How to Change Shutter Speed On a Canon, Nikon, or Sony

If you’re confused about how to change the shutter speed on your camera, you’re not alone.

Camera manuals are hard to understand because they’re filled with jargon. Most cameras aren’t intuitive for users either.

There are so many menus, buttons and dials to deal with!

But if you keep your camera set in AUTO mode because it seems too difficult to change camera settings, you’re not doing yourself a favor.

This is even more true if you’re into sports or wildlife photography, or enjoy taking nature photos featuring seascapes and waterfalls.

Why Shooting in AUTO Mode Sets You Up for Disappointment

When you try to capture an action shot in AUTO mode, often you’ll see nothing but a blur.

That’s because your camera’s shutter speed wasn’t set fast enough to freeze motion.

To freeze motion, you want your camera shutter to open and close quickly. This means you need to be shooting at speeds of 1/250 of a second and faster – even all the way up to 1/2000 of a second in some cases.

Here are some outstanding examples of freezing motion with fast shutter speeds from my students T. Michelle Mullaly and Michelle Murell. 

Photo by T. Michelle Mullaly

Photo by Michelle Murell

On the other hand, if you want to capture those soft, dreamy photos of seascapes and waterfalls or capture light trails in the night sky, AUTO mode doesn’t allow you to leave the shutter open long enough to capture motion.

To capture these kinds of shots you’ll need to slow your shutter speed down to 1/30 of a second or even slower.

A photo taken by my student Raahul Singh is a spectacular example of traffic light trails captured at night. 

Photo by Raahul Singh

Now it's your turn! I'll walk you through how to change your shutter speed in both manual and shutter priority mode. 

And to make the process even simpler, I'll give instructions for three popular entry-level cameras. You can follow along with your own make of camera. 

How to Change Shutter Speed on Three Popular Cameras

I’m going to walk you through how to change the shutter speed on three popular consumer-level cameras:

  • Canon Rebel T6
  • Nikon D3400
  • Sony A6500

I recommend that new photographers start experimenting with the effects of changing their shutter speed by using Shutter Priority mode.

This is a semi-automatic mode that lets the photographer control the shutter speed, while the camera automatically adjusts the aperture and ISO for a perfect exposure.

But I also want to show you how to change your shutter speed when you're shooting in manual mode. 

First up, let’s look at how to change the shutter speed on a Canon Rebel.

Changing Shutter Speed Manually on a Canon Rebel t6

To change your shutter speed in MANUAL mode, turn the dial from AUTO all the way over to ‘M.’

This ‘M’ indicates MANUAL MODE. You’ll see an icon with fractions that appears on the display screen – these fractions indicate your shutter speed.

You’ll notice a dial right in front of the shutter release button.

When you turn this dial,  you’ll start to see your shutter speed changing. Turn it one way, and your shutter speed increases. Turn it back the other way and it decreases.

Entering Shutter Priority Mode on Canon Rebel t6

Next, let’s change your camera into SHUTTER PRIORITY mode.

Unlike other camera manufacturers, Canon uses TV (time value) to indicate Shutter Priority mode.

This makes sense because shutter speed is measured in increments of a second. These increments indicate the length of time between the shutter opening and closing to create the exposure.

Turn the mode dial on your camera from ‘M’ to ‘Tv’ to switch into Shutter Priority mode.

To adjust your shutter speed in Tv mode, turn the same dial as we used to change the shutter speed in manual mode.  

Changing Shutter Speed on a Nikon D3400

To switch from AUTO to Manual mode on a Nikon, turn the mode dial to ‘M’ for MANUAL MODE.

Next press the shutter part way down to bring up the info screen on the back of the camera.

You’ll see the shutter speed indicated in the circle on the left side of the screen. Sometimes this screen automatically turns off so just press the button to re-engage the screen.

Turn the dial located on the back of the camera to change the shutter speed. Turning the dial to the right increases shutter speed and to the left decreases it.

Shooting in Shutter Priority Mode

To change to SHUTTER PRIORITY mode, turn the mode dial on the top of the camera to ‘S’ for shutter speed.

Adjust your shutter speed by turning the same dial that you did in manual mode.

Changing Shutter Speed on Sony A6500


The Sony is a bit different than the Nikon and Canon because it’s a mirrorless camera.  But it’s just as simple to change the shutter speed on this camera as it was on the other two.

Turn your camera’s mode dial (located on the back of the camera) to ‘M' for manual mode.

The dial to change the shutter speed is also located on the back of the Sony.

When you change the shutter speed you’ll see the speed selected in orange. Just as with the other two cameras, turning the dial to the left decreases shutter speed and to the right increases it.

Shooting in Shutter Priority Mode

To put your Sony into Shutter Priority, turn the mode dial to ‘S.’ Just like with the other two cameras, Shutter Priority allows you to adjust the shutter speed and the camera takes care of aperture and ISO for you.

Get Out and Practice in Shutter Priority Mode

Now that you understand how shutter speed affects your images, and have the knowledge to change your shutter speed…the only thing left to do is to have fun and practice your new skills!

Or, if you'd like a little more help before you take your camera out of AUTO mode, why not join my FREE training?

I'll have you out of AUTO mode for good in just one hour!

Click the button on the image below to register.


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