Controlling Your Camera’s Shutter Speed


Have you ever seen a cool shot of kids jumping into a pool and whomever was taking the photo captured them before they are fully submerged, water droplets are frozen midair all around them like little diamonds from the splash? So cool, right? And then you try and it’s just a big blur? I feel you! I’ve been so frustrated that I was tempted to just huck my camera in the pool with them! Before you destroy your camera though, if I can figure this out, I know you can too! I’m going to walk you though how to get that frozen action shots!

Fast Shutter Speed

(Shutter Speed 1/1600th of a second)

Understanding Shutter Speed

The first thing you need to know about is your Shutter Speed. Shutter Speed is measured by a fraction of a second (ex. 1/640th or 640).  The higher that number or denominator, the faster the shutter. If you put your camera in the Shutter Priority Mode (S or Tv) on your Mode Dial and move the dial on the on either the top of the back of your camera, you should see a number changing when you look at the top or back of your camera but also when you look through the view finder. Depending on your camera, it will either show it as a fraction or as just the denominator.

Most cameras have a range from 1/4000 (very fast) all the way down to 30 seconds shown as 30”. The little quote marks indicate full seconds and are therefore a very slow shutter speed. For frozen action such as our example of the kids jumping into a pool, you want to set your shutter speed to be a fast shutter, i.e. high number. A good place to start is 1/800th of a second or 800. If there is any in the action, just up the shutter speed. If your images are too dark, bump up the ISO to 1600. (More info on ISO here).

Burst Mode

It’s also very handy to have your camera set to “burst” or “continuous” so that you can just keep your finger on the shutter button and the camera will continue to take images while your finger is pressing down. Some cameras have the option of continuous high (CH)or continuous low (CL). I tend to leave mine on continuous low usually so that it doesn’t fill up my card too quickly but in a situation like the kids jumping into the pool, you want as many frames per second as your camera will allow! So continuous high would be the best choice.


The kind of SD or CL card you have can also affect how fast your camera can take images because it will allow the camera to read the image and store it quickly. Look for cards with a 60MB/s or higher for a faster “write rate”.

It’s so fun when you get frozen action because the camera will capture what your eye can’t see! It’s worth playing with and practicing until you get the shot you’re after. Good luck getting that frozen action!