5.3, 1/1000th sec
I really hope this helps you out at least a little to get better shots! 
As always, all photos are Copyright 2010 Sarah Hubbell, Enlightened Photography, All Rights Reserved. Seriously, that means do NOT steal them. 

2 responses to this post.

  1. >thanks Sarah! A Child's Right gave me a nice Cannon 50D camera to use when i visit the project sites, but i've struggled to learn the settings and often end up with blurry photos. I've been asking around for this kind of general rules to follow in different scenarios, but nobody seems to know. this is really helpful, thanks! hope all is well, take care. Aaron


  2. >Hi Aaron! Oh GOOD I'm so glad you got a great new camera and I could help. Naturally it just takes practice, practice, practice. I don't always have time to look at the settings in the viewfinder so I've learned to actually listen to the shutter release and I can kind of tell when it is going to be too slow for a handheld person shot. Then I know to adjust, either by opening up the aperature (if I can) or raising the ISO. The biggest thing is DON'T rely on that little LCD on the back of your camera…you simply won't see the slight blur until you look at in on your computer, and it's too late!


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