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July 29, 2012

Creative shutter speed

Shutter speed is, together with aperture and ISO, the key element of photography. You have to balance those three ingredients to allow exact amount of light to reach your sensor for correctly exposed images. There are many rules to follow related to shutter speed and there is also dedicated shooting mode on your camera dedicated to shutter speed, that important it is.

Let's leave the physics to those who care about it and let's focus on how creative you can get if you will mess with the settings. You probably know the aperture is responsible for depth of field. The smaller "f" number you set, the shallower focus range you get. This is the most common "creative" technique and every one of us probably started creating really shallow depth of field when we first get our hands on SLR or DSLR camera. Yes it is fun.

Next step is the ISO. If you set higher ISO, you get more grain for moody pictures and if you convert them to black and white you get nice "film-like" look. Here has to be said digital noise is a bit different than film grain, but still it is quite close. And there are plenty of products on the market which help you achieve this in your computer if you've forgotten to set your ISO high.

And finally, if you mess with shutter speed, you can either freeze the action happening in front of you, or you can let the movement get into your pictures. Especially with long shutter speed you can create some interesting pictures. Let me show you some examples what can be done with long shutter speed, but first let's have a look at the equipment required. As usual, I don't like to carry much equipment, so line up is quite simple. You'll need a good quality tripod, camera, lens (your choice, depends on what you're going to shoot), ND filter, remote shutter trigger (optional). 

Pictures with "frozen" waterfalls are missing something. That something is flow of the water falling down. Waterfalls are quite easy, because usually water moves fast, so you might even get away without tripod. Set camera to M mode, or Shutter priority and set your shutter speed to something around 1/5 - 1/2 of the second. Set the other values accordingly, or leave it to your camera, but check your histogram after each shot to avoid bleached out highlights on the water. It might take you few shots until you are satisfied with the water flow.

f22, 1/5 s, ISO 100

Same trick can be used with fountains.

f5, 1/2 s, ISO 800

Moving sky
Moving clouds on the sky can either add more drama into your pictures, or on the other hand, make them really peaceful and calm. Here you will definitely need a tripod, because shutter speed will be somewhere around 20 seconds and more. 

moving sky
dramatic sky, f22, 20 s, ISO 100

moving sky beech
calm sky, f8, 30 s, ISO 100

People free photos
If you'd like to have your photos from interesting places without crowds, you can use long shutter speed to make people "disappear". But be careful, if people are stationery, e.g. sitting on the bench, or just standing, they still will be in the picture. But if they just walk in front of your camera, with long shutter, they will not be recorded in the picture.

Worthing pier
no people on pier f13, 15 s, ISO 100

With long shutter you can create come interesting abstract pictures, or pictures you don't usually see. If it is windy, you can have moving plants, or if you move your camera, you get nice wall art.

moving trees
f11, 40 s, ISO 100

tree abstract
f8, 1 s, ISO 100

Those were just few examples, how long shutter can be used in creative way. There are many possibilities and options, just go out and try them.

Posted by pkuzmin at July 29, 2012 11:50 AM