Slowing Down the Shutter

When we take photos, we normally want the photo to be a literal snapshot of a point in time, a frozen moment that does not melt away or loses its flavor. We photograph many things that catch our eye or impress us. It may be our children running, riding a bike, a fancy car going down the street or some other item. My wife and I were riding down the highway when several bikers came from behind and began doing various stunts on their bikes (i.e., wheelies, standing on the side, etc.). Unfortunately, I was driving so Deborah took out the camera and began shooting. When we got home, I noticed she did a great job in taking the shot. However, there was something missing in the photo. We didn’t capture the thrill of the moment. The shutter speed was so quick that it froze the motion and it looks as if the biker is standing next to the bike.

There’s an opportunity to catch these events in a more “dramatic” fashion. It involves a slower shutter speed and the technique of panning. Panning requires the photographer to follow the subject as it moves from right to left or vice-versa while simultaneously snapping multiple photos. In order to imply motion the camera’s shutter speed must be slower than normal. This technique allows you to have a sharp image of the moving subject while the environment containing the subject is blurry. A good shutter speed, starting point would be 1/20s and you can increase or decrease the speed depending on the object’s speed or the desired effect. If we use this technique for the biker, the background would be so blurry that it leaves no question as to whether or not he was moving.

Place the camera in the Shutter Priority mode and set the time to 1/20s. Also, put the camera’s shooting mode to continuous. This allows you to hold the shutter button and the camera continues to take images. Finally, follow the action on your LCD screen or view finder and begin shooting. This is a hit or miss technique that produces plenty of misses initially. However, as you get a feel for the technique, you’ll discover a new way of photographing images. I find this technique so challenging yet rewarding that I commit to this technique whenever I travel. I take many shots. However, I usually find a few keepers that make it worth the effort.

Panning is such a popular technique that SLR lenses have components in place to help keep the moving object in focus as you follow it. It is often used in sporting events. However, they often freeze the image with a fast shutter speed (i.e., 1/250s or higher). Nevertheless, the same principles are used during slower speeds.

Thanks for reading and “Keep Shooting”.




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