Photograph Action and Experiment with Shutter Speed

The shutter speed effects several different aspects of the photo. These photos are of my son on his bike because I wanted to demonstrate how the shutter speed is affected by movement. Let me explain.

What is Shutter Speed?
Whenever you take a photograph your camera opens its shutter, which is basically a hole, to let in the light. The length of time that this shutter is open for is the shutter speed. Short speeds are only fractions of a second while longer speeds can be up to half a minute or more. When we have our camera set to S mode we manually choose the shutter speed. On my camera this varies from 1/4000 (very short) to 30s (very long). The camera then automatically chooses an appropriate aperture (the size of the opening) in order to take in enough light for the photograph.

When we take a photograph with a short shutter speed the camera can't take in as much light. (When you move on to using M mode which is fully manual then you can widen your aperture while also setting your shutter speed to compensate for less light.)  Less light can be really helpful if you are trying to shoot on a very bright day. However if you are shooting when it's not so bright a short shutter speed just results in a dark photo:

When you are shooting something that is moving, as we were for this challenge, if you use a longer shutter speed you just get something blurry:

In fact if you use a shutter speed slower than 1/60, even if your subject is motionless, usually the result is quite blurry unless you use a tripod. The natural shake in your hands will create blur for shutter speeds slower than 1/60.

Shooting Action in S mode
If we wanted to photograph something moving and have a totally crisp image then we would need to use a very fast shutter speed (1/2000-1/200). However some blur is good sometimes. The next photograph was taken with shutter speed 1/15 which is quite slow. But I moved the camera with the movement of Boaz so he stays mostly in focus and the background blurs. This makes it clear in the photo that Boaz was moving. This took quite a few attempts to get a good shot but with practice it gets easier.

I can't answer the question 'How long should my shutter speed be for shooting action' because it will vary greatly depending on how fast your subject is moving. You will have to play around with this until you get a feel for it. So if you haven't already then go out and take some photos on S mode.

Have some fun, Zoe. x


  1. Finding these photography posts really interesting and helpful! Nice to have a beginner's view x

    1. Thanks Charlotte, that's what I hoped for. Let me know if there is anything specific you'd like to learn and it might become a future photo Friday. X

    2. Ok, I have one. I seem I have the most trouble taking photos inside when it's dark and using the flash effectively. I'm never happy with the way the flash affects the photo. So some tips on using the flash on a DSLR would be great :)


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