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This post was most recently updated on Feb 13th, 2022

Are you looking to take some portraits and are wondering what shutter speed is best?

Perhaps you have found your portraits to be a little blurry and want to know how to combat this? Or maybe you are curious and want to know more? Whatever your reason might be, we have the answer for you! 

When taking portraits, we all want our photographs to be perfect, don’t we? We want to capture the subject beautifully, ensuring that any detail we want to hone in on is clear and that the image has sharp and well-defined lines.

The last thing we want is a blurry photograph, but that seems to be what we wind up with. Before you know it, all of your portraits are blurry disasters, and you begin to wonder if you should swap to surrealism or abstract work instead. 

What Shutter Speed Is Best Used For Portraits

And what is the cause of this? Usually, your shutter speed is the unknown and confusing setting on your camera that is sure to trip you up.

Well, no more! Today we are here with all the answers you need. Keep reading to find out what shutter speed is best for taking portraits and plenty of other tips that are sure to transform your portraits into successes. Keep reading to find out more. 

What Is Shutter Speed?

Before we dive in, let’s have a recap for those in the room that need it. Shutter speed is the speed the camera shutter closes at. Shutter speed allows you to freeze time, with faster shutter speeds opening and closing quickly, offering you a slice of the action that is happening. 

The slower the shutter speed means more time is taken to open and close the shutter, taking your shot.

These slower speeds allow the aperture to let more light in and are fantastic for shooting in dimmer-lit locations. 

However, the longer your shutter speed is, the more motion can affect your shot, even in portrait work.

A blink, a twitch, shoulders, and chest moving as the subject breathes can all be caught when shooting slower shutter speeds. It’s these slight motions that can make your shot blurry and ruin your photograph. 

Thankfully, shutter speeds can be adjusted, allowing you to find the perfect speed for your photograph. You might find that you need to adjust your shutter speed frequently, especially if you take a range of different styles of photographs. 

You can find your shutter speed in your camera’s settings and make the necessary adjustments.

If you find yourself struggling, be sure to consult your camera’s user manual for more information and guidance.

Alternatively, there are many tutorials online you can use to find out how to adjust your shutter speed. As each camera is different, we recommend searching for the make and model of your camera followed by shutter speed or settings to find the tutorials that are right for you. 

Now that we have covered shutter speed, let’s see which speed is best for portraits!

What Shutter Speed Is Best Used For Portraits?

When shooting portraits, you will want a fast shutter speed to prevent any motion from blurring your shot. Blurred portraits often result from slower shutter speeds rather than a wobbly tripod or unsteady hands. Fast shutter speeds will help to keep the image sharp and help to deliver the perfect portrait. 

Ideally, you will want a shutter speed of 1/15th or 1/8th of a second working with adults or teens.

These shutter speeds are perfect for subjects that aren’t moving a lot or making large hand gestures. These subjects are more likely to stay still, reducing the chance of blurred photographs. 

What shutter speed is best used for portraits?

When deciding which shutter speed to use, it’s always best to consider the subject in front of you.

Some adults might make more movements than others, and in these cases, you will want to opt for an even faster shutter speed to block as many of these out! It’s the same when photographing children. 

Typically, children tend to move around and fidget more than adults, so that you will want a faster shutter speed.

A speed of 1/125th is a good starting point, although you might need to go higher depending on the subject. You will also want to use faster shutter speeds when photographing group portraits. 

The more people you have in your shot, the more motion you will have to contend with. Faster shutter speeds here will work to your advantage, although you might need to take a few shots to ensure everyone’s eyes are open! 

When setting your shutter speed, consider if you are shooting with a tripod or holding the camera yourself. Your tripod will keep a camera steady at any shutter speed, so you don’t need to worry too much about this.

However, if you are taking a photograph and holding the camera, you will want to consider any movements you make and how they could make the image blurry. You might need to speed the shutter speed up to combat any excess movement that could make the image blurry. 

Now that we have covered the ideal shutter speeds for perfect portraits let’s take a quick look at some tips and other factors you will want to consider when shooting portrait photographs. 

Additional Tips For Portrait Photography 

When photographing portraits, the shutter speed isn’t the only thing that can impact your portrait. You will also want to consider white balance and ISO, which can be impacted by adjusting the shutter speed on your camera. 

You might find you need to adjust these settings too to ensure that you have the highest image quality possible. You will want to set your ISO as low as possible to remove excess noise in your photographs and adjust the white balance as needed to ensure that your image is still bright enough, despite the faster shutter speed. 

It can take some time to perfect these, so don’t be afraid to experiment and play around with the settings until you find the perfect combination for your shots. After adjusting the settings a few times, you will find that this becomes quicker, and you can harmonize the settings easily. 

Here is a list of some other tips too that will allow you to take the perfect portrait:

  • Use a tripod when you and the subjects aren’t moving for added clarity 
  • Shoot your photographs in manual mode 
  • Choose a lens that will flatter your subject like a short telephoto lens
  • Adjust your focus mode to a single point 
  • Shoot a single shot in drive mode 
  • Opt for an aperture that will take your background out of focus, such as f/2 – f/4 for single subjects and f/5.6 – f/8 for groups 
  • Use either a cable release or remote trigger. 

Try out one or a combination of these tips and see if they help you take better and sharper portraits. You will be surprised how even slight adjustments can make a massive difference. 

Final Thoughts 

And there you have it, a shutter speed of at least 1/15th for single adults and 1/125th for groups and children will result in the best portraits. You can enjoy sharper images with no blurriness that you and your clients are sure to love!

Be sure to try out some of our other tips for better results and check out online tutorials to see how you can get the best out of your camera!