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  • Writer's pictureAbdul Qudoos

How to Change Shutter Speed on Canon Cameras


man Changing Shutter Speed on Canon camera

Tired of blurry, dark photos when shooting fast action or light trails? It's frustrating. But there's an easy fix - mastering shutter speed control on your Canon camera.


With a few simple steps, you can freeze quick motion without a blur and capture flowing light patterns. This quick guide will walk you through exactly how to change the shutter speed to solve those annoying blurry photo issues.


Understanding Shutter Speed

Before diving into changing shutter speed, it’s important to understand what it is first.


Shutter speed refers to the length of time your camera’s shutter remains open to expose the sensor to light. It’s measured in fractions of a second - for example, 1⁄125 means the shutter opens and closes in just one hundred and twenty-fifth of a second.

Combined with aperture and ISO as part of the exposure triangle, shutter speed determines how much light reaches the camera sensor to form an image. Mastering its effect allows you to have full creative control over things like exposure, motion blur, and general aesthetics.


Here's a quick primer on how different shutter speeds impact photographs:

  • Fast shutter speeds (1⁄500 sec or quicker) freeze the action and eliminate motion blur. Great for photographing sports, birds, or vehicles.

  • Slow shutter speeds (1⁄60 sec or slower) intentionally blur motion. Useful in low light or conveying a sense of movement in things like waterfalls or clouds.

  • Long exposures (1+ seconds) create ethereal blurred effects for light trails, star trails, and light painting. Generally, it requires a tripod for best results.


The key is learning how long to keep the shutter open based on the visual effect you want. This takes experimenting with different shutter speeds to see what works best for your style and subjects.


Finding Shutter Speed Controls on Canon Cameras

After understanding shutter speed values and outcomes at contrasting ends of the spectrum from 1/1000th seconds to 30 seconds, let’s explore setting changes on Canon cameras.


While most Canon models feature a Mode Dial to select specialized shooting modes, along with a Control Dial for manual settings changes, there are some variations:


Entry-Level Canon Cameras

Entry-level Canon Rebel cameras feature a large distinctive Mode Dial to switch between shooting modes. To gain manual shutter speed control, set it to:

  • M: Full Manual Mode

  • Tv: Shutter Priority


In Manual Mode, you can directly change both shutter speed and aperture.


In Shutter Priority, you set the desired shutter speed while the camera auto-adjusts the aperture for proper exposure based on the metered light.


For example, to freeze action using a fast 1/1000th speed, just rotate the Quick Control Dial directly while shooting in Manual or Shutter Priority.


Advanced Canon Cameras

Advanced Canon cameras have additional dials and inputs to provide direct physical access to shutter speed control. Although the Mode Dial offers M and Tv options similar to entry-level cameras.

  • Main Control Dial: wraps exposure settings incl. shutter speed

  • Top LCD Panel: displays the set shutter speed value

  • Rear Quick Control Screen: touch-adjust shutter here


For example, high-end Canon EOS 5D cameras feature a sophisticated rear Quick Control Screen with touch sensitivity. So you can drag to change the shutter speed visually.


Additionally, a Secondary Control Dial may be available to control parameters like ISO while the Main Dial changes the shutter speed in Manual Mode. This further aids creative flexibility.


Now let's consolidate this knowledge into a simple practical walkthrough of tweaking shutter speed step-by-step:


Step-by-Step: How to Change Shutter Speed on Canon Cameras

Follow these handy step-by-step instructions to change shutter speed values on your Canon DSLR or Mirrorless camera:


Step 1: Turn the Mode Dial to Manual (M) or Shutter Priority (Tv/S) to take over shutter speed control from the camera.


Step 2: Locate the Primary Control Dial, usually near the shutter button or on the rear. This adjusts the shutter speed (and sometimes the aperture too).


Step 3: Rotate the Control Dial left or right to decrease and increase shutter speed respectively. Note the changes on the Top LCD panel.


Step 4: Check the exposure meter visible inside the viewfinder or Live View screen. It will indicate underexposure or overexposure if the current shutter speed settings aren't adequately balanced.


Step 5: Take a test shot and review the photo. Make further tweaks if needed for your creative vision.


Pro Tip: Use Exposure Compensation instead of Control Dial if the image still appears incorrectly exposed even after appropriate shutter changes. Just press the +/- button and rotate the dial.


Let’s now move on unraveling how to wield shutter speed across diverse shooting contexts and intentionally leverage it for stunning creativity.


Fine-Tuning Shutter Speed for Better Photos

Still too bright or dark? After changing the shutter speed, use your exposure compensation feature to subtly adjust brightness. Just press the +/- symbol and turn the Main or Quick Control dial to fine-tune.


Beyond shutter speed, tweak ISO and aperture for desired exposure and effects. Raising ISO makes the sensor more light-sensitive for faster shutter speeds in dim conditions. Opening your aperture (lower f-number) also allows for more light to enable faster shutter speeds.


Consult your camera's light meter to help nail the right exposure. Canon cameras often have evaluative metering to measure the whole scene, plus spot and center-weighted modes to meter specific areas. Let the meter guide you to optimal settings.


Shutter Speed in Different Shooting Scenarios

The shutter speed you choose plays a leading role in photography. It can create or destroy a shot. Here's your guide to leveraging shutter speed creatively across common shooting situations:


Sports and Action Photography

When aiming to capture fast-moving athletes or animals, lightning-quick shutter speeds are key. Set your sights on speeds faster than 1/500th of a second. This will freeze frames and hold action steady within them. If brightness is lacking, widen your aperture or up the ISO to attain these rapid speeds, producing sharpness.


Landscapes and Low Light Photography

For sprawling landscape vistas, you’ll want to squeeze as much crispness into focus as possible. Choosing the best focal length for landscape photography can also help you capture the grandeur of the scene. Use narrow apertures (high f-numbers) to widen depth of field, bringing both fore and backgrounds into focus. This requires slower shutter speeds to account for less incoming light.


Similarly, dim lighting when shooting indoors or at night requires longer exposures for enough light to imprint the sensor. In both cases, mount your camera securely on a tripod to prevent blur-inducing camera shake. For more tips on capturing stunning landscapes, check out our guide on mastering the art of landscape photography.


Long Exposure Photography

Lengthier exposures ranging from seconds to minutes allow you to artfully convey movement within a frame. The effect magnifies over an extended time, turning flowing water into smoother patterns, clouds into swirling brush strokes, and light trails at night into dazzling Starry Night-esque spirals. Tripods are vital for sharpness, while remote releases sidestep shake from pressing buttons.


Here's a quick reference table for recommended shutter speeds in various shooting situations:

Scenario

Recommended Shutter Speed

Sports and Action

1/500 sec or faster

Landscapes (with tripod)

1/30 sec or slower

Low Light (with tripod)

1 sec or longer

Panning (for creative effect)

1/30 sec to 1/125 sec

Handheld Photography

1/focal length or faster


Creative Techniques Using Shutter Speed

Beyond straightforward uses, shutter speed affords creative ways to add visual flair:

  • Panning: Match a slow shutter with a moving subject’s speed while tracking them with your camera. The result pops your subject in sharp focus against an enveloping sense of motion in the background. For starters, experiment with speeds between 1/30 and 1/125.

  • Intentional blur: Sometimes blur carries its own beauty. Slow speeds coupled with intentionally moving your camera during an exposure can create vivid, dreamlike impressions.

  • Light painting: Make some magic in a dark scene. Use long exposures while moving a light source to literally paint or write within your images using illumination. Try light painting with flashlights, sparklers, or other bright tools.


Demystifying Common Shutter Speed Problems

While learning to master shutter speed, you’re likely to encounter some typical teething issues. From unintended blur to difficulties exposing properly, here are handy fixes:


Photos Too Bright (Overexposed)

If your images turn out persistently overexposed even after tweaking other settings, the shutter speed needs adjustment:


Quick Fix: Set a faster shutter value like 1/1000th sec to reduce the duration of light entering the camera.


Additionally, use exposure compensation or lower the ISO as a corrective measure.


Photos Too Dark (Underexposed)

Conversely, if images remain undersaturated with light perpetually, try:


Quick Fix: Choose a slower shutter value like 1/60th to allow more light to enter the sensor.

Also, expand the aperture opening (lower f-number) or boost ISO to gather more light as needed.


Unwanted Blur From Camera Shake

With slow shutter speeds, unstable handholding introduces ugly blurring. To avoid it:


Quick Fix: Engage shutter speeds no slower than the lens' focal length.

For example, at 200mm use 1/250th sec minimum. Also, activate lens Image Stabilization (if available).


When using slower speeds than this threshold, always engage a tripod without fail for maximum sharpness.


Inability to Freeze Action

Freezing erratic motion requires adequately fast shutter speeds. If the action stays blurry, use:


Quick Fix: Choose a faster shutter no slower than 1/500th sec as a starting point. For faster subjects or additional stability set shutters exceeding 1/1000th sec.


Opening the aperture wider and boosting ISO can further facilitate using fast shutters in dim lighting.


With troubleshooting guidance on common issues out of the way, let’s consolidate essential takeaways as we draw curtains on this extensive guide.


Conclusion: Key Takeaways to Remember

We’ve covered the complete guide on tackling shutter speed - from what shutter speed means, to wisely setting exposure across situations, all the way until triumphing over typical issues.


Let’s reflect on crucial lessons regarding mastering shutter speed on Canon cameras:

  • Shutter speed controls the duration of light entering the camera

  • Faster speeds freeze action, slower speeds embrace motion

  • Adjust the Main Control Dial in M or Tv modes for exposure change

  • Light Meter indicates under/overexposure to guide adjustments

  • When handholding, minimum shutter speeds exist for each focal length (1/lens focal length rule)

  • Intentionally leverage blur and stabilization for creative rewards

  • For maximum slow shutter sharpness, always use a tripod


Internalize these pointers through hands-on practice across diverse situations from action to landscapes. Creative mastery over shutter speed will elevate your visual storytelling to new heights.


Now go pick up your Canon, experiment joyfully with different shutter techniques, and make some photographs that astound!


And if you're feeling confident in your skills, why not enter some photography contests for beginners to showcase your work and get feedback from professionals?

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