I was taking pictures of some water splashes. I knew I needed a fast shutter speed to make them look frozen in time.

I have not used manual mode yet. I use the settings where I can pick the shutter speed and the camera picks the appropriate aperture (and vice versa).

I am using the Canon 60D. My only lens currently is the 18-200mm kit lens.

I set the shutter speed to about 2000. The picture overall looked good but the splash wasn't as sharp as I would have liked it. (I did not use a tripod but I held it pretty steady and my lens has IS)

So I switched to the max shutter speed of 8000, I do not know how sharp it was, because the picture was too dark to see any detail.

Why is this? It was midday, a little gloomy but still decent daylight. I know I could possibly have made it brighter by raising the ISO but I don't want the photo to look noisy either.

  • \$\begingroup\$ See also photo.stackexchange.com/questions/7784/… \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 19:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Which ISO setting did you use anyway? you should be fine if you used anything to and including 800 anyway. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 20:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Robert, honestly I don't remember. \$\endgroup\$
    – JD Isaacks
    Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 20:21
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Do it in a dim room and shoot with your flash. Max shutter speed will be 1/250 but it doesn't matter since the duration of the flash is much shorter (few thousandth of a second). \$\endgroup\$
    – Gapton
    Commented Dec 19, 2012 at 2:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ I just think I should point out that very few situations really require a shutter speed of 1/2000s or slower. If you shot a propeller aircraft, you would use around 1/200 to get some "prop-spin" and at 1/1000 you would freeze it in mid-air. \$\endgroup\$
    – DetlevCM
    Commented Dec 19, 2012 at 9:11

6 Answers 6


When you set a shutter speed, the camera will increase and decrease the aperture to match the desired shutter speed. If your aperture is maxed out on either end, it'll over/under expose the image. There are a few newer cameras that have an auto-ISO feature, which will attempt to expand the range, but without knowing what kind of camera you have, I can't tell you if you have that feature or not.

There are 3 ways to counteract underexposing, if this is the effect.

  1. Increase the ISO. This is the easiest, cheapest, and likely best way to improve performance, but might increase the noise.
  2. Increase the light. This can be done by waiting for better sunlight, external lighting, or even flash.
  3. Get a lens with a better max aperture setting- If you already have one, give it a shot. Otherwise, this might be expensive.
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the info, I am using a Canon 60D do you know if it has the auto ISO feature? \$\endgroup\$
    – JD Isaacks
    Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 19:15
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @John Isaacks it does, you can access it by pressing the ISO button on the top of the camera. You might also need to access the main menu and set the "ISO Auto" option to a higher max number, this sets the maximum ISO the camera can automatically select (forcing it to adjusting the aperture further in this case) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 19:19

1/2000 sec is usually fast enough for not requiring a tripod and having frozen splashes. If you use a tripod, make sure that the IS is actually turned off, otherwise you induce blur into the image.

For solving the "darkness" problem, use a flash and stroboscope technique (long shutter speeds in a dark room, where the flash is what freezes the motion).

If that's not possible (has to be outdoors in daylight), then higher ISO may be your best chance.

This website teaches the basics of high speed image capture.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the info about turning IS off when using a tripod, didn't know that. \$\endgroup\$
    – JD Isaacks
    Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 19:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also never heard of the stroboscope technique before, pretty cool. \$\endgroup\$
    – JD Isaacks
    Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 19:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @John Isaacks - that's actually a pretty old method for capturing high speed events, or for creating multiple exposures for capturing motion paths: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stroboscope \$\endgroup\$
    – ysap
    Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 19:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 - The technique I always use is darkness, low ISO (100), long shutter, and a short flash burst wirelessly controlled. At this point I can pull 500 usable images out of 600 shutter actuations (which is about a 30 minute water drop session for me). \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 23:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Most IS lenses can sense when they are on a tripod and turn themselves off. For the most part, only a few first generation IS lenses from two decades ago had problems with "feedback loops." There are a few more recent modern lenses that even have IS modes specifically designed to minimize mirror and shutter vibrations when a very long focal length lens is used with a tripod. The Canon Super Telephoto "Great Whites" are such lenses. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 22:49

If you mean a shot like this:

Water Drop

You can just pop up your on-camera flash, like I did. I believe this was taken at about 1/250 with an ISO of 400. Live View is useful for pre-focussing, and continuous shooting mode means you don't have to perfectly time your shot. I just put a jug in my kitchen sink and set up with a tripod.

  • \$\begingroup\$ There's quite a bit of noise in this image... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 21:48
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Yes - it's the result of A) an old version of ACR and B) the method I used for B&W conversion (Calculations). I don't mind it so much, it kind of gives a film-grain effect: it's not like I'm displaying it in MOMA. :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 21:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes it does give it a fast film grainy look, doesn't it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 22:08
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Lots of stuff at the MOMA "quite a bit of noise" \$\endgroup\$
    – eruditass
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 13:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Now, even more than in 2011, a Lo-Fi look for photography is definitely "in" in the art community. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 22:52

A shutter speed of 2000 should be fast enough to catch a splash of water. Are you sure the photo was in focus on the water splashes (are you using auto focus?)? Failing that, you must do as @pearsonartphoto suggested and increase the light entering the sensor by whatever methods available


There are a number of good DIY projects for high speed photography on DIYphotography.net. They generally make use of a flash and the bulb setting on your camera and start with a darkened room.


Have a look at the ultra-fast shutter speeds with 100% flash-sync in all the models of Powershot cameras that are CHDK compatible.


You're no longer limited to using flash for stopping high-speed events, nor having to do it in a darkened place so that ambient light doesn't blur your subjects. Nor will your fast moving subjects be geometrically distorted by focal-plane shutter distortions. Example: Focal Plane Shutter Distortion (It's particularly interesting to note that the tail-rotor and shadow of the rotor on the ground are 90-degrees to each other as well.)

Nor will your flash-output light levels be reduced by the shutter speed, except in the cases where CHDK cameras' shutters can be even faster than the xenon flash duration itself. (Yes, even that is possible.) Nor are you limited to the types of high-speed events that can be captured. For example, subjects that are self-luminous, where using a flash would make the very thing you wanted to photograph invisible.

You can get any of the older CHDK compatible cameras as used for far less than the price of a DSLR kit-lens. Or maybe you have a Powershot camera already and don't know this is all possible for many years now, and for free.


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