Shutter Speed 101

February 11, 2021

Shutter Speed 101

Someone recently asked me, “What’s the best settings for catching someone spinning with a big fluffy dress?” Great question. 

If you’ve browsed around on TikTok, Snapchat, or Instagram at all, you’ve probably seen stunning photos of someone showing off their outfit this way. It takes specific camera settings to get a clear picture of someone frozen in motion.

Let’s talk about how you can capture that gorgeous dress twirl — or jumping for joy — with the right shutter speed!

woman jumping with flowers in front of blue wall

What is shutter speed?

First, some quick basics about what shutter speed is and why it matters for this type of shot. Shutter speed measures the amount of time your camera’s shutter is open in seconds or fractions of a second. 

The slower your shutter speed, the longer your shutter stays open. That means your image sensor is exposed to light for longer. The faster your shutter speed, the shorter the shutter stays open, meaning less light exposure.

How shutter speed is expressed

Shutter speed is presented in the format “1/x” where x is a number. (Don’t worry, we’re not about to dive into high school math where I tell you to solve for x!) This is a fraction of a second. 

So a shutter speed of 1/2 or 1/4 is one half or one fourth of a second. Both are slower shutter speeds than 1/500 or 1/1000, which are even smaller fractions of a second! 

While shooting, just remember that the higher your second number, or x, the faster the shutter speed.

Tip: Shutter speed can be slower than one second when you want lots of blur and movement, or if you’re shooting in very low light, like at night.

Capturing motion

To capture a motion shot like twirling a dress, you need a high shutter speed. High shutter speeds work best for other kinds of motion shots, like sporting events, playful pets, or even candids of your friends and family!

Capturing a motion shot without blur can take a little trial-and-error. You might start with a shutter speed of 1/500 and go higher from there (1/1000, 1/2000, 1/4000, etc.) to see how your subject in motion turns out.

Tip: Because I shoot a lot of subjects that don’t move in my work, and I use a tripod, my go-to shutter speed is 1/100. Remember, that’s a slower shutter speed, so it lets in more light.

Get more tips on photography basics from me

Becoming a better photographer takes a ton of practice, but it also helps to have a resource that covers all the basics. If you’re looking for a resource where you can learn all about camera settings, gear, different types of lighting, and more, check out my course, Slay the Flatlay!

Slay the Flatlay comes with over 4 hours of content and over 20 modules. It’s made for aspiring photographers like you, but also bloggers, biz owners, content creators, stylists, and social media managers. My course covers all things photography and business.

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Want to learn more about what to expect? Ready to sign up? Save $50 on the course by using the code SLAY and head over here!

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