Shutter Speed Chart - Cheat Sheet for Controlling Aperture and Shutter Speed

Varvara January 01 2022

An experienced photographer knows when to choose which shutter speed, also known as exposure time. For a beginner, this is difficult. To make things a little easier for yourself, we would like to give you a brief overview of which shutter speeds are useful as a start setting for which purpose.

 In some cases, you may need to expose for a shorter or longer period, but this should usually be pretty good. With an aperture and shutter speed table, you can adjust the automatic mode while taking pictures. The shutter speed chart is especially useful for beginners.

The importance of correct shutter speed

Perhaps you have also noticed the typical noise - that somewhat mechanical click - whenever you take a photo? This is the shutter on your camera. It always opens and closes the same way, but you can adjust the speed at which it happens. And already we are at the shutter speed. But how do you set them up? Most importantly, how can she help you take better photos?

The shutter is the barrier between the camera sensor and the light that flows through the lens into the camera. Whenever you take a picture, the digital sensor is exposed to light. As soon as you press the shutter button, the shutter will open. The resulting image is recorded as long as the shutter remains open. The shutter speed tells us how long an image is exposed to light. This can be milliseconds or even minutes.

SLR cameras measure the correct exposure time and, depending on the settings (automatic program, aperture preselection or shutter speed preselection), display the aperture value and the shutter speed. 

With the two setting wheels on the right-hand side, depending on the camera model, the solution may be different, you can change the f-stop and the corresponding shutter speed is adjusted. You can also change the shutter speed and the corresponding aperture value is set.

This ensures that the image is correctly exposed even with a different aperture selection. Depending on the subject, you will focus on a large depth of field (small aperture) or the freezing of movement (short shutter speed).  

Possible uses of the shutter speed and exposure chart

If you still have an older camera model, you can determine the corresponding values ​​from the table and set them.

The comparisons of the aperture values ​​and shutter speeds will help you to get a feel for different combinations. For example, you can quickly decide in the field whether a shutter speed with a small aperture is still possible without a tripod.

Determine the combination of a small aperture for night shots

Let’s imagine that you want to take a night shot. At f / 4 you have to expose the picture for the 30s. Now you want to take advantage of the star effect of the small aperture f / 22. How long do you have to expose the picture? Follow the diagonal line to the bottom right. You would have to expose the picture for 16 minutes.

Determine aperture and shutter speed with a gray filter

Let’s imagine you want to blur the water of a river with a slow shutter speed contol. The camera is set to the lowest value ISO 100 and measures a shutter speed of 1 / 60s with the largest possible aperture f / 22. That's not enough to blur the river water. 

With your neutral density filter, you can reduce the exposure values ​​by two levels. Find the field at the intersection of column f / 22 and row 1 / 60s. Now slide the shutter speed down two steps. With the gray filter and aperture f / 22 you can work with an exposure time of 1 / 15s. 

That could just be enough for a wipe effect. A gray filter with two levels of light quantity reduction would be better.

Aperture and shutter speed chart: How to read combinations

If you want to work with manual settings, first measure a value with the automatic camera. This results in, for example, f / 11 and 1 / 125s. 

Find the field at the intersection of column f / 11 and row 1 / 125s. You meet a light gray field. On the diagonal line with the same shade of gray, you can now look for other combinations of settings that also give a correctly exposed image: f / 4 and 1 / 1000s.

Alternative: You use a smartphone app such as PhotoPills.

Full Stops 1/2 Stops 1/3 Stops
1/8000 1/8000 1/8000
1/4000 1/4000 1/4000
1/2000 1/2000 1/2000
1/1000 1/1000 1/1000
1/500 1/500 1/500
1/250 1/250 1/250
1/125 1/125 1/125
1/60 1/60 1/60
1/30 1/30 1/30
1/15 1/15 1/15
1/8 1/8 1/8
  1/6 1/6
1/4 1/4 1/4
  0.3 0.3
0.5 0.5 0.5
1 1 1
2 2 2
4 4 4

Lens influence on shutter speed

In addition to the subject, you also have to consider the lens used. The longer the focal length, the shorter the shutter speed must be selected in order to get sharp photos freehand, i.e. without a tripod. Any crop factor that may be present can have an additional effect. There is a simple formula for this:

1 / (focal length x crop factor) = (maximum) shutter speed

For example, based on an 85mm focal length and a Canon APS-C camera, we receive the following calculation:

1/85 x 1.6 = 1/136

1/136 does not exist, here only the next shorter exposure time is used, i.e. 1/250. With longer exposure times, the risk of blurry photos is very high.

Final recommendation

If you are still unsure about the shutter speed, then use the shutter speed table to correct and then set the shutter speed for the appropriate subject.

Ideally, you should use your camera's automatic iris for this, when you specify the shutter speed and the aperture is set automatically. 

In addition, you also set the ISO to AUTO. So you are always on the safe side and can also experiment well with the shutter speed without having to keep an eye on the other factors.

Photographs may freeze and capture a moment in time, but thanks to the shutter speed they can still give an idea of the movement in it. A short shutter speed captures even the fastest movements and freezes them razor-sharp in the moment. A slow shutter speed, on the other hand, allows you to depict blurred subjects. Once you understand this principle, a world of creative possibilities and the potential of different photographs open up for you.