Lessons from the Shot: Shutter Speed Techniques by George Hsia

 

By George Hsia, www.georgehsia.com
 
Figure 1
 
 
Understanding the two central camera features that affect exposure, Aperture and Shutter Speeds, is the key to creative photography.  The following are a few simple techniques.
 
Blur – A characteristic where an object in a photo or the entire photo is not clearly defined.  This could be the result of not being in focus or motion of the camera or subject.
 
Camera Shake – When the photographer causes the image to be blurred and not in focus because of movement of the camera while taking the photo.  This is an error of the photographer sometimes made worse by slow shutter speeds.  
 
Motion Blur – When an object within a photo is in motion and not in focus while the rest of the photo that is not in motion is in focus and sharp.
 
To capture and image where your subject exhibits motion blur your shutter speed should be 1/30 or 1/60 or slower.  Set your camera on shutter priority (Tv or S depending on the camera) and set your camera to 1/30 or 1/60. Choose an ISO appropriate for the given lighting situation.
 
Compose your photo anticipating the expected action within the frame or waiting for it to enter the frame.
 
Figure 2
 
 
Panning – When the photographer follows an object in motion such that the object in motion is sharp and in focus and looks stationary and the background which is stationary is blurred and looks like is in motion.
 
When panning photos, you can use a variety of shutter speeds based on how fast your subject is moving.  Typical shutter speeds are 1/30 or 1/60 but can be faster or slower.  Set your camera on shutter priority (Tv or S depending on the camera) and choose an appropriate ISO.
 
When panning photos it is important to first decide where you will be taking the photo of the moving object and set focus there.  To achieve focus, half-press the shutter.  With the shutter still half-pressed, frame your subject and follow it along its path and when it reaches where you plan on taking the photo full-press the shutter.  
 
Freezing Action – Usually done with a high shutter speed objects that are in motion in an image are still, clear and sharp.
 
To freeze motion you need a shutter speed of 1/250 but the faster the better.  Set your camera on shutter priority (Tv or S depending on the camera) and choose an appropriate ISO.  
 
Bright sunlight will make it easier to achieve stop action with fast shutter speed. On overcast days you may need ISO 400 and above.  Indoor low light is very difficult to have a fast shutter speed.
 
Once you have the right shutter speed, anticipate the action, and take the photo at the moment of peak action.
 
Mastering these techniques will deepen your working knowledge of photography.