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  • Writer's pictureDragonfly Films

Shutter Speed DSLR - Still photography vs. Video

When shooting videos with a DSLR camera, one of the critical settings to master is shutter speed. Often, shutter speed is associated primarily with still photography, where it controls the exposure and motion blur. However, its role in videography is equally crucial and carries additional significance in the realm of cinematic aesthetics.

What is Shutter Speed?

Shutter speed refers to the amount of time the camera's sensor is exposed to light. In still photography, this is straightforward: a faster shutter speed freezes motion, while a slower one can create motion blur. When it comes to video, shutter speed interacts intricately with the frame rate to influence the visual quality of your footage.

The 180-Degree Rule

A fundamental principle in video production is the 180-degree rule, which suggests that the shutter speed should be approximately double the frame rate. For instance, if you're shooting at 24 frames per second (fps), your shutter speed should be around 1/48th of a second (often set to 1/50th in most DSLR cameras). This setting mimics the natural motion blur our eyes are accustomed to seeing in film, resulting in a more cinematic look.

Controlling Exposure

While shutter speed does impact exposure, its primary role in video is to manage motion blur. Many beginners adjust the shutter speed to control exposure, which can lead to undesirable effects:

  • Too Fast: If the shutter speed is too fast, such as 1/1000th of a second, the video will appear sharp but unnatural, with a jittery and staccato feel, especially during fast motion.

  • Too Slow: Conversely, a very slow shutter speed can introduce excessive motion blur, making the video look smeary and unfocused.

To maintain proper exposure without compromising the motion characteristics, use other settings like aperture and ISO, or consider using ND (neutral density) filters to reduce the light entering the lens.

Artistic Control and Motion Blur

Shutter speed in videography is not just a technical setting but a powerful artistic tool:

  • Standard Motion Blur: Following the 180-degree rule provides standard motion blur that looks natural and pleasing.

  • High Shutter Speeds: Used in action scenes to achieve a hyper-realistic, crisp look (think of the battle scenes in "Saving Private Ryan").

  • Low Shutter Speeds: Employed creatively to emphasize dreamy, surreal, or ghostly effects.

Practical Tips for Adjusting Shutter Speed

  • Match with Frame Rate: Always start by setting the shutter speed to double the frame rate.

  • Use ND Filters: In bright conditions, ND filters help maintain the desired shutter speed without overexposing the image.

  • Experiment: Different scenes and styles might benefit from varying the shutter speed. Test and review the footage to find what works best for your project.


Understanding and controlling shutter speed is crucial for any videographer aiming to produce professional-quality videos. While it affects exposure, its primary role in video is to control motion blur, thereby shaping the overall aesthetic and feel of your footage. By adhering to the 180-degree rule and making informed adjustments, you can significantly enhance the visual quality of your videos.

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