Shutter Speed Learning with MUNNS - July 2018

Within this tutorial, I will discuss shutter speed in relation to Mirrorless Micro Four-Third cameras.

The general idea is the same throughout all cameras, however there may be some slight differences in the way it works when looking at SLR/D-SLR and video cameras.

Part 1 – What is Shutter Speed?

Shutter Speed is one of three determining factors used to control exposure.

In photography, Shutter Speed is the time between the shutter closing, opening and closing again. In other words, the amount of time the sensor is exposed to light.

Unlike aperture, the exposure stops for shutter times are easy to remember with the stop being proportional to the exposure time.

1/500th of a second is one stop faster than 1/250th of a second and lets in half as much light.

Understanding shutter speeds is essential to taking full creative control of the camera. If the shutter is left open for too long you risk over exposing your image. Too short and you risk leaving the image dark and lacking in detail.

I will speak about creative effects later.

Shutter speeds can range from milliseconds, to minutes depending on the shot you want.

In addition to standard shutter speeds you can use functions such as ‘Bulb’ or ‘Time’ to hold the shutter open for extended lengths of time.

On a normal scale, you’ll see the most commonly used shutter speeds ranging from one second to 1/500th of a second. However, most cameras will have a range of at least 30 seconds to 1/8000th second.

As with Aperture, it is usually possible to select ⅓ or ½ of a stop on most modern cameras.

A general rule of thumb when shooting hand-held, is that any less than 1/60 will require some sort of support, like a tripod, unless motion blur is something you’re looking for in your shot.

Focal length is also a big consideration when assessing which shutter speed to use – something we will cover later.

As both camera (IBIS) and lens stabilisers (sometimes known as OIS, OS, VR or ILIS) improve, shooting at lower speeds becomes easier so please keep this in mind and do not take my suggestions as divine rule.

Part 3 – Shutter Speed and Exposure

So what is the correct shutter speed? This will depend on how much light is in the scene and what you want to capture.

For general shooting, outdoors on a sunny day you might need 1/500 whereas you’ll need to slow it down if indoors, maybe 1/125 or lower.

Below you’ll see a set of images taken changing only the shutter speed to show exactly how much each stop affects the exposure of an image.

1/500 - 1/4 sec

You may also hear terms like ‘Long Exposure’ which will provide movement in most cases, but can also be used to remove moving objects from a scene or give an eerily, quiet feel to an image; making rough moving water smooth or creamy for example.

For long exposure you will require a tripod and possibly a release cable or timed shutter release as the ‘Long Exposure’ shot is generally for times of a second or longer.

1 second
1 minute
60 minutes

Part 4 – Types of shutter

There are a few types of shutter available in modern cameras and different manufacturers will use their own preference.

The main two types are Mechanical, where some sort of actual curtain comes down over the sensor, and Electronic, where the sensor itself is shut down and turned on again.

Electronic shutters will currently shut down the sensor by row of pixels. This may not be for long as a new ‘Global Shutter’ has recently been developed and won’t take long to go into manufacture.

Electronic shutters although silent and fast, do suffer badly from a condition called ‘Rolling Shutter’ which I will describe later.

Mechanical shutters have a few different forms, the most common below.

Leaf Shutter:

Something similar to aperture blades cover the sensor opening and closing again to provide the exposure.


Focal Plane Shutter:

This basically means a curtain (or set of curtains), move across the sensor either vertically or horizontally for exposure.

Be careful when using a flash at high speeds as not all are compatible (Super FP).


There are names for the various stages of the shutter action more usually spoken about when using a flash.

As the shutter button is pressed, the camera will need to close the shutter (or shut down the sensor). This is known as the 1st Curtain.

The sensor is the uncovered (or activated) for the selected exposure time, at which point the 2nd Curtain shutter is released to complete the exposure.

Part 5 – Speed and Movement

Photographs may capture a single moment in time, but they can still create a sense of movement through shutter speed.

Fast shutter speeds freeze the motion, creating sharp images, while slow shutter speeds will blur the motion. Understanding what shutter speed is unlocks the potential for solving a number of different photo issues as well as opening up new creative possibilities.

There are certain factors you will need to take into consideration before taking your shot.

Steady Hands:

It is important for any photographer to know and understand their limits when it comes to shutter speed.

With Image Stabilisers and Monopods, gimbals and exoskeletal stabilisers there are no drop dead rules for how slow a shutter speed you can use, it is something you really need to test yourself.

To test your limits, you need to take some test shots.

Take the shutter speed down to around 1/60sec and take a shot. Zoom in 100% and check the details, lights or contrasting edges. If they are still sharp, reduce the shutter speed and take another shot, inspecting it again.

Continue this until you see some camera shake or movement in the image; this is now your lowest shutter speed for hand held photography ‘at that focal length’.

Focal Length:

Focal length is very important as the longer the focal length the more the movement is visible.

Some slight shake 200 meters in front of you will be greatly magnified 2km from you and shows a lot sooner than you may think.

Luckily there is a rule for this.

Basically put, you use 1/100th of a second for every mm of focal length (in 35mm terms).

So if you use a lens at 300mm on a Micro Four-Thirds camera, that’s a focal length of 600mm equivalent.

600 x 100 = 600 = a 1/600th second minimum exposure speed

The 500 Rule:

The 500 rule is used in case of shooting the night sky.

When we look up, the stars and moon look quite still. This however is incorrect and they do move at a steady pace.

To avoid any movement in the stars simply divide 500 by the focal length in 35mm terms.

So if you use a lens at 7mm on a Micro Four-Thirds camera, that’s a focal length of 14mm equivalent.

500 ÷ 14 = 35.7 = a 35 second maximum exposure speed

Rolling Shutter:

The rolling shutter is actually quite difficult to explain in writing, so I would ask you please to take a few minutes to watch the below YouTube video which is very good at describing this.


Basically put the rolling shutter is the distortion and movement of the image due to the way the shutter curtain closes or the way the electronic shutter deactivates the sensor.

As I’ve said before, these are only guidelines. Now that you know exactly how shutter speed will change a photo, you can experiment yourself and have some fun with it!

Look out for more tutorials coming soon.

Created By
David Munns

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