Playing with Shutter Speed

SPECIAL OFFERS – Up to 60% Off

Take your nature photography to the next level these awesome tutorials!

For A Limited Time Only

Hilo, Big Island, Hawaii (HI), USA

Shutter Speed: 0.5s

Have you tried playing with different shutter speeds to see the changing impact on an image? I spent some time experimenting with my camera during our recent trip to Hawaii while taking abstract shots of a stream.  My objective was to create an abstract that captures both the reflected color on the surface, and the flow lines in the water. The key to getting the look I wanted was to find just the right shutter speed.

  • Hilo, Big Island, Hawaii (HI), USA

    Shutter Speed 1/5s

  • Shutter Speed: 1s

    Shutter Speed: 1s

  • Shutter Speed: 2.5s

    Shutter Speed: 2.5s

So, how do I determine the “right” shutter speed? It comes down to experimentation – I took a series of shots with different shutter speeds and compared them. I used a 4 stop ND filter to get a very slow shutter speed – between 1/6s and 2.5s. I used my Induro Tripod and a 2 second timer to make sure that the camera was rock solid steady during the exposure. I took 4 shots between those shutter speeds, and checked them for contrast and exposure using the histogram on back of the camera.

The most brilliant reflected colors occurred at high speeds of around 1/6s and o.5s. At that speed, I could capture the reflections without losing color as the white flow lines started to mix with the smooth surface. A longer shutter speed meant that the overall contrast was reduced – along with the intensity of the colors. I could easily see the differences on the back of my camera – and the histograms confirmed it.

In the end, the choice came down to two photos – taken with shutter speeds of 1/6s and 0.5s. I liked the flow lines in the 0.5s shot better than the ones in 1/6s shot. Don’t be afraid to play around with different camera settings to see what you get.


Check out the following tutorials on Visual Wilderness:

  • Spot on Exposure Tutorial Cover

    Spot on Exposure Tutorial

  • Photography Histogram Tutorial Cover

    Histogram Exposed Tutorial

  • Exposure Bracketing Tutorial for Landscape Photography Cover

    Bracketing Exposed Tutorials

About Author Jay Patel

I could startoff like this – “Seeds of Jay Patel’s appreciation for beautiful places were planted early in his childhood….” but it would get boring really fast. I will just sum it up and say that I am a Landscape and Wilderness Photographer who loves to capture dramatic light. My photographs have been published in various magazines, calendars and advertising materials throughout the world.
Patience is a virtue...unless you are chasing your dreams