What is Shutter Speed in Photography? Understanding settings for Waterfall Photography

Shutter lies behind the aperture and ahead of the image sensor. When the aperture opens, light enters the camera. When you click a picture, the shutter opens for a particular period of time to allow light into the image sensor.

Camera Layout-1

Shutter Speed (one of the photography basics) is the time period for which the shutter is open to photograph a scene or the time for which light will pass through to the sensor. It is measured in seconds or fractions of a second.

Remember, bigger the denominator – faster the shutter speed. Hence, 1/4000 sec (0.00025 sec) is the fastest shutter speed while 30 sec denoted as 30″ is the slowest shutter speed. However, the slowest and fastest shutter speed will vary depending on the DSLR camera you are using.

Faster the shutter speed – lesser light will enter the camera sensor and slower the shutter speed – more light will enter the camera sensor.

We bring you ‘Jo & His Camera’ Comic Strips wherein a Magical Camera gives DSLR photography tutorials to Jo.

To understand Shutter Speed, Click on the Image below to see the Comic wherein the Camera explains Jo, the concept of Shutter Speed.

Shutter Speed

Play with different Shutter Speed settings to either freeze the action or to create motion blur.

Faster shutter speed, say 1/250 sec and above will allow you to freeze moving objects. In case of Bird Photography, you can use a faster shutter speed of 1/1000 sec (refer below image captured at 1/1000 sec) to 1/4000 sec to freeze the movement of the bird.

Bird Photography using Fast Shutter Speed

Slow shutter speed is generally used to photograph night landscapes/ dimly lit scenes/ Milky Way/ Star Trails/Waterfall. Shutter speed slower than 1/60 sec records camera movement and will result in a blur image due to camera shake. Hence, you’ll have to use a tripod to click photographs for slower shutter speeds below 1/60 sec to avoid blur photos.

Waterfall Photography

Below is an example of Slow Shutter Speed (Long Exposure) that was used to create motion blur: Slow shutter speed of 1/15 sec was used)

Waterfall Photography

Another example of Waterfall Photography where slow shutter speed was used to make the water look smooth.

DSLR Settings – Shutter Speed: 1/2 secs, ISO: 200, Aperture: F22.


Waterfall Photography

How to use beautiful backgrounds in portrait photography

Portrait Photography Ideas

portrait photography

In the above photograph, we’ve clubbed stream photography with portrait photography – using the stream as the background makes the photograph visually more appealing.

Slow shutter speed (long exposure) was used to make the water look smooth. Remember, you’ll have to ask the model to remain still since the slightest movement by the model can cause a blur image since slow shutter speed is used.

Camera settings: (Shutter priority mode) Shutter speed:1/4 secs, aperture: f22, ISO 100.

To understand Shutter Speed Settings, Click on the Image below to see the Comic wherein Jo experiments with different Shutter Speed Settings and succeeds in mastering Shutter Speed.

shutter speed

Shutter Speed is part of the Exposure Triangle, the other two being – Aperture and ISO which plays an important role in achieving the desired photograph.

Exposure Triangle

While exploring different modes on your DSLR camera, try the Shutter Priority Mode wherein you can control the Shutter Speed setting. Based on the Shutter Speed you have set, the camera will set the Aperture for you for proper exposure. Learn more about Shutter Priority Mode here.


When you do photography: Remember the 5E’s – Explore, Experiment, Experience, Enjoy & Express to develop your own style as a photographer.

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