Catching a fleeting moment in time is something that photography is uniquely suited to. Here’s how to use fast shutter speeds to stop movement in its tracks.
It’s always impressive to see a fast-moving object frozen perfectly still in a photograph. It gives us a chance to see things that would otherwise pass us by and opens up a whole new world of detail.
The main camera setting that governs how motion appears in a photograph is shutter speed: anything that moves as the shutter is open will blur. In order to freeze motion, we need to use a shutter speed fast enough to prevent this. The easiest way to control shutter speeds is to use shutter priority mode on your FUJIFILM camera, which picks a corresponding aperture automatically, freeing you up to think about what’s happening in front of the camera.
Just how fast a shutter speed you’ll need is all down to how fast your subjects are moving, and some experimentation is usually necessary to determine the best value. To freeze something like a hand moving during a conversation, you shouldn’t need too fast a shutter speed – about 1/200 sec will do. To freeze the swing of a baseball bat or a galloping horse, you’ll need something much faster – at least 1/1000 sec.
Also consider the direction of the movement you’re trying to freeze. You’ll need to use a faster shutter speed to freeze subjects moving across the frame than an object speeding towards the camera. Equally, freezing close-up subjects needs a faster shutter speed than stopping motion that’s some distance away from the camera.
Remember that as shutter speeds get faster, the corresponding aperture needs to get larger in order let in enough light to make a photo of the correct brightness. Or you can also raise the ISO sensitivity correspondingly. See our article on the exposure triangle for more information.
Here are some recommended shutter speeds to use as starting points when you’re trying freeze different types of movement.
|Subject||Minimum Shutter Speed|
|Moving water in a landscape (far away)||1/1000 sec|
|Moving water in a fountain (close up)||1/4000 sec|
|A bird in flight||1/1000 sec|
|Dog running towards you||1/500 sec|
|Dog running side-to-side across the frame||1/2000 sec|
|Jet-powered aircraft||1/2000 sec|
|Rotor-powered aircraft||1/250 sec (to let the rotors blur)|
This last example of an aircraft in flight is particularly interesting: picking too fast a shutter speed would freeze not only the aircraft, but also its propellers or rotor blades, which can look unnatural. A compromise is needed that freezes the motion of the airplane or helicopter through the sky, but also blurs the movement of its propeller blades.
There are lots of other things to think about when shooting fast-moving objects, such as how to focus accurately and speed up your own reactions when it comes to pressing the shutter release button. But get the shutter speed right, and everything else will be much easier to slot into place.
Your Next Steps
- CHALLENGE What’s the fastest moving thing in your life? Your dog, your kids? Photograph them using the tips we’ve given you here and see if you can freeze them in action. Post your results to social media with the hashtag #MyFujifilmLegacy. You can also submit your work here for a chance to be featured on our social media channels.
- LEARN Download our booklet Capture the Action with FUJIFILM X Series.
- WATCH Check out our video below to learn more about The Exposure Triangle