What is the Slowest Shutter Speed Without a Tripod?

The shutter speed on your camera is the key to capturing a sharp image with minimal blur. The higher the shutter speed, the less likely you’ll get an out-of-focus picture. What do you do if there’s no tripod around? What is the slowest shutter speed without a tripod? This article will help answer that question!

When shooting with our DSLR camera, we may occasionally get blurred photographs, which can be caused by a variety of factors. 

The most obvious cause is a moving subject or excessive camera movement. Unless you’re trying to purposefully blur motion photographs for special effects, we want to take photographs as sharply as possible as photographers.

However, there are occasions when, no matter how hard we attempt to keep the camera motionless when capturing a static image, the resultant image isn’t as crisp as you’d want, especially when zoomed in.

The problem is known as camera shake, and though there are various causes for it, one of the most prevalent is too low shutter speed.

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What is Shutter speed?

What is Shutter speed?
Shutter speed

Shutter speed is the length of time that a camera shutter remains open to expose the light and create, either on film or digitally, an image. The longer the exposure from one side to another, in this case, the more blurry your captured images will be if you don’t have something steady like a tripod.

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Every photographer will eventually find themselves on an occasion where they need to take pictures with too low of a shutter speed and no tripod but there are ways around this issue! The problem is known as “camera shake” and affects the images in a variety of ways.

When the shutter is low, hand holding the DSLR often results in an unintentionally fuzzy shot. Getting perfect clarity in a shot with a slow shutter time is quite challenging, as well as images that have not been properly focused on the subject or are out of focus from camera shake (even more pronounced if you don’t use auto-focus). 

What’s worse is that your camera lens can scratch easily without proper protection so be sure to always keep it covered!

Not only does having shaky hands ruin an image but they could also lead to potential injury if there isn’t something supporting them like a tripod.

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How to Calculate the Slowest Shutter Speed for your Camera?

(The Focal Length vs. Shutter Speed Rule)

Focal Length vs. Shutter Speed
Focal Length vs. Shutter Speed

Camera shake occurs when the camera is accidentally shaken while pressing the shutter button or when the hands are unstable, resulting in a blurry image or one with low clarity. 

Unless you use a tripod, no matter how careful we are or how hard we try to keep the camera motionless, there will always be some movement when we hit the shutter button.

Because using a tripod isn’t always an option, we employ quicker shutter rates to reduce image blurring caused by camera shake. Using quick shutter speeds in low light settings, on the other hand, will result in a picture that is darkened by the shadows. To solve this, apply the formula for a minimum shutter speed equal to the reciprocal of the focal length.

So technically, that is: Minimum Shutter Speed (sec) = 1 / Focal Length (mm)

For Example:

-When using a 100mm lens on a full frame camera, the slowest shutter speed you may safely handhold is 1/100.

-A minimum shutter speed of 1/400 is suggested when using a 400mm lens.

-The slowest shutter speed with a 200mm lens is 1/200 sec.

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Why Focal Length and Shutter Speed are Related?

Focal Length and Shutter Speed
Focal Length and Shutter Speed

The longer the focal length, the slower your shutter speed needs to be for a sharp picture.

If you double your focal length but maintain all other camera settings at their defaults, you will need an eight times faster shutter speed to avoid blur from camera shake.

For example, A 50mm lens on full-frame is equivalent to 100mm on APS/C sensor or 150mm on Micro Four Thirds sensor; so if using default parameters like 800 ISO with 200th sec., then we would need 400 ISO with 100th sec. to avoid blur from camera shake

For hand-holding cameras without a tripod: Longer focal lengths require a shutter speed of at least the reciprocal of the focal length for a sharp result. 

For example, if you shoot with a 200mm lens on a full-frame camera, then your shutter speed should be no slower than 50th sec., or 100th sec. with an APS/C sensor in order to avoid blur from handholding; and 20thsec.

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How Crop Factor Affects the Shutter Speed Rule

Crop Factor Affects the Shutter Speed Rule
Crop Factor Affects the Shutter Speed Rule

When photographers discuss different focal lengths, they usually refer to the focal length of a full-frame camera

If you’re using a DSLR with an APS-C (or “crop sensor”) sensor, multiply the focal length by 1.5 (Nikon, Fuji, or Sony crop sensor) or 1.6 (Canon crop sensor) to get the comparable focal length. When used on a full frame camera, a 50mm lens is 50mm. 

When mounted on an APS-C sensor, however, it has a focal length of around 75mm.

Simply perform the computation for the 1/ focal length rule on your own, then determine the comparable focal length before using the rule regularly. 

So, if your lens is magnified to 40mm, a shutter speed of 1/40 is required (which is the rule for a full frame shutter speed calculation). 

You’ll obtain a result of 60 if you multiply 40mm by 1.5 (the crop factor for your crop sensor). You’ll need a shutter speed of at least 1/60 if you use the 1/focal length guideline.

However, don’t make sharpness a math problem. The 1/focal length rule is a GENERAL guideline, not a scientific formula. It only serves as a starting point.

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So, when hand-holding the camera, what is the slowest shutter speed you may use? It resides somewhere between 1/80 and 1/50 of a second in my professional experience. I’m certain that shooting at 1/80 of a second will result in no blur. 

Several folks I know can shoot at 1/50 of a second with no visible blur. Your neighbor or a buddy may not be the same as you or me. This does not make it accurate or incorrect. It simply indicates that there is a limit to how far we can go.

Without using a tripod, setting your shutter speed to the same number as your focal length is a good technique to improve the clarity of your photographs. 

If you’re using a 50mm lens, keep your shutter speed around 1/50 of a second. If you’re using a 200mm lens, try not to take photos faster than 1/200 of a second. 

The greater the distance between you and your subject, the longer the focal length you’ll require.

With longer focal lengths, a quicker shutter speed is required. This is due to the fact that the image shakes and moves in the frame more when you zoom close. You’ll have to compensate for this by using a quicker shutter speed.

Even the tiniest movement might completely distort your vision. This might happen as a result of simple breathing or merely standing. 

If you’re using a DSLR, you can find out what focal length you have simply peering down the barrel of the lens. A series of numbers surrounds your lens. 

If you have a lens that goes from 24 to 105mm, you’ll see a series of numbers from 24 to 105. As you zoom in closer, you’ll see a little indication next to the number. 

If you see this little indication pointing to the number 85, for example, you know you’re operating at 85mm. Image clarity can be improved by matching the shutter speed and focal length numeric value. 

There is, however, a limit. Unless you use a tripod, you can’t utilize this rule for very slow shutter rates. If you’re photographing a landscape image at 20mm, for example, I can assure you that increasing your shutter speed to 1/20 of a second will not improve your clarity. Before you need to use your tripod, you should be careful about how slow you go with your shutter speed.

Sharpness can be achieved by matching your shutter speed to your focal length, although it may not be seen straight away. When you look at the shot on the camera’s LCD, you will not see much of a difference for the better. You won’t see the difference until you open your shot in Photoshop or Lightroom.

When you zoom closer on your shot, you’ll see that the sharpness varies. You won’t need to over-sharpen your photographs in post-production if you understand how to obtain sharpness by matching your shutter speed to your focal length.

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The Bottom Line

With enough practice, checking the shutter speed on the light meter will become second nature to you, and you’ll find it simpler to know what shutter speed you need in each setting to produce crisp, clear, and sharp photographs.

There’s a lot to learn, so keep shooting and experimenting with the balance of focal length and shutter speed, as well as the other aspects discussed in this post.

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