[Kodak Logo] [Camera Care & Handling]
Introduction
Loading and Unloading Cameras
Focusing
Camera Holding and Camera Types
Exposure Controls
Depth of Field
Helpful Handling Habits

Guide to Better Pictures

Choosing the Best Combination of
f-Number and Shutter Speed


There are many combinations of shutter speed and lens opening that will allow the same amount of light to reach the film for proper exposure. These are known as equivalent exposures. If you change from one shutter speed to the next higher speed, this lets half as much light expose the film. You should keep the total amount of light — the exposure — the same by opening the lens to the next larger lens opening. It also works the other way around. If you change to the next slower shutter speed, which lets in twice as much light, you should use the next smaller lens opening to let in the same amount of light as before.

Besides obtaining the proper exposure, you might want to use a particular combination of lens opening and shutter speed for three good reasons:

  1. To reduce the effects of camera motion. A good, general-purpose shutter speed to achieve this is 1/125 second. A higher shutter speed of 1/250 second may even produce sharper pictures. With telephoto lenses even higher shutter speeds may be necessary.

  2. To stop action. A shutter speed of 1/125 second helps stop the action of someone walking, for instance. However, there may be times when you want to use a higher shutter speed to stop fast action, such as a person running.

  3. To control depth of field. By using a small or a large lens opening with the appropriate shutter speed to maintain the correct exposure, you can increase or decrease the range of sharp focus or the depth of field.

A chart showing how focal length affects shutter speed This chart illustrates how focal length affects shutter speed.

Selecting the Shutter Speed

Selecting the f-number

Lens Opening Guidelines Examples 50 mm f/2 Lens Normal Focal Length
Maximum for lens Good for obtaining enough exposure in poor lighting conditions, such as existing light. Minimum depth of field — very shallow. Poorest image quality for specific lens. f/2
One stop smaller than maximum lens opening Good for obtaining enough exposure in poor lighting. Shallow depth of field. Helpful to throw background out of focus to concentrate attention on subject. Good image quality. f/2.8
Two and three stops smaller than maximum lens opening Best image quality for specific lens. Better depth of field than with larger lens openings. Good for limited distance range of sharp focus. Good for obtaining proper exposure when lighting conditions are less than optimum, such as on cloudy days or in the shade. f/4 and f/5.6
Two stops larger than minimum lens opening Moderate depth of field. Good all around lens opening to use for outdoor daylight pictures. Excellent image quality. f/8
One stop larger than minimum lens opening Great depth of field. Good all around lens opening to use for outdoor daylight conditions. Excellent image quality. f/11
Minimum for lens Maximum depth of field. Very slight loss of sharpness due to optical effects. When maximum depth of field is important, the benefits from increased depth of field with this lens opening outweigh the disadvantages from an almost imperceptible loss in sharpness. f/16

Note: It's important to hold your camera steady for all the shutter speeds recommended for handholding. You can also use slower shutter speeds than those mentioned for telephoto lenses when you put your camera on a firm support like a tripod. If in doubt about stopping the action, use the highest shutter speed you can for the conditions.

* See your camera manual for recommended shutter speeds for flash pictures.

Selecting the Shutter Speed

Shutter Speed Guidelines
B (Bulb) Use camera support, such as a tripod. Shutter remains open as long as shutter release is depressed. Good for obtaining great depth of field with small lens openings in outdoor night scenes, for photographing fireworks and lightning, and for recording streak patterns from moving lights at night, such as automobile traffic. Long exposures can cause an overall color cast with color films.
1 second and 1/2 second Use camera support, such as a tripod. Good for obtaining great depth of field with small lens openings and enough exposure under dim lighting conditions, such as existing light or photolamps. Good for photographing inanimate objects and stationary subjects. These shutter speeds can cause a very slight color cast with some color films.
1/4 second Use camera support. Maximum slow shutter speed for portraits of adults. Good for obtaining great depth of field with small lens openings and enough exposure under dim lighting conditions. Good for stationary subjects.
1/8 second Use camera support. Better shutter speed than 1/4 second for photographing adults at close range. Good for obtaining great depth of field with small lens openings and enough exposure under dim lighting conditions. Good for stationary subjects.
1/15 second Use camera support. Some people can handhold their camera using this shutter speed with a normal or wide-angle lens on the camera. This is possible if the camera is held very steady during the exposure. Good for obtaining increased depth of field with small lens openings and enough exposure under dim lighting conditions, such as existing light.
1/30 second Slowest recommended shutter speed for handholding your camera with a normal or wide-angle lens. Camera must be held very steady for sharp pictures. Good all around shutter speed for existing-light photography. Good for obtaining increased depth of field with small lens openings on cloudy days or in the shade.
1/60 second Good shutter speed to use for daylight pictures outdoors when the lighting conditions are less than ideal, such as on cloudy days, in the shade, or for backlighted subjects. Useful shutter speed for increasing depth of field with a smaller lens opening. Also, good shutter speed to use for brighter existing-light scenes. Less chance of camera motion spoiling the picture than with 1/30 second. Recommended shutter speed* for electronic flash with many SLR cameras.
1/125 second Best all around shutter speed to use for outdoor daylight pictures. Produces good depth of field with medium to small lens openings under bright lighting conditions, minimizes the effects from slight camera motion, and stops some moderate kinds of action, such as people walking, children playing, or babies not holding still. This is the minimum safe shutter speed for handholding your camera with a short telephoto lens, such as those shorter in focal length than 105 mm. Recommended shutter speed* for electronic flash with some SLR cameras.
1/250 second Good for stopping moderately fast action like runners, swimmers, bicyclists at a medium speed, running horses at a distance, parades, running children, sailboats, or baseball and football players moving at a medium pace. Good all around shutter speed for outdoor daylight pictures when you don't require great depth of field and you want to stop some action. Helps minimize the effects of camera motion. Good shutter speed to use for handholding your camera with a telephoto lens up to 250 mm in focal length.
1/500 second Good for stopping fast action like fast moving runners, running horses at a medium distance, divers, fast moving bicyclists, moving cars in traffic, or basketball players. A good shutter speed to use for stopping all but the fastest kinds of action. Gives better depth of field with the appropriate lens opening than 1/1000 second. Excellent shutter speed to use with telephoto lenses. Good for lenses up to 400 mm in focal length with a handheld camera.
1/1000 second Good shutter speed for stopping fast action like race cars, motorcycles, airplanes, speedboats, field and track events, tennis players, skiers and golfers, for example. This shutter speed gives little depth of field because it requires a large lens opening. Excellent shutter speed to use with long telephoto lenses up to 400 mm in focal length with a handheld camera.
1/2000 second Best shutter speed for stopping fast action like motor sports, racquet games, and other endeavors where movement may be quicker than the eye. This shutter speed requires the largest lens opening and gives the least depth of field. Outstanding shutter speed for use with long telephoto lenses up to 400 mm in focal length with a handheld camera.

* See your camera manual for recommended shutter speeds for flash pictures.


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