Terry Donnelly's Three Top Tips Back Button Focus Shutter Speed Anticipation - part 3 of 1 2 3 4

by Terry Donnelly Published 26/03/2020


2 Shutter Speed

Sports photography lives or dies by use of the appropriate shutter speed. Selecting an appropriate shutter speed depends on the sport in question and a lot on the conditions you are working in.

As sports photographers we get what we are dealt with in terms of available light, weather conditions and shooting locations. They are mainly out of our control. We have three things that affect exposure in the camera: shutter speed, ISO and aperture. All three are really important, but for now I want to only speak about shutter speed and letís assume we have plenty of light available at the time of shooting. Depending on the sport we may want a slow shutter speed or a fast shutter speed. A slow shutter speed in a lot of circumstances is useful and preferable, for instance when shooting motorsport.

By using a slow shutter speed we can show movement of the wheels of a car or motorcycle, combine that with good panning technique then we can blur the background as well. All this adds dynamism to the sports picture and gives a real sense of movement and feeling of speed to the shot. If a motorsport picture is taken with a high shutter speed then the wheels can be frozen as well as the background and it makes for a really static looking picture.


How slow a shutter speed you choose depends on a number of things: your skill level, your camera (some models have image stabilisation on the lens, sensor or both which allow for lower shutter speeds hand-held), your own personal preference on the style of picture you wish to take and how Ďartyí you wish to become.

So thatís an instance of when a slow shutter speed is preferred, but what about high shutter speeds? Well the way we freeze action is by using a high shutter speed. Sports such as football, rugby, cricket, etc, which involve high-speed action during play, benefit from high camera shutter speeds to freeze the action and give a clear crisp image. Historically a shutter speed of 1/1000s has been the general starting point for freezing action, but each camera differs so it is worth experimenting with your own camera to see what shutter speed freezes the action best on your camera.

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1st Published 26/03/2020
last update 18/07/2022 16:35:44

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Updated 18/07/2022 16:35:44 Last Modified: Tuesday, 08 November 2022