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to motion or not to motion – The Shutter speed question

What is shutter speed?

it’s the time that the 2 shutters are open to show the scene to your sensor. It’s the common term use to define the exposure in photography.This is an important factor to understand to achieve sharp images. The shutter speed will allow you to stop or show motion in a photography. There are some rules about shutter speed to be understood.

Rule #1

The shutter speed should always be greater than the focal length. This means, if you shoot with a lens at 200mm then your shutter speed should never be under 1/200th of a second. If you are shooting with an 85mm focal length then you speed should never be under 1/80th of a second. This basic rules allows you to freeze your motion when taking a picture. This is where Image stabilization has an effect. You can achieve images in lower shutter speed of STATIC subjects. This technology will not allowed to achieve a sharp picture of a soccer player at 1/60th of a second but it will allow you to achieve a crisp images at 1/60th of a second of a building.

Rule #2

– For lifestyle portrait photography, you do not want to go under a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second or above.

– For sports photography, if you want to freeze motion you will want to shoot images at 1/500th and above To show motion with a pan you will what to shoot at a maximum of 1/125th of second.

– For architectural photography, you want to select your lowest usable ISO and use a tripod for a longer exposition.

When considering what shutter speed to use in an image you should always ask yourself whether anything in your scene is moving and how you’d like to capture that movement. If there is movement in your scene you have the choice of either freezing the movement (so it looks still) or letting the moving object intentionally blur (giving it a sense of movement). To freeze movement in an image (like in the surfing shot above) you’ll want to choose a faster shutter speed and to let the movement blur you’ll want to choose a slower shutter speed. The actual speeds you should choose will vary depending upon the speed of the subject in your shot and how much you want it to be blurred.

Motion is not always bad – There are times when motion is good. For example when you’re taking a photo of a waterfall and want to show how fast the water is flowing, or when you’re taking a shot of a racing car and want to give it a feeling of speed, or when you’re taking a shot of a star scape and want to show how the stars move over a longer period of time etc. In all of these instances choosing a longer shutter speed will be the way to go.


Panning is a technique that can produce amazing results (if you perfect it…. or get lucky) but is also one that can take a lot of practice to get right.

The basic idea behind panning as a technique is that you pan your camera along in time with the moving subject and end up getting a relatively sharp subject but a blurred background.

This gives the shot a feeling of movement and speed. It’s particularly useful in capturing any fast moving subject whether it be a racing car, running pet, cyclist etc.

I’ve found that panning seems to work best with moving subjects that are on a relatively straight trajectory which allows you to predict where they’ll be moving to. Objects that are moving side to side are challenging and can result in messy looking shots as the motion blur can be quite erratic.

The panning technique will require to learn your AF system. You will need to put your AF system in Ai Servo or AF-C for the lens to adjust focus while following your subject. The composition of the images will be important. We need to see where the subject is going. Your subject needs to be at one side of the image and going into the other side of the image which should be empty of subjects. I suggest to you go practice with cars in your area before shooting race cars or moving subjects. Practice does make perfect!

How do you Pan?

  • Select a slightly slower shutter speed than you normally would. Start with 1/30 second and then play around with slower ones. Depending upon the light and the speed of your subject you could end up using anything between 1/60 and 1/8 – although at the slower end you’ll probably end up with camera shake on top of your motion blur.
  • Position yourself in a place where your view of the subject will not be obstructed by anyone or anything else. Also consider the background of your shot. While it will be blurred if there are distracting shapes or colors it could prove to be distracting. Single coloured or plain backgrounds tend to work best.
  • As the subject approaches track it smoothly with your camera.For extra support of your camera if you’re using a longer lens or are feeling a little jittery you might like to use a monopod or tripod with a swivelling head.
  • For best results you’ll probably find that setting yourself up so that you’re parallel to the path of your object (this will help with focussing).
  • If you have a camera with automatic focus tracking you can let the camera do the focussing for you by half pressing the shutter button (depending upon it’s speed and whether it can keep up with the subject)
  • If your camera doesn’t have fast enough auto focussing you’ll need to pre-focus your camera upon the spot that you’ll end up releasing the shutter.
  • Once you’ve released the shutter (do it as gently as possible to reduce camera shake) continue to pan with the subject, even after you’ve heard the shot is complete. This smooth follow through will ensure the motion blur is smooth from start to finish in your shot.


Stopping motion

Golfer teeing off




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