Tips and Tricks – Using Shutter Speed to Create Effect in Your Images

Posted on February 11, 2015

_DSC0354-Edit-2In a previous Tip and Trick we discussed how you can control the area of your image that is in focus using your aperture or your depth of field. This week we are going to talk about a few ways to use shutter speed to create effect in your images. Most of the time your striving to achieve a shutter speed fast enough to freeze action. If you take a picture of water it will often look frozen in place. In these two images with water, the shutter has been left open longer to give the water a more “painted” or wispy look.


In the image up top of the train whizzing by at night, the shutter was left open for five seconds to achieve this effect. This has the same effect as the water in the previous images. While the shutter is left open, the sensor records anything passing in front of it. Over a 1/15 of a second or so of time, all of the that water passes in front of your camera is recorded in the image and you get the painted effect (depends on how fast water is moving). When the subject is something bright, you will get streaks like the lights from the train. Keeping the camera still is very important, so a tripod will be needed for pictures like these.


In this photograph with the cyclist, a shutter speed of 1/15sec was used and then the camera is panned with the oncoming rider. Spot your subject through your viewfinder and as you’re panning with their movement, keep them in the same location in your composition and smoothly fire your shutter. The resulting image gives the feeling that the subject was moving instead of frozen in space. This is a great technique to play with on all sorts of moving subjects.

This last example is taken to the extreme. By leaving the shutter open for a long period of time in this busy plaza in Brussels, everyone and everything has disappeared like they weren’t even there. The shutter was left open long enough, in this case two minutes, so only things that are stationary are picked up in the picture. Moving objects are not in front of the camera long enough relative to the total time of exposure to show up. You could walk through this scene right in front of your lens and as long as you didn’t stay in one place too long, you wouldn’t show up either!

Of course it doesn’t hurt to know a little something about exposure to have a better understanding of this. If you follow this link it will bring you to an in depth and easy to understand look at The Exposure Equation.


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