Photography Cheat Sheet: A Handy Shutter Speed Guide

Still figuring out how shutter speed works or what it means to shoot in stops? This photography cheat sheet will help!

If you’ve decided to give shooting in manual mode a try, one of the things you have to set to make your shot is the shutter speed. As one of the elements of the exposure triangle, shutter speed determines how long the shutter remains open to expose the camera’s sensor to light. It works together with aperture and ISO to create a balanced image. This photography cheat sheet will serve as your guide for understanding shutter speed and how to choose the right one for what you’re shooting.

A Digital Camera World tutorial on shutter speed tells us that one way to control it is by setting the camera to Shutter Priority Mode (usually marked as Tv for Time Value or S on the mode dial). In this mode, we can just choose from shutter speed values like 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, and so on, and the camera will take care of the appropriate aperture and ISO settings for that. However, if you’re learning how to shoot in manual mode, it’s also worth knowing what these values mean, what fast and slow speeds can do, and what it means to shoot in stops. That’s where the accompanying cheat sheet below comes in handy.

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As mentioned above, shutter speed, as with aperture and ISO, are measured in stops. This means that when it’s doubled or halved, it changes by one stop. The rule of thumb is when you change one of the exposure triangle values by a full stop, you also need to change one of the other two by a full stop to keep the exposure consistent. In digital cameras, it’s also possible to switch to half-stop or third-stop settings. Slow shutter speeds will blur the movements in your frame, while faster ones will freeze moving subjects. If you want to know which setting to use for which situation, Digital Camera World has another tutorial and cheat sheet as a follow-up.

Meanwhile, you may also want to check out our other shutter speed tips, tricks, and tutorials so far.