A Post By Chas Elliott
Experimenting with Slow Shutter Speeds can be a lot of fun.
There have been some great articles and interest lately on long exposures so I thought I would put together a hodgepodge of techniques and then turn it over to DPS readers to see what they can come up with. I’ve broken this slow shutter shoot-out into 3 categories. When you submit your photograph, do it under one of these styles. I’ve thrown in a few of my own as examples into the article just to give you an idea. Get a tripod, set your cameras to shutter priority and fire away.
1. Light Painting:
Light is what makes up your photos. Perhaps too often we limit ourselves to the normal diffused lighting we are used to seeing. Locking your camera down on a tripod and setting it for a slow shutter speed allows you to manually get some movement on the lights in your scene. Experiment with flashlights, rope lights, candles or anything handy. In the picture here I had a friend sit perfectly still in a completely dark room. I set the shutter to be roughly the time it would take me to walk around his chair holding a candle (8 seconds). His face was entirely lit by candlelight. Since I was moving too quickly to get in the shot, all you see is the floating flame. I know, it turned out a little demonic, but unintentionally. This is just to get your ideas flowing.
2. Capturing Movement:
Blur isn’t always a bad thing, especially when it captures the movement occurring in a photo. Photoshop even includes a filter called “motion blur” to recreate this effect if you missed it while taking the photograph. Find a scene that could appropriately benefit from motion blur and experiment. In this photo, I used a shutter speed just slow enough to get the movement of the carousel, but fast enough to not record my handheld camera jitters or the movement of the kids in the foreground (1/20 second). It would have been nice to have a tripod, but since one wasn’t available I had to fire off a few shots until I got one without camera shake.
3. Turning Darkness into Day:
I recently talked about this on my blog, but on a good moonlit night, it’s fun to create the illusion of photographs being taken in daylight but with the added effects that come with slow shutter speeds. This is a photo I took in Hawaii around 10 pm on a dark night. The moon was out in full, so by letting my camera soak in the light for about 30 seconds, the colors start to appear in full vibrancy. When I took this shot, because it was so dark, I had no idea someone was sitting out on the rocks star gazing. If you live near the ocean, I love the dreamy look it gives to the moving water, rendering the waves almost like low-lying clouds.
Share Your Slow Shutter Speed Shots
Have you played with slow shutter speeds? We’d love to see what you’ve done. Head over to our forums and share some of your shots in the Share Your Shots section.
Further Reading on Shutter Speed
- Introduction to Shutter Speed
- Understanding Shutter Speed
- 15 Stunning Images Using Blur to Portray Movement
- How to Control Aperture and Shutter Speed on an Entry Level Point and Shoot Digital Camera
- How to capture Motion Blur in Photography
Chas Elliott is a freelance photographer in the Northern Virginia and DC area.