A Quick Guide To Shutter Speed and Dog Photography


The water droplets are frozen in mid air with a a high shutter speed of 1/800 sec and f4

Say Hello to my Enemy Number one – Shutter Speed

It’s Linda here behind the keyboard, back with another week of Friday Foto Fun. This week we’re looking at a different setting on your digital SLR, called Shutter Speed Priority, what it could be used for and how it could improve your dog photos.

Shutter speed in my nemesis when it comes to dog photography, only matched in evil by auto focus lag and a hyper active dog model (paws up who knows who that might be!).

Slow shutter speed makes my dog photos blurry and have ruined more photos than I’d like to count.

Fast shutter speed needs too much light so can only practically be used once a year here in the UK when the sun is out.


Okay – so what does a Dog Bowl have to Do with Shutter Speed?

First imagine a perfectly exposed photograph – without getting too technical, it has been created by a certain amount of light hitting your camera’s sensor.

There are two ways your camera lets in light to create a picture – by its opening, called the aperture which we talked about last week – and through the amount of time the aperture remains open – called shutter speed. Depending on the light conditions, a combination of the right aperture and the right shutter speed will create a perfect exposure. Too much, or too little light will ruin the photo leaving it over or under exposed.

Just like it would take you longer to fill your dog’s water bowl if the water pressure was low, it would take you longer to take a perfectly exposed image in low light (longer shutter speed). Similarly, your dog’s waterbowl would fill up really quickly if the water hose you used was really wide – just like if you took a photograph with a wide aperture. So as you can imagine, aperture and shutter speed are dependent on each other to create your perfectly exposed image.

Thank Dog for Shutter Speed Priority!

If you don’t fancy learning how to set the aperture and shutter speed manually (and lets be honest, who has the time to do all of that with a dog to look after as well!), the the shutter speed priority mode is for you.

On a Nikon Camera, look for a setting labelled ‘S’, dial in your required shutter speed value (check your manual for instructions) and the camera will work out the corresponding aperture and sort out the perfect exposure for you.

Shutter Speed in Action

High Shutter Speeds

A High Shutter Speed can freeze action as it happens – just like some of the best sports photography out there. Either set your Shutter Speed Priority to a high number – say over 1/100 second.

Or on compact cameras and some SLR’s you can use the ‘running man’ setting to achieve similar results.

the high shutter speed has frozen Alfie's action jump in mid air! 1/1250 sec at f4

Low Shutter Speeds

Low shutter Speeds have the power to either create some really creative motion blur, or ruin a perfectly composed image. Its all down to your own imagination, and how you use it! On compact cameras, look for the night setting and the camera will shoot with a slow shutter speed. For your D-SLR as a rule of thumb, a shutter speed below 1/30 second will create blurry photos unless you shoot using a tripod.

Alfie capture with a shutter speed of 1/15 sec and f25 - as you can see, the running Alfie is the only blurry thing in this photo

But if you have a dog like Alfie, who runs really fast, even higher shutter speeds like 1/60 sec will sometimes look blurry, so the faster the subject moves the faster the shutter speed will have to be if you’re looking to freeze the action!

Alfie is still looking a bit blurry around the edges at 1/60 sec and f13

Now that you know what shutter speed is, and how it can be used we can start looking at creative ways to capture dog photos with low and high shutter speed – but I’ll save that for another week of Friday foto Fun! :-)

Shutter Speed – Do you Love it or Hate it? I’d love to hear about your blurry photos!




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  1. says

    I finally had time to sit and read the last couple of your photography posts. I think I am going to find them very helpful. I don’t have a super fancy camera, but I can set some things manually rather than always using the presets. Thanks for the info. :)

  2. says

    Mom just took another camera class this week and learned about S on her Nikon. We did some practicing the other day and she was much better at capturing us. Her instructor said to use at leaste 1/1000 for the shutter speed and then she set the ISO and white balance accordingly and finally got some shot with non-blurry movement! We love your camera tips – keep them coming! Mom is taking a class on manual mode in about a month.

  3. says

    Nice advice on shutter speeds. As a professional pet photographer, my advice is to hire a pro! Haha, tooting my own horn, I know. But really, this was great advice and the example images make it even better. Happy shooting!

  4. says

    Hey Linda,

    My Mum sure is loving your photo tips – she sure needs them…. :)

    After reading this she’s found a TV button on her Canon which she thinks is like your S button on your Nikon, she’s played with it a little just now, but I think she still needs to alter something else as it was not working too well, the shots were too dark – one of these days she’ll understand how to use her camera!

    Sorry to hear about your non-sunny summer :( Mum remembers them too well :)

    Big Wags to all,

    Your pal Snoopy :)

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