Facebook Pixel Slow It Down! Shooting At 1/20th Of A Second (With 15 Examples)

Slow It Down! Shooting At 1/20th Of A Second (With 15 Examples)

Take a deep breath. Now let it out slowly.

We’re not in a yoga class, but a nice slow breath and steady shutter release finger will allow you to take your shutter speed to a new low. And by low, I mean slow; 1/20th of a second, for instance. While it is not the slowest shutter speed out there, 1/20th of a second can lead to some interesting effects; from causing intentional blur in waterfalls to allowing for available light shooting situations and increasing depth of field. Then throw in a tripod or solid surface and more options appear.

It’s not a popular shutter speed. You might not even rank it up there in your top ten, if you were forced to rank shutter speed preferences. Yet 1/20th is a fine place to start experimenting, and that’s one reason I like it so. It’s not always about using just 1/20th, but finding a sweet spot around it to capture the mood of a shot. It’s most easily accessed in Shutter Priority Mode (or Time Value Mode) which will allow the camera to choose the appropriate aperture for you, freeing your creative spirit to being playing with light in different ways.

Using Photoshop Lightroom recently I decided to sort by shutter speed (accessed by pressing \ and then choosing Metadata then changing a column to list out shutter speeds) and found I had a decent amount of shots grouped around this shutter speed. A surprising amount. Below are quick tips followed by some of my own shots to help inspire some experimenting on your part with this often ignored shutter speed.

  • Breathe – As mentioned, breath when you shoot. Your body is most relaxed when you exhale and this is a prime time to take a shot.
  • Press Through The Shutter Release – Don’t press down hard on the shutter release, this will cause shake more easily noticed at 1/20th. Press through the button, as if wishing to hit a spot just below the lowest it will go. This helps eliminate the “tap” effect.
  • Brace Yourself – Hold your camera properly. But don’t be too rigid! If you can, brace yourself against a solid object (building, car, lightpost, the ground, etc..).
  • Use A Tripod – They really do help, but I think you already knew this. 1/20th is much easier to achieve if your scene isn’t changing quickly and can allow for tripod use.
  • Practice – Practice – Practice!

[Click on images for larger version]

Image: In The Souq - Fes, Morocco

In The Souq - Fes, Morocco

Image: Past Sunset On The Serengeti - Tanzania

Past Sunset On The Serengeti - Tanzania

Image: Maui County Fair - Hawaii, USA

Maui County Fair - Hawaii, USA

Image: Belly Dancers - Costa Rica

Belly Dancers - Costa Rica

Image: Church Details - Malaga, Spain

Church Details - Malaga, Spain

Image: In The Bar - Washington, USA

In The Bar - Washington, USA

Image: Torches At Sunset - Hawaii, USA

Torches At Sunset - Hawaii, USA

Image: Flamingos In Nogorongoro Crater - Tanzania

Flamingos In Nogorongoro Crater - Tanzania

Image: Dessert! Lahaina Grill - Hawaii, USA

Dessert! Lahaina Grill - Hawaii, USA

Image: Kayaking The San Juan Islands - Washington, USA

Kayaking The San Juan Islands - Washington, USA

Image: Karen Blixen Museum - Kenya

Karen Blixen Museum - Kenya

Image: Campfire At Semiahmoo Resort - Blaine, Washington, USA

Campfire At Semiahmoo Resort - Blaine, Washington, USA

Image: Falls - Costa Rica

Falls - Costa Rica

Image: Kegs Awaiting Beer At Boundary Bay Brewery - Bellingham, Washington, USA

Kegs Awaiting Beer At Boundary Bay Brewery - Bellingham, Washington, USA

Image: Harness At Piiholo Ranch - Maui, Hawaii, USA

Harness At Piiholo Ranch - Maui, Hawaii, USA

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Peter West Carey

Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics - A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

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