Picking the right shutter speed can mean the difference between a good shot and a great shot. Whether it’s freezing action or allowing for motion blur, these tips should help you find the right setting for you shooting situation.

• 1/1000 sec will freeze sports action that is moving across or up and down in the frame—a surfer on a wave or a hoops star reaching for a lay-up.

• 1/500 sec will capture aerials out a plane window—overcoming both engine shake and the motion of the ground.

• 1/250 sec should freeze action coming directly at the camera—a hurdler in mid-leap or drag racers, for example.

• 4 seconds with a tripod should render moving objects into light streaks—a moving ferris wheel, or ribbons of fast traffic on a bridge or curve in the road.

Adapted from Understanding Shutter Speed: Creative Action and Low-light Photography Beyond 1/125 Second by Bryan Peterson (AmPhoto, 2008; $25)