Shutter speed and landscape photography

Why Landscape Photographers Love Shutter Speed

Aug 31, 2021

To photograph beyond an automatic camera exposure mode, a photographer must understand shutter speed's role in photography.

Simply put, shutter speed controls motion in an image. A fast enough shutter speed will freeze movement, capturing a wonderfully sharp scene. Freezing movement in an image will help the landscape photographer capture deliciously sharp details that will elevate the quality of an image. 

On the other hand, a slow shutter speed will showcase movement resulting in a slight through extreme blur and loss of detail of any movement in a scene. Artistically, the intentional use of shutter speed can infuse a memorable creative quality into a photograph that can make it unique to the photographer and the viewer. 

Shutter speed should always be considered when capturing a landscape image, even if you’re using a semi-manual mode like aperture or shutter priority. There's certainly a time and place for both short and longer shutter speeds in the world of the landscape photographer. If you're anything like me, you definitely have a bit of a love affair with experimenting with different shutter speeds. 

If experimenting with shutter speed is something new to you as a landscape photographer, let me show and tell you how you can achieve very different looks within a single scene through the use of your choice in shutter speed. 

This first image was captured with a faster shutter speed. As a result, texture and details in the water have been preserved. However, there's still a slight blur in the water in this image, and had I chosen an even faster shutter speed, for example, 1/800, I'd have likely captured no blur.

ISO 100, 35mm, f11, 1/125SS

This second image has a longer shutter speed than the first. You can still see some texture in the water, but it's beginning to become smooth and less true to what the eye sees when viewing such a scene. 

 

ISO 100, 35mm, f11, 0.4sec

This third image is oozing creativity with the use of a longer shutter speed. A dreamy look full of blurred details certainly infuses an artistic quality into the frame. I think the outcome of a simple change in shutter speed is beautifully attractive and worth standing in glacial freezing water for longer than any human should! 

ISO 31, 35mm, f22, 6sec

The images above are just simplistic examples of how shutter speed choice can impact the outcome of an image. Think of the potential in your landscape photography! Long exposure, also known as slow shutter speed, is a prevalent technique in landscape photography. Many landscape photographers love to infuse long exposures into their captures, especially when the intention is to showcase movement in elements like clouds and water.

Next time you are out photographing a landscape scene, I encourage you to experiment with shutter speeds. I think you'll fall in love with the variety and creativity you can capture within a single scene through the use of variance in shutter speed.