How to Change Shutter Speed on Canon Cameras

If you want to take truly great photos, you’ll have to learn how to control your shutter speed. However, this is sometimes an intimidating subject for new photographers.

Luckily, changing the shutter speed is simple. You just have to switch to Tv or manual mode and change the settings on your camera’s screen.

My name is Caleb, and I’ve been a photographer for more than four years. Shutter speed was one of the first things I learned about after getting into photography, and in this article, I’ll try to demystify the topic.

If you want to know how to change the shutter speed on your Canon camera, or if you just want to know what photographers are talking about when they talk about numbers like 1/250, keep reading.

What is Shutter Speed?

Before we get into changing the shutter speed on your Canon, let’s quickly go over what it is in the first place.

Shutter speed refers to how fast or slow the camera shutter opens and closes to take the picture. Because this happens at an incredibly fast speed, shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second.

You might have heard numbers such as 1/250th, 1/1000th, or even 1/4000th mentioned by other photographers. All of these refer to shutter speed.

A shutter speed of 1/1000, for example, means the camera shutter was open for 1/1000th of a second. A fast shutter speed will have a higher denominator, while a slow one will have a lower one.

Why should you care about shutter speed at all? Well, it has a major effect on how the picture comes out. Later in the article, we’ll go over the ways shutter speed affects your photos.

First, however, I’ll explain how to change the shutter speed on your Canon camera to your liking.

How to Change Shutter Speed on Canon

Changing your shutter speed isn’t hard, and it will only take a few moments once you learn how to do it.

The first step is to make sure that you can actually change the shutter speed in your current mode. 

Automatic mode is the easiest to use, but this comes at the expense of letting your camera make most of the decisions for you. Those decisions include the shutter speed, and you won’t be able to adjust it while you’re still in automatic mode.

To adjust the shutter speed yourself, you should switch to manual or Tv on the mode dial. Manual mode will give you full control of the settings, while Tv is shorthand for shutter priority. 

In shutter priority mode, you’ll be able to change the shutter speed while leaving the rest of the settings such as aperture and ISO on automatic.

After switching modes, your shutter speed will be visible on the camera’s digital screen. Changing it is simple. 

All you have to do is press the Q button to enable changing the settings, and then adjust the shutter speed using the directional buttons. 

In manual mode, you’ll see the shutter speed as the first option available to change, with the current shutter speed written in fractional format. In shutter priority mode, shutter speed will be the only option that you can change.

What Shutter Speed Should You Use?

Your choice in shutter speed will have a major impact on how your pictures look in the end. There’s no shutter speed that’s universally the best. 

The one you should use depends on conditions such as lighting, and whether you’re shooting a stationary or a moving subject.

Shutter speed is just one part of the exposure triangle, along with aperture and ISO. If you fail to manage it well, your photos may end up over or underexposed. In layman’s terms, this means they’ll end up too light or dark.

Fast Shutter Speeds

Faster shutter speeds are great for capturing moving subjects. If you’re photographing a subject like a fast moving athlete, or a car on the highway, you’ll want to use a faster shutter speed. At faster speeds, you’ll get a much sharper image and less motion blur.

These faster speeds, though, have a tradeoff. The camera is less able to capture light with the shutter opening and closing so quickly, and the end result will come out darker as a result. 

This makes it a challenge to shoot with fast shutter speeds in conditions that are dark to begin with. If you don’t have adequate lighting, the pictures you take with these settings will probably be too dark.

Slow Shutter Speeds

On the other hand, slower shutter speeds, don’t need as much light. These shutter speeds are good for when you don’t care as much about blur, or if you’re going for that kind of effect intentionally.

You might decide to use a slower shutter speed if you’re taking a photo of a crowd and don’t care about sharply capturing the details of every person, or if you’re photographing a race car and want to use a motion blur effect to show its speed.

With that being said, it’s much easier to run into unintentional blurring when using a slow shutter speed. To avoid this, you’ll want to use a tripod to cut down on any movement while the shutter is open.

What Photographers Consider a Fast Shutter Speed

Generally, fast shutter speeds start around 1/500 and slow shutter speeds start around 1/15. 

However, the optimal settings change a lot based on your exact lighting and the kind of shot you’re trying to take. To really master using shutter speed, you’ll have to play around with the settings, different lighting, and moving objects yourself and see what works best.

FAQs

Still have questions? Here are some additional questions we get about shutter speed.

Why Is My Shutter Speed Slow?

If you’re noticing that your shutter speed is too slow, you should make sure that you’re on manual or Tv mode so you can control the setting for yourself.

What do the Shutter Speed Numbers Mean?

Shutter speed is listed in fractions of a second. 1/1000, for example, means the shutter is open for 1/1000th of a second.

Is 1/4000 Shutter Speed Fast Enough?

1/4000 is a very fast shutter speed, which should give you a clear and sharp image. That’s not to say it’s a perfect shutter speed that will work all the time. Other factors, such as lighting, are still important for figuring out the best settings in a given situation.

Conclusion

Shutter speed can be an intimidating subject for beginners, but it’s easy to learn with practice. 

If you’re used to using automatic mode, your photography would likely benefit from trying out manual or shutter priority and playing around with these settings yourself.

Still need help with your shutter speed on your Canon camera? Do you already have an ideal shutter speed? Make sure to let us know in the comments.

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