To support the learningsurfphotography.com site and keep it advert free, consider making your next purchase from Amazon using my affiliate link:
I make a small commission on any purchase you make that goes towards the upkeep of the website.
See all 50+ videos that make up the Learning Surf Photography Course here Free Online Surf Photography Course
- Shutter speed on Wikipedia
- Shutter speed vs focal length for hand-held photos – I suggest you ignore this rule, as we’re dealing with fast action, so we need a faster shutter speed (1/1000 is a good slowest shutter speed for surfing). I’m including it here in case you want to read up on it for non action photos
- Canon’s support page for Shutter Priority mode (Tv on the mode dial), for the EOS Rebel T2i (applicable to most Canon DSLRs)
- Nikon’s DSLR camera basics page, covering Shutter priority mode for their DSLR cameras
- Sony’s page on shutter speed and its affect on motion blur
Shutter Speed for Surf Photography
Shutter speed is an essential thing you need to know about any sort of action or sports photography, especially surf photography. In this article, I will explain what shutter speed is, how to set it, and why it matters for capturing sharp images of waves and surfers.
What is shutter speed for surf photography?
Shutter speed is literally the amount of time that your shutter stays open and allows light to hit your sensor (or your film, if you’re shooting with a film camera). You want that to be really short, so that it captures that split second of action. The shorter the shutter speed, the less motion blur you will see in your image.
How to set shutter speed for surf photography?
Most cameras have a setting which lets you select the shutter speed and let the camera figure everything else out. That’s called shutter priority mode. On your mode dial, it’s an S on Nikon and Sony cameras, and a TV on Canon cameras. So just pop it in S mode, and use the dial to select the shutter speed. The camera will adjust the aperture and ISO for you, to get the right exposure. I will talk about aperture and ISO in the next couple of videos, but for now, just focus on shutter speed.
What is the best shutter speed for surf photography?
The best shutter speed for surf photography depends on the lighting conditions and the effect you want to achieve. But as a general rule of thumb, you need a fast shutter speed to freeze the action. I’d say 1/1000th of a second is a really good target to aim for. It’s going to mean that your action is frozen, the person doing the turn is caught just like that, the wave with the lip pitching is going to be frozen where it is. You’re not going to see any blur in the image because of the long shutter speed.
If it’s bright sunshine outside, then you probably want to go for a bit of a higher shutter speed, like 1/1600th or 1/2000th of a second. But you don’t really want to go slower than 1/1000th of a second if you can help it. Sometimes, if it’s really early morning or really late in the evening, you can get away with going a bit slower, like 1/500th or 1/250th of a second. And sometimes, you really want to go a bit slower, like 1/30th or 1/15th of a second, to create some motion blur and show the movement of the wave or the surfer. I’ll get onto that later when we talk about longer exposures, but for now, just stick to fast shutter speeds.
Why does shutter speed matter for surf photography?
Shutter speed matters for surf photography because it determines how sharp or blurry your images are. You might read some guidelines for other types of photography that say you should use a shutter speed that is equal to or faster than the inverse of your focal length, to avoid camera shake. For instance, if you’re using a 50mm lens, then you should use a shutter speed of 1/50th of a second or faster. But you can disregard that for action surf photography. You just want to go as fast as possible, because you’re not only dealing with camera shake, but also with the movement of your subject and the wave.
Shutter speed is one of the most important settings for surf photography. It can make or break your photos. By using a fast shutter speed, you can freeze the action and capture the details of the surfing. By using a slow shutter speed, you can create a different effect and show some motion blur. You can use the shutter priority mode to easily control the shutter speed on your camera. Experiment with different shutter speeds and see what works best for you. Happy shooting!
Lessons related to Shutter Speed for Surf Photography
Surf Photography – Essential Knowledge
- Quick Start Settings for Surf Photography
- Shutter Speed in Surf Photography
- Aperture in Surf Photography
- ISO for Surf Photography
- Focus Modes for Surf Photography
- What You Need to Know About Equivalence for Surf Photography
- Working With Surfers
- Minimum Shutter Speed in Aperture Priority and Manual Mode