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Slow shutter speed

Capture the feel of motion


A slow shutter speed caused the water to blur, giving the feel of motion. The leaves remained sharp because there was no breeze.
A slow shutter speed caused the water to blur, giving the feel of motion. The leaves remained sharp because there was no breeze.

Usually you will select a fast shutter speed when shooting a moving subject because you want to freeze its motion on film. But sometimes allowing the subject to blur by using a slow shutter speed will help to convey a feeling of motion in your pictures.


Moving water is an example.

A really fast shutter speed might make the water look more like ice than something in motion, an effect you may not want.

Shooting it at a slow speed, say 1/4 second or 1/2 second, will show the water’s motion as a beautiful blur. This slow a shutter speed will require the use of a tripod of course, and don’t forget to use a smaller aperture when you select a slower shutter speed, or your picture will be over-exposed.

An added benefit of using a smaller aperture in a landscape is greater depth of field.

Hand-holding at slow shutter speed is a tricky business. The photographer should have used a tripod for this picture.
Hand-holding at slow shutter speed is a tricky business. The photographer should have used a tripod for this picture.

At 1/60 sec shutter speed there is little blur. The water still conveys motion, but it doesn't have the beauty that comes with a time exposure.
At 1/60 sec shutter speed there is little blur. The water still conveys motion, but it doesn't have the beauty that comes with a time exposure.

It is possible, when you don't have a tripod or other camera support handy, to hand-hold your camera at slower than recommended shutter speeds. We don't recommend it unless you have no choice, since the results are so "iffy," but what else can you do if you're stuck with a slow shutter speed and no alternatives, and you need the picture.

See Slow shutter hand holding for tips on how to do it.


The same scene at 1/2 sec shutter speed. The bubbly look of the water has become more blurry, and more attractive.
The same scene at 1/2 sec shutter speed. The bubbly look of the water has become more blurry, and more attractive.

A tripod kept all but the moving water sharp.
A tripod kept all but the moving water sharp.

Intentional blur from a slow shutter captures the feeling of motion at a critical moment.
Intentional blur from a slow shutter captures the feeling of motion at a critical moment.