tracey medcalfe photography | You're Smarter Than Your Camera - More Advanced Applications of Shutter Speed and Techniques

You're Smarter Than Your Camera - More Advanced Applications of Shutter Speed and Techniques

March 20, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

You're Smarter Than Your Camera - More Advanced Applications of Shutter Speed and Techniques
Good morning and welcome to the final blog on shutter speed.  Here we introduce a few creative uses of shutter speed and different ways you can experiment with it.  It really is a great tool to play with whether you are into photographing your kids or nature, or just want to play about with different settings.  Techniques include panning, light painting and the bulb setting for shutter speed.

Thanks for reading and have fun with this,

Above is an example of a moving subject with a stationary background. In this example, I wanted to keep the subject in focus but show movement in the background of the image, by blurring the background, very similar to the car racing images shown on the previous blog and again below. The technique I used for creating these images is called panning.  This requires that the camera is either located on the moving subject itself or is controlled so that the frame (the whole image you see through the viewfinder) moves with the moving subject - this is panning.

This image was taken with a shutter speed of 1/80th of a second.  The boy was moving pretty quickly and to get him in focus, I followed him with my camera as he scooted along. It takes a little bit of getting used to because you have a slower shutter speed than you might think in order to blur the background with your camera movement and you only want to move the camera in a horizontal plane, not a vertical one at all.  See my diagram below for an idea of what I mean.

The cars from the previous blog shown below were taken at 1/250th and 1/500th of a second shutter speed, which, unless you were panning would result in very blurry cars.

Just a note if you are keen to try this - it is a great technique for soccer shots and it is very useful if you use a monopod to stabilise your camera whilst taking the shots.  The monopod allows you to move the camera in the horizontal plane whilst keeping the vertical movement minimised.

A successful panning shot requires a shutter speed which is just slow enough to cause the background to streak out of focus, but just fast enough that the subject still appears sharp.  Soccer is a great sport to practice on.  You need a player to be running at a good speed in a certain direction for long enough for you to use the panning technique.
Shutter Speed - 1/250th 
Shutter Speed - 1/500th 
Painting With Light
Another creative way to use shutter speed is to make use of the BULB setting to create images that are made up of light streaks.  If you keep reducing the shutter speed you will get to a setting which is called Bulb.  This essentially allows you to control the shutter speed with the image capture button.  Essentially, you press the image capture button as if you were going to take a regular photograph and then hold it down for as long as you want the shutter to be open.  It can be as long or as short as you want.

Light painting is something you can have fun with.  Make sure there is very little or no light other than the one you create.  Use a pointed light source like a flashlight or even a laser and draw with it...anything you like!  Keep the shutter of your camera open for the whole time you are drawing, this could be a number of minutes, but it doesn't matter, as long as there isn't additional light to over expose the image.

Here are a few examples of painting with light in a completely dark room.  I used an aperture setting of f4 and set the shutter speed to bulb...your imagination is the limit!
Abstract and Artistic Effects

It is interesting to play about with the settings on the camera, and sometimes photographers deliberately take images that will include camera shake or blur. I took these images of bluebells in a wood.  The first one 
was at 1/500th of a second shutter speed - easy to hold still for long enough to record a clear image.  The second I changed the shutter speed to 1/5th of a second.  Given that without any image stabilisation assistance, it is not advisable to go below 1/60th of a second, you would expect camera blur anyway at 1/5th.  I increased the blur, by panning the camera slowly vertically.  It is of course not to everyone's taste, but you can create some interesting images using this technique.  Plus it certainly helps to get a grip of shutter speed values and what to expect.
Your Challenge

Ok, the time has come to be brave and have a go with the manual mode of your camera.  Set camera to manual (see image below for Nikon setting) and try to get correclty exposed images using the light meter to guide you.  If you are sure about the light meter, take a look at the previous blog for a quick reminder.  Remember images often contain a wide range of contrasting lights and correctly exposing something bright can result in underexposing something dark.  In a similar way, correctly exposing something dark, can result in overexposing something bright.  These are always challenges, even for the most experienced photgoraphers, so don't feel like you will get on top of it straight away.  There are ways to work around these problems when the subject you want to take contains highly contrasting light and I will cover some of them in a later blog.

If you get a chance, also have a go with some light painting.  Aside from being fun, the techniques mentioned in this blog are great for getting a better understanding of mastering the shutter speed aspect of your camera. 
Next Time

At first glance, it seems to me like this blog covered a lot of techniques and even if you picked one per week to have a go at, you would be workimg hard.  Do what you can..and my next blog won't be until April so you have some time to try things out and get to understand shutter speed a little more.  

Next month I will focus on......pardon the pun, focus, outlining the options for autofocus.  Making suggestions as to when to switch from auto focus to manual, plus outlining techniques to help you make sure you get the most impact out of your focusing.

Until then, thanks for reading and enjoy your photography :-)
As always, do get in touch if you don’t understand anything or if you would just like to comment.
Thanks again,
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