Slow Shutterspeed

New Year; New Goals

Welcome to 2017!

It’s a New Year and a time when many people set overreaching goals for themselves that usually fall by the wayside before the month runs out. I learned long ago that I will not lose 50 pounds before Spring; I will not exercise 4 days a week for an hour; I will not squeeze enough money out of my monthly budget to buy that new $1,500 camera. With advanced age, sometimes comes a little wisdom in knowing yourself and realizing you just should not set completely unrealistic goals for yourself. So, I set small, attainable goals. These are the ones you may actually have a chance to fulfill. Let’s talk about some Photographic Goals you can set for this year –and actually attain them.

Setting Photographic Goals

New YearHappy New Year!  Okay –we got that out of the way; now let’s get on with the business at hand. If you want to learn more about photography and take better pictures, don’t tackle the whole thing all at once and set yourself up for failure by giving yourself goals that are too lofty to achieve.

Take one aspect of photography you want to understand better and take small steps to figure out that one thing. Once you’ve mastered it, move on to the next thing. Then the next; and the next. Before you know it you’re a pro and I’m featuring you as a guest author on this Blog describing how you did it (can you guess one of my goals for this year?). A good place to start is Shutter Speed. Set the goal of learning how shutter speed affects your shot. It’s relatively easy to understand and makes intrinsic sense. The results are easily seen. Yet, many people remain baffled. Here’s how to un-baffle yourself:

A Good Place to Start

Start by reading (or re-reading) my Posts on Shutter Speed Part 1 and Part 2 .

Then actually pick up your camera and try it out. You’ll need to know how to change the shutter speed manually on your camera. Take a look at your instruction manual (if you can find it –if you can’t go to the manufacture’s web site –guaranteed you can find it there).

Remember the balancing act of Photography –it’s like physics, every action has a reaction. If you lower the shutter speed, the camera will close the aperture to let less light in to balance the longer exposure; increasing the shutter speed will widen the aperture to let more light in to balance the shorter exposure. If you run out of Aperture “room” the camera will fiddle with the ISO speed to make the sensor more sensitive to light. You can read all about how these aspects of photography work together in the Exposure Triangle .

Remember, a slow shutter speed will show the blur motion because the shutter is open longer. This allows the shutter to remain open while the subject moves across the sensor. It may also make holding the camera steady difficult if it’s less than 1/60th of a second.

A fast shutter speed will freeze motion because the shutter is open such a short amount of time. Even if the subject is moving it won’t move fast enough to show.

Moving Objects

Many people in my class have told me they’ve experimented with shutter speed and cannot see any difference. When I look at their pictures, they show me stationary objects. You need to be taking pictures of things in motion to demonstrate freezing motion or the blur of motion. Try moving cars, running children, the circular motion of a fan blade (you can do this one without even getting off the couch!).

Try whatever you are experimenting with at as show of a shutter speed as you dare –maybe 1/15th of a second. Does it look completely blurry like a Salvador Dali painting? That’s because you couldn’t hold the camera steady enough; move on to 1/60th of a second. Then go up from there. Motion will become completely stopped eventually; there will be no difference between shots at a faster shutter speed. The faster the subject is moving, the faster the shutter speed needs to be to freeze the motion. It takes a faster shutter speed to freeze the motion of the Blue Angels jets streaking across the sky at an airshow than it does your 10 year old running across the back yard.

Practice and Experiment

This concept of shutter speed may be easy to understand, but it may take some practice and a lot of experimentation to accomplish. Don’t become discouraged! The picture that leads off this post was no easy shot . I did not get it the first time (or the 50th time). When the subject is moving, capturing the shot is not easy. Our dog Tigger, a rescued Greyhound (who is sadly now deceased) was a runner. Greyhounds LOVE to run; and they are FAST (most of them anyway –June, the newest member of our family is lazier than a pet rock).

Capturing this image (and this is not exactly a prize winning image) was intended to be a demonstration of shutter speed for the class I teach. I spent a couple hours in the back yard coaxing Tigger to run, then had to pan the camera along with her and do it over and over again using various shutter speeds to get even this mediocre shot. Finally, she went on strike and refused to run anymore. I picked the best shout out of about 100.

The shutter speed for this shot was 1/100th second.  Because of the slow shutter speed it shows the motion of her running and the blur of motion of the background because I was panning along with her.

Now look at this shot
Fast Shutter Speed
Fast Shutter Speed

The shutter speed for this shot was 1/500th a second. The fast shutter speed freezes the motion. She is in mid stride with a look of sheer bliss on her face (this was before she was tired and went on strike). Although I was panning along with her just as I was in the slow shutter speed shot, the background is sharp and “frozen” because of the fast shutter speed.

Get the idea? Try it. Set yourself a small, easily achievable goal.

On to the Next Thing

One Goal checked off your list. Now, move on to the next. Maybe Aperture. Aperture may be little more difficult to understand and master, but you can read about it in Aperture Part 1 and Part 2.

The good news is that all the basic photography goals can be easily learned and there is a host of FREE material available (even right here on this Blog!). The even better news is that this doesn’t cost you a penny. The wonderful thing about digital photography is that each picture you take is completely free. It only costs you a little time (and maybe some frustration –but that’s what we are here to help you with).

Set a couple photography goals for yourself today. Share them in the comments section and let’s keep on top of them. I’d love to hear about them and help you along your way if you need it.

~Ron G.

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