Lessons from the Shot: Exposure Tips and Tricks

By George Hsia, www.georgehsia.com
 Figure 1
Different exposure techniques allow creative photographers to excel in the craft. The following are a few exposure tips and tricks many professionals use to make their images stand above the rest.
1. Motion Blur – occurs when the subject is in motion during a long exposure and the camera is steady. The subject has little definition, but the background may be sharp.
To capture and image where the subject exhibits motion blur, the 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 low 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. With newer digital cameras, holding down the exposure button can make multiple exposures.
2. Panning – is the opposite of motion blur. A sharp subject in motion characterizes it, with the background blurred (top). 
Panning uses a variety of shutter speeds based on how fast the subject is moving. Typical shutter speeds are 1/30 or 1/60 but can be slower sometimes. Set the camera on shutter priority (Tv or S depending on the camera) and choose an appropriate ISO.
When panning, it’s important to decide where subject will be and pre-focus to that point. Half-press the shutter button to focus. With the shutter still half-pressed, frame your subject and follow focus along its path. When the subject in motion reaches the point of composition, full-press the shutter for the exposure.
Figure 2 
3. Long Exposure – are often used to show motion blur, but is also used to streak moving points of light that travel through the frames (above).
For exposures of one or more seconds, it’s important to place the camera on a tripod or steady surface. With the camera on Manual (M on most cameras) set the ISO to its lowest value (50 or 100 ISO) and a high aperture, i.e. f/16 or so. 
At night, long exposures of 15 to 30 seconds are common under streetlights conditions. If there are no streetlights or very low ambient lights, the shutter speed could be as long as 5 minutes to 30 minutes.
Figure 3
4. Freezing Action – is a subject frozen in motion, clear and sharp. To freeze motion, use a shutter speed of 1/250 or faster. Set your camera on shutter priority (Tv or S depending on the camera) and choose a high ISO (above). 
In bright sunlight it will be easy to properly expose fast shutter speeds with almost any ISO. On overcast days, ISO 400 and above is helpful. It is very difficult to us a fast shutter speed indoors, because of low light levels.
Once you have the right shutter speed, frame and anticipate the action taking the photo at the moment of peak action.
5. Camera Shake – shows everything in the frame in motion. There is nothing sharp, when the camera is moving while shooting. It’s usually made worse by slowing down shutter speeds.
It can be creative, but is usually seen as a mistake.

A fine line exists between creativity and mistakes. Let’s hope you stay on the creative side with these tips and tricks.