top of page

          Aperture & Shutter settings


                                              By Eugene struthers

Understanding the Aperture settings & Shutter speeds.


Shutter speeds


Definition: The speed at which the shutter of the camera opens and closes to allow in light. Expressed on the controls as the denominator of the fraction. i.e. "500" is equal to 1/500 of a second.


Shutter speed is measured in seconds – or in most cases fractions of seconds. The bigger the denominator the faster the speed (ie 1/1000 is much faster than 1/30).



The following list provides an overview of common photographic uses for standard shutter speeds.


1/8000 s: The fastest speed available in production SLR cameras as of 2009. Used to take sharp photographs of very fast subjects, such as birds or planes, under good lighting conditions, with an ISO number of 1,000 or more and a large aperture lens.


1/4000 s: The fastest speed available in prosumer SLR cameras as of 2009. Used to take sharp photographs of fast subjects, such as sportspeople or vehicles, under good lighting conditions and with an ISO setting of up to 800.


1/2000 s and 1/1000 s: Used to take sharp photographs of moderately fast subjects under normal lighting conditions.1/1000 s: is the slowest speed that will reliably prevent image shake in unstabilized handheld shots.


1/500 s and 1/250 s: Used to take sharp photographs of people in motion in everyday situations. 1/250 s is the fastest speed useful for panning; it also allows for a larger aperture (up to f/11) in motion shots, and hence for a narrower depth of field.1/125 s: This speed, and longer ones are no longer useful for freezing motion.


1/125 s: is used to obtain greater depth of field and overall sharpness in landscape photography, and is also often used for panning shots. It requires a camera with image stabilization to be used effectively for handheld shots.


1/60 s: Used for panning shots, for images taken under dim lighting conditions, and for available light portraits.


1/30 s: Used for panning subjects moving slower than 30 miles per hour (48 km/h) and for available light photography. Images taken at this and slower speeds normally require a tripod or other camera support to be sharp.


1/15 s and 1/8 s: This and slower speeds are useful for photographs other than panning shots where motion blur is employed for deliberate effect, or for taking sharp photographs of immobile subjects under bad lighting conditions with a tripod-supported camera.


1/4 s, 1/2 s and 1 s: Also mainly used for motion blur effects and/or low-light photography, but only practical with a tripod-supported camera.


1 minute to several hours: Used with a mechanically fixed camera in astrophotography and for certain special effects.


The longer exposures ( like 1 second ) give much more light to the film than a 1/1000 of a second exposure. So even though the number may look bigger, don't be deceived!




A half second exposure is ONE STOP darker than a one-second exposure.


A 1/125 exposure is TWO STOPS brighter than a 1/500 exposure.


A 1/1000 exposure is THREE STOPS darker than a 1/125 exposure.

Aperture settings


The aperture is basically the size of the opening that allows light to go through the lens. This is expressed in f/stops (aperture values), given the range from max (large at f/2.8) to minimum (small at f/8).


Put simply:- a small f/value (f/2.8) indicates a large aperture.


A large f/value (f/8) indicates a small aperture.


Thus a large aperture gives a shallow depth of field, and a small aperture gives a great depth of field.


So if you only want the subject the lens focuses on to be sharp and everything in the background to be out of focus as in the case of a portrait whereby the background is slightly blurred. Then a large aperture would be used.


If you require all of the details in the ground and foreground to be in focus, a small aperture would be used.


But I have a digital camera and it is hard to estimate the scale of Aperture to use. Easy, no worries! Digital cameras have a Portrait and landscape scene mode. Manual manipulation of the settings will allow the aperture f/value to be adjusted and previewed on the LCD screen.


Mmmmmm! large, small and f/ values, aperture I’m lost.


I just wanna take pictures of castles and baby kittens.


Don’t worry. I have written a step by step technical guide out-lining the basics and more advanced steps required to get your head around these important terms whilst putting them into day to day practical examples.




moving from f16 to f8 is: TWO STOPS brighter.


moving from f5.6 to f8 is: ONE STOP darker


moving from f4 to f2.8 is: ONE STOP brighter


Every step in this table » represents a ONE STOP change in light.

         See you all

next month

bottom of page