Join our monthly newsletter where we discuss helpful photography and editing tips - as well as gear recommendations for all forms of photography!
Your email is sensitive information. It is never bought, sold, or spammed. Ever.
Settings on a DSLR can be overwhelming for a beginner - heck, it can be confusing for intermediates if they didn’t grasp the correct concepts early on in their journey to becoming a great photographer/videographer. Well, if you are one of those that are overwhelmed, that stops for you today.
We are going to touch base on every aspect of shutter speed for video. I will be posting an article for the photography side of things here in the near future. Just know, the concepts that I explain in this article in terms of video, can be applied to photography as well. The concepts are just slightly different.
So, what makes shutter speed so important when shooting video?
I'm sure you have watched a video (or made one yourself) where, when played back, just didn't seem right. Something was off, but you couldn't put your finger on it.
9 times out of 10 - the reason it looked so weird is because when the video was shot, the shutter speed was set too high.
You'll know from jump when the shutter speed is set incorrectly (especially after reading this post).
There won't be much motion blur (or any at all).
Motion blur is something we see everyday - but hardly pay attention to it. So much so, that most of us are so used to it - and when we don't see it, something looks off.
An example of common motion blur is...
I know, I know, if you come to this article, you know the importance of shutter speed and are probably already shooting in manual mode.
But, for those who aren't... you need to now.
What manual mode allows you to do is set multiple values that stay constant until changed again.
Again, shooting in manual mode is a very key step in ensuring that the end result is going to be at it's best.
This is quite simple, actually.
You can either go into the menu system of your camera - and find shutter speed (it's different for every camera company), and change it there.
An easier (and faster) way is to use the wheel/knob on your camera. Again, it differs depending on manufacturer.
I have included an image below of a Canon. Roll it to the left to decrease, roll to the right to increase. Too easy, right?
If you have read this far in the article, you are doing great. Do not get discouraged or overwhelmed. You are learning the fundamentals of DSLR videography/photography - these are the things you need to learn to be able to get everything out of the camera you paid good money for. Just keep going!
Getting back to the numbers - the numbers that are associated with shutter speed, represent the amount of time your shutter is open.
You shutter opens to all light to hit the sensor - the light itself is your picture/video.
So, if your shutter speed is set at 1/125, that means your shutter is open for 1/125th of a second. The same goes for any of the other numbers, 1/30, 1/500, 1/4000. They're all fractions of a second.
Let's talk about how shutter speed affects your image.
Ok, remember when I stated that shutter speed is essentially how long your shutter is open for to take an image? Well, knowing that will better support my next statement.
An example would be - if you start a shot at 1/500 shutter speed - and increased the shutter speed to 1/1000 - the shutter is now faster (double the speed actually) - which means only half of the amount of light is getting to the sensor. This equates to lower light and a darker image. This will directly affect your exposure. Keep this in mind.
You may have heard people talk about the 180 degree rule - and honestly, it’s something people shouldn’t even be “teaching” in today’s day and age - because it’s something that was used decades ago with actual film.
In a nutshell - it’s the amount of time the film was exposed to light when it was revolving through the reel and lens. I will leave the photo above that explains it in a nutshell as well.
We are now going to move into what shutter speed you should be shooting at.
Forget the 180 degree rule - to make it simple for you set your shutter speed double your frame rate.
Shutter speed for video is really that simple. To get natural motion blur in video - you need to have it set to double your frame rate. Example would be - if you are shooting at 30 fps - set your shutter speed to 60. If you are shooting at 24 fps, set your shutter speed to 48 - or if you are shooting 60 fps for slow motion, set your shutter speed for 120.
Now, before you freak out and are looking at your camera and notice that you do not have small intervals of shutter speed adjustment (such as 48 or 120) - rest assured, you’re good with using the shutter speed above the number you actually need (50 for 48 or 125 for 120).
Next up I am going to show you how to determine if your shutter speed was too slow or too fast - all by looking at video you have shot (or will shoot in the future).
I will be honest - I have never ran into this issue myself. But I have had friends of mine that have set their shutter speed too low on accident by rolling the adjustment wheel on their camera by accident while holding it.
Needless to say, it is very noticeable. The first thing you will notice (depending on the severity of the shutter speed difference), is the movement in the video is way too blurry . This in itself can look unnatural in itself.
You can use this to your advantage at times. The infamous "drunk" look in most movies are created using this technique.
Now this is something that I have done quite a few times - either by accident or on purpose (we will touch on the benefits here soon).
You will notice first off that everything is jittery. There really isn’t any other way to describe it. Something about it looks unnatural and not smooth. If you have seen it before and didn’t know what the jitter was caused from, that’s it. The first time you see it, and know what you did, you’ll know exactly what it is from that point forward. It’s unmistakable.
This is something that should be avoided at all costs - if this is what you want to avoid. There are certain movies in the past that have not stuck with the double your frame rate rule. The most noteworthy movie, Saving Private Ryan (and a couple other war movies), - It gave you a much more unsettling feeling by allowing you to see every frame of the action by freezing each of those frames instead of allowing them to get blurry.
Seeing as slower shutter speeds compared to your framerate introduce more motion blur than is what’s needed… this can be used to your advantage in certain situations. A few examples of slow shutter speed for 'style' would be:
If you want that “dreamlike” state, you would shoot at a slower shutter speed to give you that extra motion blur that is associated with dreaming. Another example would be, much like in Saving Private Ryan - when their team was getting bombarded by mortar rounds and the team was suffering from concussion-like effects (being dizzy) - that is the perfect time to use slower shutter speeds.
The third example is if you are portraying someone who is drunk. Swaying side to side and the dizzy feeling, when used in conjunction, will effectively portray being drunk.
Just be aware - as mentioned prior, lowering your shutter speed will increase the brightness of your image. If you find yourself not wanting to change your aperture - you will need to use an ND filter. I have included a few top notch ND filters below (be sure to double check your thread size before making a purchase)
As with slower shutter speeds, there are uses for faster shutter speeds as well.
For starters, if you find yourself filming a sports game - you will most likely need to increase your shutter speed past double. The speed of a ball or player make your image so blurry that you won’t be able to make them out. Take tennis for example. If you were to follow the double your frame rate rule - a tennis ball during a game would be so blurry you wouldn’t be able to see it. Why? Because the ball is moving so fast and is so small - that you wouldn’t be able to see it.
To capture those fast moving objects, you need to increase your shutter speed. The faster shutter speed ensures that you will capture those fast action moments.
Just know that when you increase your shutter speed, your image will get darker. You may also notice a bit of jittery movement. You shouldn’t get to the point that it decreases the brightness of the image enough to need to boost ISO - but just know that it is there if you need to use it (but use it sparingly).
So now you know how to use shutter speed in video, and have a few ideas for interesting uses.
We hope this article has been of some help! If you want more information on other photography topics like this one, we’ve got it at our blog - subscribe below for articles similar to this delivered straight to your email inbox. And if you need any assistance with anything feel free to reach out! We'd love to help.
You can also get to know more about us and why we absolutely love what we do everyday!
Until next time, be safe, and keep creating!