In the second of our series of blogs, delving deeper into the technical side of photography, we will focus on shutter speed. As mentioned before this forms part of the  exposure triangle – with the other two elements being ISO and aperture. To read more about aperture please visit our previous blog here.

So what is Shutter Speed?

A camera takes a photograph by exposing a digital sensor (or a piece of film) to light. The shutter keeps light out when you’re not taking a photo. When you press the button at the top of the camera (called the shutter release) the shutter will open and record an image. When it closes the camera will stop recording. Shutter speed refers to the length of time your camera’s shutter stays open for – this could be anything from milliseconds to a few minutes.

How do we use this to great effect  in food photography?

In food and drink photography shutter speed can play an important role in adding certain effects to your image. Using a fast shutter speed will freeze motion allowing you, for example, to capture the droplets of water on a glass, or the smoke rising from a pan.


Slower shutter speeds introduce blur from two sources: camera movement (camera shake) and subject movement. This effect could be useful for use at busy food festival when you want to blur the people walking about. The image below shows the different effects you can gain from controlling the speed of the shutter – the image on the left has a much slower speed than the one on the right.

Shutter speeds are typically written as a fraction or a whole number (eg 1/15 = a fifteenth of a second). The higher the bottom number, the faster your shutter speed.

Shutter speed along with ISO and Aperture can also effect how light or dark an image is. If the shutter stays open for longer then more light will get in than if it was only open for a short time. In general, higher shutter speeds are better for daytime photography, whereas lower shutter speeds are ideal for night photos.

Remember that when you are thing about what shutter speed to use, you also have to take into account the other two elements of the exposure triangle as these all combine to play an important role in your final image. Keep your eyes peeled for our next blog on ISO and in the meantime if you have any questions then we would love to hear them in the comments below.