Bring your food photography to life with shutter speed

Have you broken out your baking tools this winter yet? When you’re ready to share your recipes and images with the rest of the world, remember that the presentation is nearly as important as the taste. That’s why we’re breaking down shutter speed for food photography, and looking at how to incorporate some action into your images.

To learn more about mastering food photography, from advice on setting up your flat lays to how to choose your settings, check out this guide. 

Why bother with shutter speed? 

In food photography, you typically want everything to be in focus, as food doesn’t exactly move on its own. So for traditional photography, you could just go for a fast shutter speed and be done with it. But to create a dramatic in-action shot, you need to understand what is happening with shutter speed. 

The shutter speed on your camera determines how long the lens will open and therefore how much light is let into the camera, which in turn, impacts the image that is captured. The longer the lens opens and closes, the more the light is let in. Additionally, the camera will capture any movement or motion that occurs while the shutter is open. Therefore you want a fast shutter speed when you are looking for something nice and crisp, but when you want to create a feeling of motion, you can slow the speed down a bit. Everything that is stationary in the frame will appear nice and sharp, whereas anything in motion will be captured ‘in action.’

Shutter Speed food photography

The faster the shutter speed, the clearer the image as you can see in this breakdown. 

Shutter speed is one of the important pillars of the exposure triangle, as the amount of time that light is let into your camera will directly impact the lightness of your photo. To learn more in-depth about how shutter speed impacts and affects aperture and ISO, be sure to read the entire guide to learning to shoot manually here. 


How to read the shutter speed

Shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second. For example, when you want to take a picture for one-hundredth of a second, you are shooting at 1/100s. On cameras, however, the shutter speed is displayed without the fraction so it will read as ‘100.’ 

If you shoot for longer than a second, it will instead read as 1” (for one second) or 2” for two seconds.

It may not seem like a long time to take a picture, but try it out when you are holding the camera by hand, and you’ll see how much motion blur you capture (to be honest, it’s going to be a lot). 

How to decide your shutter speed? 

When shooting by hand, it’s important to choose a shutter speed that is fast enough to be sure that your lines are not blurry. As humans, it’s impossible to stay perfectly still. That’s why there is a short-hand cheat code for shooting manually. 

Shutter speed should be twice the length of your lens. So shooting with a fixed 50 mm lens means you should be shooting at least 1/100s.   

However, when it comes to being creative, using a tripod is going to open your realm of possibilities. Take a look at the photo above. Let’s say you want to capture the chocolates being dropped down onto the cookies with the motion blur like in the photo on the left. 

To get that effect, you’ll need to set up a tripod so that you are shooting at a 0° angle from the plate and make sure your cookies are in focus before even trying to capture the motion. 

Want to improve your flat lay images? Check out this guide on new compositions that are sure to shake up your food and beverage images. 


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