A simple and basic guide to shutter speed for sharper pictures! (My guide to aperture can be found here)
Shutter speed is the speed at which the camera opens the shutter (the little flap inside your camera that opens just enough to let some light through when you click) and lets the light fall on the sensor/film to record the picture.
Shutter speed is important to your photographs as the quicker the shutter speed, the sharper the image will be. You will have noticed that some of your pictures are blurry, we all have stacks of them.. this is primarily because we just didn’t set the shutter speed high enough – or let the camera choose the settings on auto and wonder why the pictures are blurry. With an SLR camera, or even some modern compact cameras you use the ‘Shutter Priority’ mode – which enables you to completely control the speed at which the shutter opens.
So if you are shooting general photographs with a lens no longer than about 100m, then 1/125th second will be enough. this number ‘1/125’ is the physical speed of the shutter – it will let light through for precisely one hundred and twenty fifths of a second. If you are trying to photograph something fast moving you need a shutter speed much faster than that. If you have a very steady pair of hands you may be able to go as low as 1/60th of a second, or even 1/30th.
You really must use a tripod for anything longer than that. If you can use a tripod you can leave the shutter open as long as you want – or as long as your camera will let you – for those long night time shots, or the blurred waterfall shots that you see. When I am doing jewellery photography I use 1/125ths of a second to get the right exposure from my studio lights.