What Shutter Speed to Use for Sports Photography?

In sports photography, you should use a fast shutter speed whenever you can. A shutter speed of 1/1000 or higher is ideal if you’re trying to capture athletes in motion.

I’m Caleb, and I’ve been a photographer for more than four years. My specialty is sports photography, and I’ve shot games ranging from the semi-pro to the college level. 

In this article, I’ll examine shutter speed and the ideal settings for shooting sporting events. If you’re getting into sports photography, keep reading to learn about this critical setting.

What Is Shutter Speed?

Before getting into what the best shutter speed is, we should stop and take a look at how shutter speed works in the first place.

Shutter speed measures how long the camera shutter is open after you press the shutter button. It’s measured in fractions of a second, so a shutter speed of 1/500 is 1/500th of a second, and so on.

A higher second number indicates a faster shutter speed. What difference does a fast shutter speed make? 

A faster setting results in sharper images, giving the effect of “freezing” the action, while a slower setting allows more blur. 

Faster shutter speeds also require more light to avoid underexposure, as the shutter is open for less time to allow light in. Thanks to that, you lose some brightness from the present lighting when you take a photo with a fast shutter speed.

Both fast and slow shutter speeds are useful, and which one is the best largely depends on your specific type of photography and what kind of look you’re going for.

What Shutter Speed Should I Use for Sports Photography?

In sports photography, you usually want the fastest shutter speed you can get without your photos coming out underexposed. That’s because the goal in sports photography is usually to freeze the action.

An ideal shutter speed is 1/1000 or faster. Of course, this might not always be possible. To shoot at a shutter speed like this, you’ll probably need a higher-end lens with a wide aperture, such as f/2.8.

That’s because a wide aperture allows more light into the lens, avoiding underexposure. With a wider aperture, you can shoot at a faster shutter speed without the photo turning out too dark.

If you don’t have a high-end lens like this, you can get away with shooting at a shutter speed slower than 1/1000. But the lower you go, the more you risk not freezing the action and getting blurry results.

Personally, I wouldn’t dip below 1/500. And even that is more of a bare minimum than an ideal number. You can get some good shots at 1/500, but you’ll probably have some photos turn out too blurry.

When Should I Use a Slower Shutter Speed?

Most of the time, in sports photography, your goal is to freeze the action. There are certain sports, however, where it can look good to show motion instead. You can do this by shooting at a slower shutter speed than the usually recommended ones.

For example, if you’re shooting motorsports, you might want to show the speed of the vehicles with a motion blur effect.

This type of photography is harder to learn and master, however, as you have to balance clarity and blur instead of just freezing the action. 

Blur can help show motion, but you still need enough sharpness for the viewer to easily make out the photo’s details.

Most sports don’t need this type of slow shutter speed photography, but it can be useful if speed and motion are critical elements of the sport and require emphasis.


Here are some other questions about shutter speed and ideal settings.

What Shutter Speed Should I Use For Indoor Sports?

The ideal shutter speed settings don’t really change based on whether you’re indoors or outdoors. Because of less lighting at many indoor venues, you may have to use a slightly slower shutter speed.

What ISO Should I Use?

You should use the lowest ISO that you can without underexposing your photos. But if you’re faced with raising your ISO or lowering your shutter speed, increasing the ISO is usually a good idea. More grain is better than a blurry photo.


In sports photography, you should generally use the fastest shutter speed you can without your photos becoming underexposed. Ideally, 1/1000 or faster is an excellent setting to use. 

If you can’t manage this because of your gear or the lighting conditions, I recommend at least staying at or above 1/500.

Do you do sports or action photography? What shutter speed do you usually shoot with? Tell us in the comments!

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