Tips and Tricks 008: Is there an ideal shutter speed to use in video?

Is there an ideal shut­ter speed to use when shoot­ing video? We have pre­vi­ously dis­cussed this topic, but we keep get­ting the same ques­tion so let’s go over this again.

The quick answer is yes, there is, and you really need to pay atten­tion to that. A sim­ple good rule of thumb is to use “twice the frame rate”. So, if you are shoot­ing at 30 frames per sec­ond then you should be using 1/60th (of a sec­ond) for your shut­ter speed. The catch (for pho­tog­ra­phers at least) is that then you “lose” one of the ele­ments of your “expo­sure tri­an­gle” hav­ing only ISO and Aper­ture to play with. We have less free­dom in terms of cam­era set­tings when it comes to exposure.

Could we use a faster shut­ter speed? Yes. Let’s say we are shoot­ing at 60 frames per sec­ond, so we set the shut­ter at 1/125th of a sec­ond. We could shoot at 1/160th or 1/250th or even faster as long as we have a lot of light. Faster shut­ter speeds would actu­ally get us bet­ter options if we are plan­ning to pull frames, as they would be sharper, but the move­ment would not look nat­ural, it would be “choppier.

Now, the faster the frame rate, the bet­ter it is for slow motion. If you’re shoot­ing at 1/30, which some­times you have to do because you do not have enough light, the move­ment will not be as smooth as if you are shoot­ing at a faster shut­ter speed. From time to time we have to sac­ri­fice shut­ter speed in order to use a smaller aper­ture and increase depth of field. A clas­sic exam­ple is when shoot­ing an inter­view with barely enough light to pro­duce a depth of field “safe enough” (around f/5.6) for the per­son to move nat­u­rally with­out risk­ing the sub­ject com­ing in and out of focus.

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, when it comes to shut­ter speed and video, we “set it and for­get it.” Ques­tions about this? Add them below.

Shutter Speed for Video_001

If you want more, here’s a some­what related arti­cle on “burst rates” for stills.