No matter what experience level, you should understand “Minimum Shutter Speed” or “Safe Shutter Speed”.

How to calculate the Safe Shutter Speed?

Although the concept of Safe Shutter Speed is very important, it is pretty straight forward to calculate the value:

Safe Shutter Speed (s) = 1 / focal length

As you can see from the above formula, the safe shutter speed you should use is related to the focal length you are using. For beginner, you can find the focal length from your lens (i.e. the zoom-in and zoom-out area). For example if you are shooting a bird on a tree, with zooming to 200mm, the Safe Shutter Speed is 1/200 second. While you are taking another photo with 80mm focal length, the safe shutter speed is 1/80 second. Pretty easy, isn’t it?

However, the story does not end here.

“Minimum” Safe Shutter Speed

From the simple formula above, the value can be calculated by simply dividing 1 by focal length. When you are using 18mm focal length, does it mean that the safe shutter speed is 1/18 second? Not really! Because our body (hand) is constantly moving, the minimum shutter speed to overcome our body movement is 1/60 second. So no matter how wide your focal length is (e.g. 35mm, 18mm, 12mm etc), you have to maintain your shutter speed to 1/60s or faster in order to take a sharp photo.

Let’s have a simple summary to help you fully understand:

  1. Focal length = 300mm. Safe Shutter Speed = 1/300s or faster.
  2. Focal length = 100mm. Safe Shutter Speed = 1/100s or faster.
  3. Focal length = 80mm. Safe Shutter Speed = 1/80s or faster.
  4. Focal length = 50mm. Safe Shutter Speed = 1/60s or faster.
  5. Focal length = 18mm. Safe Shutter Speed = 1/60s or faster.
  6. Focal length = 12mm. Safe Shutter Speed = 1/60s or faster.

To conclude, if you want to take a sharp image by hand-held, the first step is to keep your Safe Shutter Speed. Later we will talk about other important factors for shooting a sharp photo. Stay tuned!


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Author: Alex Tam