Increasing shutter speed in Aperture Mode

When using 300mm telephoto I need to shoot at at least 1/400 and high
f number - ie when shooting aircraft/animals from a distance

Is there a way, when shooting in Aperture mode, to also increase shutter speed rather than letting camera sort it out?

Appreciate any tips


  • edited October 2019
    You're mentioning needing a "high f number," but I wonder if this is an error in the message, as a low F number is a wider aperture, and thus gives you a faster shutter speed. As depth of field also increases with distance, the further away the subject the wider you can shoot without losing focus.

    If you're in A mode, decreasing the F number (going wider) will increase shutter speed in proportion until you run out of F stops. At that point, your only option really is to raise ISO.

    You don't mention what lens you are using here. It's true that if the lens has no VR, you should try for a shutter speed of 1/400 or more (animals benefit from even faster speeds sometimes) to minimize camera shake. But if your lens has VR you can likely shoot at considerably slower shutter speeds as long as you don't need to stop a subject's motion. An airplane in flight is likely far enough away not to show motion at slower shutter speeds. An animal tends to twitch and move, but if it's standing still, you can often get away with a slower speed too.

    Until recently I was using the 55-300 DX lens, and the VR on that is pretty good. It's possible to go a good bit slower at times. If you're using that lens, though, I'd recommend shooting at a somewhat shorter focal length than 300. Though marginal at 300, it's a good bit sharper at 250 and below, enough that you might do better shooting shorter and cropping.

    edit to add: My main issue with the 55-300 has been its slow and often inaccurate focusing. It's decently sharp when it hits, but at 300 it doesn't always. If you are using this lens and have time, I'd advise you to take multiple shots, and even if possible to go off target and refocus.

    If you want control of both aperture and shutter, the only real option is Manual mode. Many wildlife shooters prefer manual mode with Auto ISO, in which the camera automates the ISO choice only. The only caution there is to remember that the D3200 can get pretty noisy at high ISO, so you will likely want to put an upper limit on the Auto ISO choice. For this I think the best thing to do is to try out different speeds and see where your own critical eye says it's too noisy.

    High ISO noise can vary a bit depending on what you're shooting, and how bright it is. When shooting with a D3200 I found that some things (for example people dancing or on spotlit stages) looked OK right up to 6400 or so, but some things, such as animals up trees, started getting ragged above 400 if any cropping was required. You're likely to need to crop a good bit to get a plane in the air, and the detail loss in high ISO may nibble the edges off your subject. To find out what you can and can't get away with, you'll likely have to experiment.

  • Thanks for the tips. I am using a Tamron 70-300

    re: " should try for a shutter speed of 1/400 or more"

    this issue is what I am trying to get my head around. If I shoot at high F number to get depth of field the camera often selects a too slow shutter speed. If I read you right I guess my only option is to use ISO to increase shutter speed?
  • Yes, the "exposure triangle" is pretty unrelenting here. If you close down the lens and get less light through it, you must either lengthen the exposure time (lower shutter speed) or increase the sensor's sensitivity (higher ISO).

    What I think you need to take into account, though, is the relative increase in depth of field as distance increases. Although DOF will always be limited with a long lens, if you are using that long lens at a great distance, it may be enough even with the lens wide open. How well this works may depend a little on whether your lens is sharp at its widest aperture. Some are better a couple of stops down, some fine wide open. I'd try various combinations with your lens, and see what compromises of sharpness, depth of field, and noise, are tolerable.

    About the only other thing you can do is to use a tripod more, as the steadying effect of a tripod (especially if you use a remote shutter release or self timer) makes much slower shutter speeds possible. This would especially be beneficial if your lens has no vibration reduction, and if your subjects aren't moving around a lot. A tripod will not, of course, stop motion in your subject, but it will eliminate camera shake.
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