Skip to main content

Fundamentals of Photography

Lesson 7 of 107

Shutter Speed Basics

John Greengo

Fundamentals of Photography

John Greengo

most popular

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

7. Shutter Speed Basics


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Class Introduction Duration:23:32
2 Photographic Characteristics Duration:06:46
3 Camera Types Duration:03:03
4 Viewing System Duration:22:09
5 Lens System Duration:24:38
6 Shutter System Duration:12:56
7 Shutter Speed Basics Duration:10:16
8 Shutter Speed Effects Duration:31:57
9 Camera & Lens Stabilization Duration:11:06
10 Quiz: Shutter Speeds Duration:07:55
11 Camera Settings Overview Duration:16:12
12 Drive Mode & Buffer Duration:04:24
13 Camera Settings - Details Duration:10:21
14 Sensor Size: Basics Duration:18:26
15 Sensor Sizes: Compared Duration:24:52
16 The Sensor - Pixels Duration:22:49
17 Sensor Size - ISO Duration:26:59
18 Focal Length Duration:11:36
19 Angle of View Duration:31:29
20 Practicing Angle of View Duration:04:59
21 Quiz: Focal Length Duration:08:15
22 Fisheye Lens Duration:12:32
23 Tilt & Shift Lens Duration:20:37
24 Subject Zone Duration:13:16
25 Lens Speed Duration:09:03
26 Aperture Duration:08:25
27 Depth of Field (DOF) Duration:21:46
28 Quiz: Apertures Duration:08:22
29 Lens Quality Duration:07:06
30 Light Meter Basics Duration:09:04
31 Histogram Duration:11:48
32 Quiz: Histogram Duration:09:07
33 Dynamic Range Duration:07:25
34 Exposure Modes Duration:35:15
35 Sunny 16 Rule Duration:04:31
36 Exposure Bracketing Duration:08:08
37 Exposure Values Duration:20:01
38 Quiz: Exposure Duration:20:44
39 Focusing Basics Duration:13:08
40 Auto Focus (AF) Duration:24:39
41 Focus Points Duration:17:18
42 Focus Tracking Duration:19:26
43 Focusing Q&A Duration:06:40
44 Manual Focus Duration:07:14
45 Digital Focus Assistance Duration:07:35
47 Quiz: Depth of Field Duration:15:54
48 DOF Preview & Focusing Screens Duration:04:55
49 Lens Sharpness Duration:11:08
50 Camera Movement Duration:11:29
51 Advanced Techniques Duration:15:15
52 Quiz: Hyperfocal Distance Duration:07:14
53 Auto Focus Calibration Duration:05:15
54 Focus Stacking Duration:07:58
55 Quiz: Focus Problems Duration:18:54
56 Camera Accessories Duration:32:41
57 Lens Accessories Duration:29:24
58 Lens Adaptors & Cleaning Duration:13:14
59 Macro Duration:13:02
60 Flash & Lighting Duration:04:47
61 Tripods Duration:14:13
62 Cases Duration:06:07
63 Being a Photographer Duration:11:29
64 Natural Light: Direct Sunlight Duration:28:37
66 Natural Light: Mixed Duration:04:20
71 Quiz: Lighting Duration:05:02
72 Light Management Duration:10:46
73 Flash Fundamentals Duration:12:06
74 Speedlights Duration:04:12
75 Built-In & Add-On Flash Duration:10:47
76 Off-Camera Flash Duration:25:48
77 Off-Camera Flash For Portraits Duration:15:36
78 Advanced Flash Techniques Duration:08:22
79 Editing Assessments & Goals Duration:08:57
80 Editing Set-Up Duration:06:59
81 Importing Images Duration:03:59
82 Organizing Your Images Duration:32:41
83 Culling Images Duration:13:57
84 Categories of Development Duration:30:59
85 Adjusting Exposure Duration:08:03
86 Remove Distractions Duration:04:02
87 Cropping Your Images Duration:09:53
88 Composition Basics Duration:26:36
89 Point of View Duration:28:56
90 Angle of View Duration:14:35
91 Subject Placement Duration:23:22
92 Framing Your Shot Duration:07:27
94 Rule of Odds Duration:05:00
95 Bad Composition Duration:07:31
96 Multi-Shot Techniques Duration:19:08
98 Human Vision vs The Camera Duration:23:32
99 Visual Perception Duration:10:43
100 Quiz: Visual Balance Duration:14:05
101 Visual Drama Duration:16:45
102 Elements of Design Duration:09:24
103 Texture & Negative Space Duration:03:57
104 Black & White & Color Duration:10:33
105 The Photographic Process Duration:09:08
106 Working the Shot Duration:25:29
107 What Makes a Great Photograph? Duration:07:01

Lesson Info

Shutter Speed Basics

Alright, we're gonna get to one of my favorite sections, and it's one of the most basic but also one of the most fundamental and important sections to photographers, and that is understanding shutter speeds. Conceptionally, it's pretty easy but there's a little, little nuances that you need to be very, very good at here. So this is an answer yourself quiz on this one, and the question is, which one of these two numbers is larger? Now that may seem like a very easy question. Nobodies pulled out their iPhone to, like, which number is larger? Google this, which number is larger, and we don't even have to think about these things, right? We're not gonna pull out any calculators to do this. We immediately know eight is bigger than two, but in our cameras when we talk about shutter speeds they're pretty much always listed in fractions, but the thing is, is the camera isn't telling you they're fractions, it's assumed that you know, and a lot of times people get confused, it's like oh wait it'...

s bigger, oh wait no it's reverse, cause we're doing reciprocals here, it's one over eight. An eight of a second is a smaller amount of time than a half second, and so just be aware that when you're looking at shutter speeds they're actually fractions of a second in most cases. So we've got our list of shutter speeds here, and if you were to look through the viewfinder of your camera, you at home take your camera out, look through the viewfinder, turn the camera on. I don't care what mode it's in, but usually the first number on the left, what does that mean, it's first number on, that means it's probably a really important number. So that's gonna be your shutter speed. Now in some cases, like Canon, Nikon, they'll say 2,000, or 500, and it's really 1/2,000th, 1/500th. Some of the new mirrorless camera, which have, shall we say better displays with more graphics, will actually tell you it's 1/500th, so you need to learn what your camera does. Remember that from the beginning of the class? You need know how to work your camera. Alright, so here's our list of shutter speeds. Now, I guess I should stop at this moment and explain that shutter speed is a terrible name. It's completely misleading, the speed of the shutter does not change in your camera, it always, at least I believe, I don't know. I believe it operates at exactly the same speed for every single shot. It's the difference between when does the first one open, and the second one close. That time difference, that exposure time difference, is the difference between these shutter speeds, and so it might help, conceptionally, to think exposure time, how much time is the sensor exposed to light, alright? I always like to start simple, so I think all of you know what one second is. That's about a second right? Alright, so we all know what a second is, when we go to two seconds, we've double the amount of time and we've doubled the amount of light. It's a linear scale, it's a one for one trade off here and so if we want it longer, we get twice as much light in that way. Now this is something that we're going to talk about, full stops. It means we've doubled or we've cut in half, and so when you hear someone talk about a full stop, that means they want it twice as bright or twice as dark, depends on what other words they say, whether they wanna go up or down in that direction. So to double, or to cut in half. The longest shutter speed on many cameras will be around 30 seconds. Not really much reason for it, other than when you go to one minute, well that's a whole different numbering system there, so 30 seconds is kind of a nice number, but some cameras are going well beyond that now. When we get up to a half second, it's half as much time, it's half as much light. Same scale, it works the whole way up and down. Now it gets kind of interesting here, because I know there's some very passionate people here, in politics and in math, right? Some of you are fraction people, and some of you are decimal people, I can just tell, let's not have any arguments in here, but sometimes your camera might say two. Some cameras say two, which means 1/2. Sometimes, some cameras say zero, quotation, five, and it says quotation not point because they're too cheap to put a point in there, they just use the quotations that were there and so that's 0.5 and they mean the same thing, they're both half a second, and so that is gonna be a full stop, less light than one second, because it's half as much time. A pretty normal shutter speed is one 1/60th of a second, but remember when you look in your camera it's gonna say 60, it's not gonna say 1/60 in most cases. The top shutter speed on most cameras is gonna be about an eight thousandth of a second, and so this is the range of shutter speeds that you're likely to deal with. Now something that we don't need to know, but I wanna share with you some of the history of why this doubling is like this in photography, and photographers used to judge everything on the EV Scale, Exposure Value Scale. They wanted to come up with a light metering system for photographers so that we could figure out, give me a number and I will figure out what shutter speeds and apertures I want, and so I remember I used to own a Hasselblad camera and they had an EV setting on there, and you could keep it at EV eight, and you could have shutter speeds and apertures of this, or shutter speeds and apertures of that, you could change it around, so it's one simple number that tells you how much light you are receiving. Right now, we don't use this, we usually say, well it's 500, 2.8 ISO 800. That's kinda a lot of words here, and so they used to measure light on an EV Scale, and EV zero is roughly ISO 100, f/1.4 at one second. Which was kinda the darkest situation that they imagined photographers ever getting involved in, and this was way back when they invented the scale which, I don't know, might have been in the 20s or 30s, I haven't done my research on this one yet, and so that's really dark. Now when you go to one from zero we're doubling the light, and so every time we go up one on the scale, we're doubling the light. There's a great difference between when it's dark and it's light and this is how we can do this. Indoor room lights, I've often found are around 6. I have a light meter that actually reads this out in EV. So you wanna go outside in a nice day in Seattle, that would be a cloudy day, that'd be 12. You wanna go outside on a bright sunny day, that's gonna be around 15, but the scale doesn't limit here, you can go as far as you want. If you wanna have a really bright light and get your light meter camera right next to it, it could be really bright. It could also go into the negatives, which there's like negative light? No, it's just that they've based zero on this setting, and they didn't foresee cameras being able to record in darker situations, and so some cameras will be able to autofocus at EV minus four, or EV minus five, which I don't know exactly what that is but it's really dark, it's not nothing, it's just really, really dark, it's not very much light there. So this is an EV scale, and if you get a handheld light meter, that's usually one of the options you can put it in EV readings or shutter speeds and apertures type readings, and that's how we kinda got to this whole changing by a full stop, and so we can change our shutter speeds by a full stop here. Now as you actually dial your shutter speed on your camera, changing these settings, you'll notice that you can get to third stops, and that's because photographers from time to time, like to be very picky and precise about what they're doing, and so we can set third stops. Well what about quarter stops, what about tenth stops? Why doesn't my camera have tenth stops on them? Well, not really necessary. If we were to look at two photos, and one photo just the smallest amount brighter that we would all say it's brighter, but barely anything at all, that is about a third of a stop right there. A stop brighter is gonna be, okay that's noticeably brighter than this one, it's like a baby step, and so if you need to set a tiny third of a stop, perfectly fine, I don't like listing them because it clutters up my screen with too many numbers, so I'm gonna stick with the whole numbers as we go through the rest of the class. There's a few cameras out there that have something called an X-SYNC, X is kinda your nickname for flash, your flash synchronization, and so some cameras you can dial in a special number for the flash synchronization. Let's say you like the flash to fire at 1/125, you could dial that in and have that set. What a number of cameras have is a bulb setting, and bulb setting refers back to the old days of photography where they had a cable release and they pushed it in on their big view camera and it left the shutter open, and so they might be Ansel Adams there, you know for 30 seconds holding the exposure open and then when he took his finger off, it closed the shutters. So it's any length you want, and it's gonna typically only be useful over 30 seconds, things you wanna leave open for a long period of time, all the modern cable releases have a lock on them so if you wanna leave it open for five minutes, you don't have to use your thumb , you can just kinda turn it on and lock it in, so that's for night time exposures. Now why are we gonna choose shutter speeds? This is the real thing, technical reasons, we wanna let in less light we're gonna choose a faster shutter speed, if we wanna let in more light we might wanna choose to let in that with a longer shutter speed. But for aesthetic reasons, we might wanna freeze motion with a faster shutter speed, and we might wanna blur motion, yes, sometimes we like these blurry in photography, we're gonna choose a slower shutter speed for it, and that means we have two different motivations, we're gonna do this, we're gonna do that, and sometimes these are in conflict. Artistically you wanna do something in your photograph, but technically it won't work, so you gotta know the ways to work around it. So there's a lot of things involved here, and just knowing what these do is the first step on it.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

As a photographer, you will need to master the technical basics of the camera and form an understanding of the kind of equipment you need. The Fundamentals of Digital Photography will also teach something even more important (and crucial for success) - how to bring your creative vision to fruition.

Taught by seasoned photographer John Greengo, the Fundamentals of Digital Photography places emphasis on quality visuals and experiential learning. In this course, you’ll learn:

  • How to bring together the elements of manual mode to create an evocative image: shutter speed, aperture, and image composition.
  • How to choose the right gear, and develop efficient workflow.
  • How to recognize and take advantage of beautiful natural light.

John will teach you to step back from your images and think critically about your motivations, process, and ultimate goals for your photography project. You’ll learn to analyze your vision and identify areas for growth. John will also explore the difference between the world seen by the human eye and the world seen by the camera sensor. By forming an awareness of the gap between the two, you will be able to use your equipment to its greatest potential.


a Creativelive Student

Love love all John Greengo classes! Wish to have had him decades ago with this info, but no internet then!! John is the greatest photography teacher I have seen out there, and I watch a lot of Creative Live classes and folks on YouTube too. John is so detailed and there are a ton of ah ha moments for me and I know lots of others. I think I own 4 John Greengo classes so far and want to add this one and Travel Photography!! I just drop everything to watch John on Creative Live. I wish sometime soon he would teach a Lightroom class and his knowledge on photography post editing.!!! That would probably take a LOT OF TIME but I know John would explain it soooooo good, like he does all his Photography classes!! Thank you Creative Live for having such a wonderful instructor with John Greengo!! Make more classes John, for just love them and soak it up! There is soooo much to learn and sometimes just so overwhelming. Is there anyway you might do a Motivation class!!?? Like do this button for this day, and try this technique for a week, or post this subject for this week, etc. Motivation and inspiration, and playing around with what you teach, needed so much and would be so fun.!! Just saying??? Awaiting gadgets class now, while waiting for lunch break to be over. All the filters and gadgets, oh my. Thank you thank you for all you teach John, You are truly a wonderful wonderful instructor and I would highly recommend folks listening and buying your classes.


I don't think that adjectives like beautiful, fantastic or excellent can describe the course and classes with John Greengo well enough. I've just bought my first camera and I am a total amateur but I fell in love with photography while watching the classes with John. It is fun, clear, understandable, entertaining, informative and and and. He is not only a fabulous photographer but a great teacher as well. Easy to follow, clear explanations and fantastic visuals. The only disadvantage I can list here that he is sooooo good that keeps me from going out to shoot as I am just glued to the screen. :-) Don't miss it and well worth the money invested! Thank you John!


Dear John, thanks for this outstanding classes. You are not only a great photographer and instructor, but your classes are pleasant, they are not boring, with a good sense of humor, they go straight to the point and have a good time listening to you. Please, keep teaching what you like most, and I will continue to look for your classes. And thanks for using a plain English, that it's important for people who has another language as native language. Thanks again, Juan