A slow shutter speed is an excellent technique to capture what we call ‘motion blur’ in a photograph. If you use a tripod or find another way of stabilizing your camera (by putting it on a rock or ledge) then the setting around your moving subject will appear still and crystal clear in your finished photography, but the movement of your subject will cause it to appear blurred in action. Adjusting the shutter speed faster or slower, the subject in action will appear more or less blurred. Most photographers recommend 1/20th of a second for capturing one person in movement without having them be too blurry. This setting allows the viewer to notice important details about the subject (such as clothing, gender, etc.), while still being aware of their movement.
One thing to keep in mind is that you can’t use all shutter speeds in all kinds of lighting environments. A standard range of shutter speeds for cameras is 1/4000th of a second to 30 full seconds. If you’re taking pictures in direct sunlight, a shutter speed of 1/10th of a second won’t work since, even if you use your smallest aperture, there will be too much light coming into the camera and your image will turn out completely white. Conversely, if you use a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second when you’re outside at night, your image will turn out completely black. Even if you use the largest aperture possible, you won’t have enough light coming into the camera to create a usable image. Consequently, if you want to use slower shutter speeds to create motion blur, you should find lower-light environments and definitely avoid direct sunlight on your subjects. The only way around this is to use filters for the camera. [Look out for a future post on filters!]
Panning provides a different point of view for movement photography. With this technique, the moving subject will appear in focus while the setting around them blurs in motion. This is captured by setting the shutter to a slow speed (around 1/20th of a second is recommended) and moving the camera at the same speed on a horizontal plane as the subject in motion. Some tips on this: You’ll want to start ‘tracking’ the object before you actually take the picture and continue tracking it after you’ve taken the picture. Let’s say you’re standing on the side of a road and a car is about to move past you from right to left. You’ll want to point your camera at the car and follow it with your camera for a few seconds before you take the picture. When you take the picture, don’t stop tracking the car since you’ll want to make sure you’re moving the camera throughout the length of the shot. (Even though the shutter will only be open for a fraction of a second, don’t make the mistake of stopping the movement of the camera just before taking the picture.) Zooming out will make this easier!
Adjusting the ISO setting of the camera will impact the sensitivity of the image sensor, which will allow you to use your slower shutter speeds. Before you start with any of the techniques mentioned above, check that your ISO is on the lowest number possible. ISO is a measure of how sensitive the digital sensor is to the light coming into the camera (the amount of which is determined by your aperture and shutter speed settings). Having the digital sensor be less sensitive to light (decreasing the ISO) will allow you to use a longer shutter speed to get the same exposure. This will be crucial, particularly if you’re in a brighter environment, like outdoors during the day.
These techniques are combined to create a dream-like effect in movement photography. To give yourself a creative boost, play around with these aspects to show beautiful and eye-catching motion.