What Is Shutter Speed?

Let Trevor teach you more about shutter speed and why it matters in video.

Trevor Holmes


What does shutter speed do?

In photography, shutter speed has a pretty literal definition: It’s how fast the shutter opens and closes when you take a picture. When it comes to how shutter speed is measured, a lower shutter speed (e.g., 1/50) means the shutter is opening and closing at a slower rate. When your shutter is opening and closing at a slower rate, you’ll notice that your image will be bright, and fast-moving objects will be out of focus. That in mind, with slower shutter speeds, it’s best to put your camera on a tripod to minimize unintentional blur.

A higher shutter speed (e.g., 1/1000) means the shutter is opening and closing at a fast rate. The outcome is that your image will be darker, and fast-moving objects will be crisp and in focus. If you have a higher shutter speed, you can hold the camera in your hand — without necessarily needing a tripod.

Now, when it comes to shutter speed for video, it’s relatively the same, but the shutter isn’t opening and closing. What actually happens is that the shutter stays open, and the sensor exposes for a certain period of time.

What happens when you change the shutter speed?

When you change your shutter speed, you’re increasing or decreasing the rate at which your camera shutter opens and closes when you take a picture. At a base level, when you lower your shutter speed, you brighten your image. When you raise it, you darken your image. Essentially, it’s a way to adjust your camera exposure.

What are fast and slow shutter speeds?

Fast shutter speeds like 1/1000 mean the shutter opens and closes at a rate of 1/1000 of a second. Fast shutter speeds are great for fast-moving objects — like cars or people that are running or jumping. Slow shutter speeds (like 1/10) mean the shutter opens and closes at a rate of 1/10 of a second. Slow shutter speeds can be especially helpful in low-light scenarios or for when you want to take a long-exposure shot. Because the shutter is open for a longer period of time, more light is able to enter the camera. In these types of situations, it’s best to use a tripod to avoid any image distortion and camera shaking.

Pro tip! If you’re shooting handheld photography, then choose a shutter speed of 1/160 or higher. This will help reduce any camera shake or motion blur you might experience at lower shutter speeds.

What is the best shutter speed to shoot video?

In a nutshell, you can use any shutter speed you want when shooting a video. Think of shutter speed as a way to brighten or darken your video image. But beyond just that, you can achieve different looks with various shutter speeds for video. A lower shutter speed has a cinematic feel, and creates a more natural-looking motion blur. A higher shutter speed will feel jumpy. If you’re a shutter-speed purist, you can follow the 180-degree shutter rule! That means: Take your frame rate (30 frames per-second, for example), double it, and then round to the nearest shutter stop (1/60). Another example: Shooting in 120 frames per-second (fps)? Set your shutter speed to 1/250.

What shutter speed should I use for 24 FPS?

You can use just about any shutter speed with 24 fps, but for the most natural motion blur, follow the 180 degree shutter rule — 24 fps x2 = 48 - round to the nearest shutter stop - 1/50. If your shutter speed is one or two stops in the range of 1/50, then your video will have a nice natural motion blur.

What’s the difference between frame rate and shutter speed?

Frame rate is how many individual video frames your camera captures in one second and relates to playback speed (e.g., slow motion or standard). Whereas shutter speed is related to your exposure (i.e., how bright or dark your image is).

Trevor Holmes


Mailing list sign-up form

Sign up to get Wistia’s best
and freshest content.

More of a social being? We’re also on Instagram and Twitter.