A Photographer’s Shutter Speed Cheat Sheet as a Handy Reference for You

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To take your photography to the next level and achieve perfectly exposed photos, it’s important to understand and master shutter speed and its relationship to Exposure. However, what’s even more exciting and challenging is using shutter speed as an artistic tool to achieve stunning effects.

Whether you want to master shutter speed as part of Exposure Triangle or use it artistically, the Shutter Speed Cheat Sheet makes things much easier!

Shutter Speed Cheat Sheet DPS 700px

Full Stop, ½ Stop, 1/3 Stop

The equation behind the relationship between Exposure and Shutter Speed is straightforward; by doubling or halving the shutter speed you are changing the exposure value by 1-stop. However, the introduction of digital cameras changed everything by no longer restricting how much we can change the shutter speed. Some cameras allow us to change the speed by half or even a third of a stop. Use the Shutter Speed Cheat Sheet to help you estimate and calculate your exposure.

Safe Shutter Speed

Using the right shutter speed is vital in photographing moving objects. Look at the Shutter Speed Cheat Sheet to see how speed directly affects image sharpness.

Light

The Cheat Sheet illustrates how a faster shutter speed means that less light reaches the camera sensor and a longer shutter speed means that more light reaches the sensor.

Artistically Shooting with Shutter Speed Cheat Sheet

Birds in Flight 1/2000

Wildlife photographers typically use a 1/2000th of a second shutter speed to ensure birds in flight are sharp. Ultimately, you can reduce the speed to 1/400th to give the bird a sharp body and blurry wings.

Action Sports

Shutter speed is crucial in fast-moving sports like football and soccer where a shutter speed between 1/500th and 1/1000th freezes the action to create crisp and sharp images.

Street Photography 1/250th – 1/500th

Most streets are in constant movement with pedestrians and vehicles. That is why shutter speed is critical to produce the right exposure and to avoid soft or blurry images.

Shutter Spped Cheat Sheet StreetPhotography

Street Photography 1/250th, f/8, ISO 100.

Landscapes 1/125th – ¼

Shutter speed varies across landscapes and techniques. When using a tripod, a slower shutter speed of 1/8th or ¼ of a second is acceptable. However, to avoid blurry images when shooting hand held, you need to use a faster shutter speed.

Shutter Spped Cheat Sheet Landscapes

Landscape 1/125th, f/8, ISO 100.

Panning Cars 1/15th – 1/60th

Panning is an artistic effect created when a slower shutter speed of 1/15th to 1/60th is used to track a moving object like a car. This causes the car to stay in focus while its surroundings are completely blurred.

Waterfalls 1/8th – 2 seconds

Capturing fast-moving water with a longer shutter speed creates a visual effect of motion blur which does not exist in reality.

Shutter Spped Cheat Sheet RunningWater

Waterfall 1/6th, f/20, ISO 100.

Blurring Water half – 5 seconds

For slower moving water like ocean, lakes, and rivers you need to use a shutter speed slower than half a second to create dreamy landscapes and seascapes with silky, smooth water.

Shutter Spped Cheat Sheet Water

Slow Moving Water 4 seconds, f/6.3, ISO 100.

Fireworks 2-8 seconds

Capturing fireworks can be exceptionally difficult. A faster shutter speed yields a speck of light across a dark sky and a slower speed creates a blurry, overexposed image. Try using a 3-5 second shutter speed for optimal results.

Stars 15–25 seconds

Like fireworks, shooting the stars requires balance. A faster shutter speed produces tiny and dim stars, but a longer shutter speed (over 30 seconds) produces a trail effect. For the brightest and clearest stars, try a shutter speed between 15 and 25 seconds.

Star Trails

Take advantage of the earth spinning on its axis by opening the shutter speed long enough to capture the star trail. This is often done with a 15-minute (or longer) shutter speed (exposure time). However, you can create the same effect digitally by taking a series of photos (100+) with a 30 seconds exposure each. Later, blend the images together using editing software to create a gorgeous trail effect.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Viktor Elizarov is a travel photographer and educator from Montreal, Canada. He travels around the world and shares his experiences on his popular travel photography blog. Visit Tutorials section of his blog for free tutorials (including original raw files) and free Lightroom presets.

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  • Cheryl

    Would be nice if I could print it out…hard to use if I’m outside and it’s in here on the computer.

  • Paul

    You might try Evernote…once you sign up for their free account you can add the extension to your web browser… When I click SAVE it gives me the option to save to Evernote, along with the other normal places….. I have been using it for years.. and it even clips the entire article. No I don’t work for them, (wish I did)… but I’ve been using it for years… it helps when your out in the field, or on vacation ….

  • Peter Stanton

    Use the Snipping tool in windows 10 to print out the cheat sheet at any size.

  • Lee

    No you weren’t, don’t be ridiculous.

  • suegee

    the chart itself on left side was confusing – – – poof back to Pinterest for simplicity.

  • Cheryl

    I tried to use Gyazo which I love but I can’t scroll down on that. Is the snipping tool any different?

  • Cheryl

    Thank you Viktor!! That is perfect! I didn’t see the PDF link at first, but got it so thank you so much!

  • Cheryl

    Thanks Paul…I signed up for Evernote…so will practice with that for later uses.

  • Bob Butler

    Surely the 1/3000 under the 1/4 sec entry is wrong???

  • Bob Butler

    Yes I thought it was until I gave it a little thought.
    The steps between the entries in the 1st column are 1 stop, the steps between the entries in the second column are just a half stop and the steps between those in the 3rd column are 1/3 of a stop.
    Might be useful if you are shooting in manual mode but can’t see it helping in any other way.

  • Bob Butler

    Doesn’t your print driver allow you to set it to Fit to Page?

  • pete guaron

    The traditional view is that water should be blurred – in more recent years, many photographers have taken the opposite view, and sought to freeze the water in mid-flight (or whatever). Like so many other “rules”, I think this one is now more a “guideline” than a rule. Each to his own!

    With stars, there is supposed to be a “500 rule”, but it in fact seems to lead to slight motion being captured. If you want to avoid this, a wide angle gives scope for a longer shutter speed – but of course the stars are then smaller. But to take an absurd example, a 500mm tele lens would suggest a maximum shutter speed of 1 second, under this “rule” – scarcely enough to capture the light of the stars, without using a ridiculous ISO setting.

    For anyone who wants to try night shots, I’d suggest using a shutter setting somewhere in the range you mention (between 15 & 25 seconds), starting with an ISO setting of (say) 3200 – and then try adjusting those figures, till you get the result you’re seeking. Two or three shots should see you there.

  • It’s nice to explain it with some references make it more understandable.

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  • Danny Taffe

    Right-click on the image, then save to your favorite file type. You should be able to print it from there.

  • callmebob

    In your browser, simply use CTRL with the minus key a few times until the chart fits into the display of the browser (eg. no scrolling necessary) – do your snippet tool region cut … to re-size the browser display to normal – CTRL-zero (the character, not the word)…

  • Narendra Bansal

    I am relatively a beginner in digital photography. One question I have for long exposure photographs e.g Waterfalls and slow moving water of seascapes is: if you increase the exposure time for several seconds, what is going to happen to the other surrounding subject matter?. Would it not be over exposed? Do you use a Neutral density filter?
    Thank you in advance to get your expert opinion.

  • Chok Seh Faa

    I am rather new as well, but I think you need the ND filter if it’s too bright especially during daylight for long exposure

  • usworker3

    Approaching Challenge- for me- an amateur with a NEW Nikon p900 .. and a trip to Omaha to see and photograph the TOTAL solar eclipse in August and would desperately love to capture the Moon/Sun as they go thru the different phases of the eclipse .. would like to capture as many pictures during the 3 major phases. I do have the proper SOLAR filter and a tri-pod -BUT – I have to manually adjust my camera as the earth/moon/sun move thru the 3 phases ….. I know this will restrict me as the moon/sun/earth move thru the 3 phases. I plan to bring the sun in focus… then the sun/moon with a followed by the moon. … (if I could get as many of the early phases / then the diamond / followed by another group of the final phase … I ‘think’ the best time setting would be …. 2 or 3 seconds … while RECORDING the CENTER phase as a VIDEO … follow by another 2 – 3 second pictures of the final phase.
    These pictures need to occur in about a 2 to 3 minute time frame….
    ANY help that you can provide would be GREATLY appreciated !

  • chessmonkey

    Missing are the perfect settings for photographing the moon. It’d be nice to know how to do that consistently.

  • Andy Coles

    This is great! I love it all! Thanks for giving prime examples to grasp the concept!

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