Shutter speed chart

Shutter speed effects

Capture movement or freeze the action

When taking a photo of a moving subject, changing the shutter speed can change the look of an image.

If a slow shutter speed is selected, movement is captured. Using a fast shutter speed will freeze the action.

Here are suggested shutter speeds for photographing a variety of subjects.

SUGGESTED SHUTTER SPEEDS
TO FREEZE ACTION* TO CAPTURE MOTION**
Children – 1/250 – 1/1000 seconds Amusement park rides: +/- one second
Moving water/waterfalls: 1/1000 seconds or more Moving water/waterfalls: 4 or more seconds
Sporting event: 1/500 – 1/2000 seconds Fireworks: 1/2 – 4 seconds
Birds in flight: 1/1000th a second and above Moving cars at night: 8-10 seconds
Night photography – one or more seconds

* The closer action is to your digital camera, the faster the shutter speed is needed.

Shutter speed faster than focal length

To help prevent images from becoming blurred, set the shutter speed faster than the focal length. This is particularly important when shooting at a long focal length even if your camera has image stabilization.

For example, a zoom lens set at 200mm (35mm equivalent) requires a shutter speed of at least 1/200 second to avoid a blurred image. Adjust shutter speeds even faster for DSLRs with a focal length multiplier .

** Tripod or other camera support is recommended whenever using slow shutter speeds. Also use the self-timer or remote to trigger the shutter to prevent camera movement.

If your camera has Image Stabilization, some manufacturers recommend shutting it off when using a digital camera on a tripod; some newer cameras sense when it is mounted on a tripod and automatically shuts off IS. Check your camera manual.

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201 Responses

  1. Am glad to find that one of my stock images (Niagara Falls) is used to explain shutter speed! I lived in upstate New York for a while and loved going out to Niagara Falls with my camera! I found that high shutter speed to freeze water + long lens/zooming above 200mm was a great combination to capture the power and immensity of the waterfall.

  2. Gail Bjork says:

    Sharon, firewire is usually found only on high-end digital cameras. I suggest you call a place like B&H Photo. They will help you find a suitable camera to meet your needs and price range. They will also help you determine if you need an adapter that will let you connect your camera to computer. There are three types of connections, each having a slightly different shape.



  3. Sharon says:

    what is the best camera with a firewire connection to capture golf swings -need to be able to adjust shutter speed. does not have to be hd.

  4. Gail Bjork says:

    Rene, currently there are few cameras that can match the speed and performance of a dslr for photographing action, such as animals. However, if you want to photograph slow moving or wildlife, consider a superzoom, a very versatile camera. They are less than half the price of most DSLRs and provide excellent image quality in good lighting. While they don’t have the low light performance of a DSLR, they do surprisingly better than cameras of just a few years ago. the DMC-FZ150
    or Canon SX40. Both are very highly regarded cameras.

  5. Gail Bjork says:

    Katherine, DSLRs some in all shapes, sizes and prices. Get the model that fits best in your hands and won’t break the bank. If you have a limited DSLR budget, get a good entry-level DSLR such as the Canon T3i and then spend your money on getting the best lens you can afford for action photography.

  6. Renee says:

    Hello! I am looking to purchase a camera and I’m feeling a wee bit overwhelmed with the process. We just recently purchased a Fujifilm S4550 and we are returning it due to low quality pictures taken indoors. I will be mainly taking pictures of animals, nature, etc. I would love a DSLR but not the cost. Also, the Fuji we purchased was a larger camera, I’m not sure if I’m ready for a “bulky” camera. I’m not sure how convient it would be carry it around. Any ideas? Thanks so much in advance! :)

  7. Katherine says:

    I am looking to buy a camera, with the purpose of taking football photos, and for personal use. I favor the canons DSLR any suggestions on which one I should choose?

  8. Gail Bjork says:

    Tate, for sport photography, a DSLR will serve you best. It has high shutter speeds and does well when using high ISO numbers, often needed in low light to increase shutter speed. You may also want to take a look at the new Nikon 1 cameras, though they are more expensive than an entry level DSLR.

  9. Tate says:

    I am looking to get preferably a compact digital camera, but am willing to go with a larger camera such as a DSLR, with a manual shutter speed adjustment control for shooting mainly sports but with some nature thrown in their. What shutter speed would be the best for sports such as soccer, basketball, racquetball and football? I would like to get it for under $500 if possible. Any suggestions? Thanks for the opportunity to ask!

  10. Gail Bjork says:

    Alton, congratulations of your new camera. There are lots of places to learn about how to use it. Type basic terms or phrases, such as RAW, types of lenses, DSLR, etc. in the search field at this site. We have lots of information for DSLR users, written especially for novices. I also recommend you visit the dpreview forums for users of cameras like yours. You’ll get lots of help there. Sometimes forums can be a bit overwhelming for a new user so here are some photography forum terms that you may find helpful.

  11. Alton says:

    Hello everyone, I just brought a Canon Rebel T3 w/ the 18-55 lens as my first photography camera. I want to learn more about photography, but I am clueless right now. Are there any good websites I can go to and learn more about how to use it, difference between RAW and JPeg, lighting, etc?

  12. Vickie says:

    Thanks for you advice I went for the Nikon d500 in the end wanted the d3100 but no where had them Thanks again

  13. Tracy says:

    Thank you so much for the info!

  14. Gail Bjork says:

    Tracy, most entry level DSLRs, such as those made by Nikon and Canon, start at about 3 frame per second continuous mode. That should suffice for photographing your daughter jumping her horses. Try to get as fast a lens as you can afford, because that lets you shoot at faster shutter speeds. Raising the ISO will do the same. These entry level cameras are quite advanced. If you get a telephoto lens, make sure you get one with image stabilization. Get a high speed memory card too. Here are some tips on photographing fast-moving subjects.

  15. Tracy says:

    Hello….I am interested in purchasing a dslr to photograph my daughter jumping her horses. Would any dslr that has at least 3fps be capable of this? If not, what is the minimum fps I should be looking for? I’m moving up from a point and shoot and dont want to buy more camera than I’ll ever use. Thank you so much for this great site!

  16. Gail Bjork says:

    Josephine, in addition to the suggestions in this article, check out this one on the effects of shutter speed. You should switch to Shutter Priority mode to control the shutter speed. Here are some tips for photographing the moon.

  17. Josephine says:

    Hi I just recently got a Fuji s3400. I am just a beginner and would like to know what settings should I use to photograph water falls and other moving water and also i would like to photograph the moon. I want to use manual mode but don’t know what settings to use. thanks for your help

  18. Beeee says:

    Thanks for detailed advice. I will consider these suggestions.

  19. Gail Bjork says:

    vickie, the Nikon 1 cameras have DSLR focus speed and accuracy. They are primarily geared to novice digital camera users so they don’t have some of the settings and control of even entry-level DSLRs. A potential “problem” with the Nikon J1 when photographing fast-moving subjects like racing cars is that it doesn’t have a viewfinder to help steady the camera as you pan. The Nikon 1 V1 may be a better option. However, it is very expensive at this time. I’ve seriously considered selling my DSLR and buying the Nikon V1 but decided I don’t want to give up the overall performance and handling of my DSLR (which also has a dedicated hot shoe for external flash). For sure, it is heavier and bulkier to lug around but is very comfortable when actually using it. The best thing to do is go to a camera shop to give both systems a try. Entry level DSLRs by Canon and Nikon are very good. They also have larger sensors so images will have a lot less noise when shooting at high ISO numbers. Shooting at high ISO not only has an advantage in low light but to get faster shutter speeds in good light and when using the long end of the zoom (that may be needed when photographing racing cars).

  20. vickie says:

    hi i’m a self taught photographer love taking pictures mainly of children pets but i also go to car racing and enjoy taking pictures i would love your advice on this problem of deciding on a better camera i currently own a ge bridge camera but it takes a long time to shot im fascinated by the Nikon j1 as for the shots per second but also would like the dslrs i have trolled the internet for 6 months now and have found this site would be most grateful for you advice

  21. Gail Bjork says:

    Beeee, for the combined features you’re looking for, a compact camera is not the best choice. Prior the the introduction of new Nikon 1 mirrorless cameras, few other cameras have the speed and focus accuracy of a DSLR, but the Nikon J1 and Nikon V1 do. The main criticism of the Nikon 1 cameras is that they do not do well in Auto mode, but this should not be a concern when using Shutter Priority Mode.

  22. Beeee says:

    Hi,
    I need to have such compact camera which has the features of fast shutter lag, speed (preferably manual shutter priority mode), image stabilization (for moving objects like pets/children water fall) and perform well in low light.
    Please suggest which camera should be suitable.

  23. Gail Bjork says:

    Taylor, a digital single lens reflex camera would best suit your needs. You can get one in your price range, however it’s the lenses that will cost you. Another alternative is a superzoom such as the Canon SX40 or the Panasonic FZ150. They do very well in good light however they don’t have the speed performance of a DSLR. And because of their small sensors, they don’t do as well in low light compared to a DSLR. Saying that, the low light performance has significantly improved the last few years, especially cameras with a backlit CMOS sensor. If you go the DSLR route, take a look at the entry level models by Canon and Nikon.

  24. Taylor says:

    I am looking for a camera that takes professional looking pictures and takes them quickly. I want something that can take a rapid amount of pictures- like something a wedding photographer would use- and has decent zoom and image clarity. I am not sure of the terms for these things, but that is what I want out of my camera. I don’t care about the bulk or weight of the camera. I prefer Nikon or Canon but won’t limit myself to those brands only. Maximum price preferably $700. I want to take pictures in nature, family portraits, or just anything that catches my eye. I want something quick, clear, and versatile. Thanks!

  1. March 25, 2009

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