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Shutter speed/aperture combinations

Understanding them is critical to proper exposure.


As we saw on the main page of this Exposure section, a range of shutter speed/aperture combinations may be used to provide proper exposure. A picture that is properly exposed at a shutter speed of 1/125 sec and an aperture of ƒ11 will also be properly exposed if photographed at 1/250 sec at ƒ8, or 1/500 sec at ƒ5.6, or 1/1000 sec at ƒ4, and so on.

Although each image taken at these equivalent exposures will be properly exposed, they will be different in other ways. The exposure using the fastest shutter speed, for example, will show more action stoppage, whereas the exposure using the smallest aperture will produce an image with greater depth of field.

Knowing how the shutter speed and aperture combinations will affect your pictures is the key to understanding and using the concept of proper exposure. Simply stated, fast shutter speeds stop motion but have less depth of field because they require wider apertures, and small apertures provide greater depth of field but require slower shutter speeds that have less action-stopping ability.

When you come across a shooting situation that requires both - a fairly fast shutter speed and good depth of field - you may need to switch to a faster film or change your digital camera's ISO equivalency or sensitivity to a higher setting to achieve a satisfactory exposure setting. ("Sensitivity" is the digital equivalent to film speed.)

See our Shutter speed guide and Aperture selection guide for helpful recommendations and useful information when using various shutter speeds from B (shutter held open by the photographer for time exposures) to 1/8000 second, and when using various aperture settings from the lens’ widest opening to its smallest.

The image on the left required a fast shutter speed and minimal depth of field (a large aperture). The image on the right has great depth of field (small aperture) and a relatively slow shutter speed.
The image on the left required a fast shutter speed and minimal depth of field (a large aperture). The image on the right has great depth of field (small aperture) and a relatively slow shutter speed.

 
Related topics...

Shutter speed guide

Aperture selection guide