3 minute read

Controlling Shutter Speeds and Motion Blur

The chief reason for taking control of shutter speed is to be in charge of how movement is seen on camera. We look at the rules this involves

Shutter speed is one of the three settings we can adjust to change how light or dark a picture looks. It needs to be balanced with aperture and ISO sensitivity in order to get a ‘correct-looking’ exposure, and which shutter speed you use is important, since it affects how motion is portrayed.

The golden rule is this: anything that moves while the shutter is open will blur. So, if you photograph water flowing over a waterfall, for example, with a shutter speed of 1/2 sec, then the water will look silky smooth and blurry, since it was moving on a similar timescale to the shutter speed. But photograph the same waterfall with a shutter speed of 1/4000 sec, and you’ll see every droplet of water frozen motionless, since it wasn’t able to move much when the shutter was open.

Learn photography with Fujifilm, Shutter Speeds and Motion Blur
Learn photography with Fujifilm, Shutter Speeds and Motion Blur

This principal can be put to work in a number of creative ways. You can try blurring objects a little to give them a sense of motion, or you can freeze them so you can see subtleties of movement you’d normally miss. The length of the shutter speed you need to use to blur or freeze a subject depends entirely on how fast it’s moving: experimentation is key!

When photographing airplanes and helicopters, try a shutter speed that lets you freeze the aircraft, so it looks sharp, but its propellers or rotors blur slightly. (A helicopter with static rotor blades always looks like it’s about to fall out of the sky!)

Learn photography with Fujifilm, Shutter Speeds and Motion Blur

Photo © Peter Steffen

Moving and motionless objects in the same frame always look really good – think water flowing around a rock in a river, or crowds of people streaming past a single person standing still. This is the approach used to shoot fireworks, too: letting the light trails blur through the sky while the shutter is open, and the rest of the scene stays still and sharp.

The easiest way to take control of shutter speed on your FUJIFILM camera is with Shutter Priority mode. This lets you pick whatever shutter speed you like, while the camera chooses an aperture to match. But before you rush out and try to blur everything in sight, a word of warning: long shutter speeds don’t just blur subject movement, they blur camera movement, too. This means you should support your camera (preferably on a tripod, but any sturdy platform will do) when photographing in this way, otherwise the tiny vibrations from your hands register as blur across the whole frame – which does not look good.

Learn photography with Fujifilm, Shutter Speeds and Motion Blur

The first image was made at 1/30 sec and the second image was made at 1/4 sec

Taken with a ten-stop filter