Shutter speed for weddings - WHY are most wedding images taken at 1/60s?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by alen_z, Oct 19, 2009.

  1. Hi guys,
    I've been reading a lot of wedding photography books, and it seems a lot of the awesome pics are taken at 1/60s shutter speed, and I'm beginning to wonder why! And please dont tell me it's because of low-light situations or using a tripod...most images I've taken with 1/60 arent tack sharp (full-res). I feel I need to be at least 1/125 to get very sharp images. Boosting ISO isn't a huge problem nowadays with technology, and they could have easily increased the shutter speed to reduce shake/blur, but chose not to. That being said, WHY are most amazing wedding pics taken at 1/60? Is there something magical that happens at that shutter speed?
    Note: this question is in regards to non-flash, handheld photography.
  2. "please dont tell me it's because of low-light situations...."​
    Hmmm. So what answer ARE you looking for?
    There is definitely nothing magic about 1/60th sec. But my work inside the church does produce a lot of photographs at speeds somewhere between 1/30th sec and 1/100th sec. 1/60th sec might indeed be an average or close to.
    I don't usually use a tripod in the church (except for the formals, and then I'm using flash). I shoot Pentax so I have a couple image-stabilized bodies with me. (Nikon and Canon shooters may be using image-stabilized lenses.) A wedding ceremony isn't (usually) an athletic event, and the subjects tend to be pretty still, so I CAN shoot at 1/60th sec and hope to get photos that are sharp or sharp enough. A tripod won't help me much because if I get slower than about 1/30th sec, subject movement becomes a bigger risk than camera shake and neither image-stabilization nor a tripod can do anything about that. In other words, I can get to 1/60th sec or 1/30th sec hand-held - and that's about as slow as I would dare to go even if the camera were mounted in steel.
    Now, the ONLY reason that I do this is that the light in just about every church I've shot in is pretty subdued. I push my ISO up pretty high - shots in the church are typically between 800 and 1600. And I open my lenses up wide: I'm typically shooting at f/2.8 or, when possible, faster than that. But if I'm shooting at 1/60th sec it's because, even after pushing the ISO up high and opening up wide, I STILL need to slow down the shutter to get a decent shot. And even then, I simply count on the shots inside the church having a certain degree of noise.
    I think there's nothing more mysterious to it than that - and I suspect everybody else's answer will be pretty similar.
  3. In low light situations, the minimum you will likely need to stop slower movements is around 1/60th. With that in mind, you can then choose the DOF you want to work with. Once you have those two dialed in, you can set your ISO as low as possible to maintain optimum IQ.
    So, low light and human movement is probably why that is a popular shutter speed.
  4. 1/60th is somewhat that magic setting to stop motion, yet good enough to pick up background light.

    This is probably due to the film days when most photographers used an ISO setting of 100 to 400. Shooting at a shutter speed of 125th of a second often made the backgrounds go too dark. Shooting at a 30th often showed a slight people movements, shooting at a 15th of a second required the use of a tripod and a very steady hand if you don't use a pod. Image stabilizing lenses weren't around until the onset of digital, perhaps about 2 years before digital. I think the first IS lenses were from Canon, the 100-400mm then shortly after that Nikon came out with the 80-400mm, which was in the late 1990's.

    During the film days you limited your amount of shooting because you had to pay about 50 cents per print. Most photographers during that time only shot around 200 to 250 images. This is another reason why 1/60th was the standard for most inside work. This resulted in only a few wasted prints. Probably not more than 10 to 15 images. Needless to say it's another world with digital. I've heard of a few people taking 8000 shots per wedding. This would bankrupt you in one wedding during the film days.
  5. It's a film thing, like Bob already said. I would shoot most of the wedding at around 1/60 at f5.6 or 5.6 1/2 with whatever manual flash setting I needed. If I was in mixed-bright sun I would just adjust the shutter to 1/250, maybe f8. But by far mostly 1/60. Often I would drag the shutter and shoot indoors at 1/15 or 1/8, the flash freezes the motion direct in front of you , the slower shutter picks up the background. Digi will be similar but you have to adjust some, I'm not that sharp with digi yet, so I'm not going to comment on something I haven't done enough of to know exactly what I'm saying.
  6. Ahhhhhhh! That's what I wanted to hear Bob/Dave, thanks! I knew there had to be some kind of explanation to this. And I'm not talking about indoor church pics either, I'm talking about scenarios where you could easily choose 1/125 but rather chose 1/60. Makes sense that it's just preference from the film days.
    As a side question, don't you find 1/60 gives you hand-shake and isn't as sharp as could be??
  7. Not really but for me I use 1/60 as a benchmark for handholding. Anything slower usually causes issues either with my hands or the subject movement. 1/125 is really where I shoot most times.
    It's your preference here..
  8. Alen,
    Bob and Dave said the same thing in long form. But if you understand what they are saying, you will realize that half of their answer is to do with "LOW LIGHT" and being able to pull in some ambient, and the other half of their answer is subject movement.
    1/60th is the old sand by that most togs who have some experience handholding, choose for the reasons stated. If you go back far enough, it was the number that studios used as the ideal for portraits, after the advent of modern lighting (post 1970 era).
    There are a plethora of good reasons for choosing your SS, but those two are the most common.
  9. For some of us real old-timers the preference was also a function of the common flash synch speeds which was typically 1/60th years ago. Hand held for 50mm or less focal length should give good results...........
  10. "As a side question, don't you find 1/60 gives you hand-shake and isn't as sharp as could be??" - Alen

    This totally depends on your lens of choice. As a general rule of thumb, not using any stablizing type of lens or body, you go by the focal length of the lens to seconds. For example, if you are using a 50mm lens you probably shouldn't handhold under 50th of a second. If you are using a 500mm lens than this translates to 500th of a sec. So the longer the lens the faster your shutter speed should be.

    Camera shake should not be an issue with a standard lens (50mm) and at 60th/sec, but if you are using a 500mm at 60th expect to see a lot of camera shake.

    You can shoot at a low speed, such as a 15th of a second using flash. The flash will stop movement. The problem with using your on camera flash unit is often the images look flat. So take a second look at the photos you like in the books you are reading, most likely your favorate pics will be the use of creative lighting techniques and not the on camera flash.
  11. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    For some of us real old-timers . . . crikey I still use 1/50th . . .
  12. One reason why I shoot at 1/60 (with no flash) even if I have plenty of ISO room is if there are fluorescent, mercury, or any other kind of cycling light source. Here in North America, our power grid runs at a frequency of 60Hz, so shooting at 1/60 will allow you to capture one full cycle of light. Otherwise you can get colour and exposure shifting from shot to shot if you are only capturing a portion of a full cycle. (i.e. higher shutter speeds)
  13. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Ha Ha!
    240volts 50Hz down here and across the pond. . . a bit criptic I was about the 1/50th - sorry for that . . . I like your work, Lloyd!
  14. Another vote for 1/60th flash sync. That was the standard speed for decades necessary for many focal plane shutters for flash synchronization.
    One would have to look at the date of photo, kind of gear, etc. to coordinate that. Otherwise, nothing special about 1/60th. Even now, some people value a DSLR with a high flash sync limit, as some did the Nikon D70/s with 1/500th maximum.
  15. Also the 1/60 or 1/30 setting was better for big flash units that had more staying power such as the Lumedynes and Normans. The bulbs on high power had a longer and higher quality light production than the small units and the slower shutter took advantage of that.
  16. Flash sync speed, a lot of cameras go with 1/60th in low light situations when in auto-exposure mode, etc... I wouldn't attribute the "awesomeness" of the photos you are looking at to the choice of shutter speed. I'm sure you could find plenty of lousy shots at 1/60th if you were allowed to see them all.
  17. Alen, do you want me to give you a line of Bull %*(&%(%. OF COURSE IT'S DUE TO LOW LIGHT. As others have stated it can be due flash sync speed.
    If you ever have the opportunity to attend a wedding you will see what dungeons we usually shoot in. Many times I'm shooting at ISO 1600-3200 f/2.8 and 1/30 just get close to the exposure I need.
    If you can't hand hold at 1/60 you are either shooting with too long of a lens for you to hold or you're going to have some serious issues being a wedding photographer.
  18. "Ha Ha!
    240volts 50Hz down here and across the pond. . . a bit criptic I was about the 1/50th - sorry for that . . . I like your work, Lloyd!

    Thanks William. Likewise... you have a nice gallery. I take it you're from down under? Lots of great wedding photographers there. Yeah, much of the world runs at 50Hz, and over 200V. But not us. Ironically, 220V+ would be great, but 60Hz is better overall from an efficiency and output standpoint.
    Back to topic... actually many of the worst wedding photos I see are at 1/60, because that's the default shutter speed setting for a flash photo while in Program mode. :)
  19. Alen,
    My 2cents, maybe 3...
    PREFERENCE s. Three colleagues of mine use the following settings for portraits: 1) ISO 400, F/8, 1/160-1/200sec, 2) iso 400, f/11, 1/60sec, 3) ISO 200, f8, 1/125sec.
    If you compare portrait quality of light, you probably won't be able to tell the difference b/n which settings are where. Therefore, PREFERENCE. I like ISO400, 1/125sec, at f/5.6-8 depending on my specific location. Furthermore, some photographers at their seminars shoot at 1/30sec.
  20. Historical Flash sync speed 1/60th a legacy...
    I like to slow it down a bit to 1/30th - 1/15th if possible and get more ambient light balance, in lower light situations without sacrificing quality to high ISO, provided its not too dynamic
    Also turns out its a great balance point between fast enough shutter speed to freeze movement and slow enough to allow ambient light in with a burst of flash.
    Research; "dragging the shutter" and rear flash sync, which will enable you to see why this sort of works out quite well.
    I'm one of several hating the reduce Flash sync speeds from Canons Halycon EOS 1D at 1/500th down to the 1/200th that they now have.
  21. It's a "shake" legacy for me. 30 years ago when I was first learning, my instructor told me "never shoot below 1/60 handheld." To this day it's a mental stopping point for me in that I know I am in tricky territory anytime I am below 1/60. Because of the movement at a lot of weddings, I have begun to meka 1/125 my "fail-safe" bottom end.
  22. "It's a "shake" legacy for me. 30 years ago when I was first learning, my instructor told me "never shoot below 1/60 handheld." ......Booray

    I'm afraid you have over-simplified what your instructor was telling you. You were likely using a standard 50mm lens in which case 1/60th is typically safe from camera shake. However, if you had a longer focal length such as 125, 200, etc...., then 1/60th would not prevent camera shake. The rule of thumb is to consider the focal length. Such as 28mm = 1/30th, 50mm = 1/50th, 125mm = 1/125th can also add just an extra touch of fudge factor in which case 50mm = 1/60th, just to be on the safe side. It's also true that experienced photographers can push these suggested "rule of thumb" boundaries with careful attention to posture, bracing, breath control, etc.....
  23. I agree with David, with the caveat that this restriction would not apply when you are using a lens and/or camera with image stabilization or vibration reduction.

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