If you’ve grown up with a ‘point and shoot’ camera and have just taken the plunge with a new digital SLR, don’t just leave it on auto. That is a waste of good technology; it means you’re still using your equipment as a point and shoot camera. The key to improving your photography is to learn to use your manual settings.
One of these settings is shutter speed. It’s fun to experiment with and easy to see the results in your photos. Although we usually try to freeze our subject with the fastest shutter speed possible, you can get some great effects by using a slower shutter speed to capture movement.
To try this out, you can set your camera to Shutter Priority mode, in which case you set the shutter speed and the camera takes care of the aperture for you. Or, you can go to fully manual mode and adjust both settings yourself. Just remember to keep your exposure balanced by compensating each movement in the shutter speed setting with a corresponding movement of the aperture setting.
Remember to always use a tripod for slow shutter speed photos.
Here are five ideas for great capturing great motion effects, simply by slowing down your shutter speed to capture the movement of the subject. If you haven’t tried this before, you’ll have some fun and be thrilled with the results.
This is the obvious first choice. You have certainly seen the silky effects of flowing water in photos, but perhaps you have wondered how it’s done. Just set your camera to a very slow shutter speed—about one second or a half-second—and see the results. The silky slow movement effect is not always your best option. For each waterfall you should try a few shutter speeds to see which one works best for that particular subject.
2. Cars at Night
When doing night photography, you usually need fairly slow shutter speeds anyway. If you try shutter speeds of one second, two seconds, ten seconds, and even longer, you will see some amazing results.
First, I wait for a storm (at night) with lots of lightning; in particular, fork lightning that will appear well defined in a photo. I set the shutter to the ‘B’ setting, which lets me open the shutter for any length of time I choose. Then I wait for the lightning to flash. I can capture just one flash of lightning, or several flashes, just by leaving the shutter open for longer.
The movement effect of water in a waterfall can also be applied at the beach, although you don’t see it so often in photography. When you visit the beach, experiment with different shutter speeds.
Sometimes you will find that soft movement effects are just as satisfying as freezing everything with a fast shutter speed.
The misty appearance of fast moving water captured with slow shutter speeds can be most effective where waves are crashing over, or swirling around rocks.
5. Crowds Of People
A crowd of people moving in different directions can create a fascinating motion effect in a photo. You don’t need extremely slow shutter speeds to capture some nice results. Photos taken around 1/4 of a second will show substantial blurring, but of course you can exaggerate the effect by going even slower.
For a really impressive image, have a friend stand very still, while everyone around them is moving. Your subject will appear frozen in a sea of moving humanity. Very striking!
So there you have some experiments to go out and try yourself. If you haven’t done it before, you are bound to have fun and be excited by the results. And of course it will force you to get to know your camera a little better, which is guaranteed to make you a better photographer.
About the Author Andrew Goodall writes for http://www.naturesimage.com.au and is a nature photographer based in Australia. He manages a gallery in Montville full of landscape photography from throughout Australia.
HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH WATERFALLS:
I love water. Coming from Ontario where lakes and rivers abound, I’d spend entire summers at our cottage as a kid either in or on the water. I’m still drawn to it like steel to a magnet, so it’s not surprising that after learning the technique to create the beautiful pictures like in this article, I was shooting every waterfall I could find!
“Running Free” captured by Mark Broughton (Click Image to See More From Mark Broughton)
If you have waterfalls in your area, or are planning a trip where you will have access to waterfalls, rapids, etc, keep the following few tips in mind for some beautiful and dramatic captures.
As mentioned in my article How to Shoot Fireworks, a tripod is at the top of the list for equipment, including a remote cable release. Mirror lock-up is good if your camera has it. The reason for all this is that we’re aiming for that silky, surreal effect, which requires the shutter to be open one second or more.
Some important factors are film speed, or ISO setting if you’re shooting digital. Because we want a nice long exposure, ISO 100 or lower is ideal. An overcast sky is best, as it provides diffused light, as opposed to the harsh shadows and highlights of direct sunlight. Filters are important here too: see the list just below.
In the end, all these elements work nicely together to get the ideal shutter speed of two to five seconds, possibly more.
good SLR that you can put into either manual or aperture priority mode.
neutral density filter, and filter holding system such as Lee or Cokin.
remote cable release for the camera.
So the setup goes as follows: find a nice composition of your water subject, which doesn’t have to be a full-frame of the entire waterfall, as sometimes just a small portion of it is all you need for an effective and beautiful shot. And, it doesn’t have to be an actual full-blown waterfall – any water moving over rocks and such still come out beautiful with this technique. Set your tripod at its lowest possible height for stability, and if it’s windy, hang your camera bag off it to add weight.
“Long Exposure” captured by Ævar Guðmundsson (Click Image to See More From Ævar Guðmundsson)
The f-stop should be set for maximum depth of field, not only to maintain focus across the entire image, but also to minimize the amount of light entering your camera – remember, we’re looking for a long exposure. A setting of f-22 may cause a slight bit of blurriness due to light fringing. Photons actually bend a slight bit around sharp edges (i.e. your camera’s aperture blades), so you’ll need to experiment. Perhaps f-13 or f-19 will best suit your lens.
Adjust the polarizing filter to eliminate as much reflection as possible, then take a reading of the subject with your camera in aperture priority, noting the shutter speed. If it’s too fast, then you will want to either stop down the aperture, and/or add a neutral density filter or two. I carry a one-stop as well as a two-stop, so not only do I have the choice of a one or two stop reduction in light, but if I stack them, I can get three stops of light reduction which is great for those really long exposures.
So, you’ve composed your image, and found the right combination of f-stop and filters to achieve the ideal shutter speed. There are two techniques for firing the shutter. If you keep the camera in aperture priority, and move your face away from the camera to trip the shutter with your remote cable, your exposure will be incorrect. Light entering the eyepiece affects the in-camera metering, so either keep your eye in the eyepiece, or cover it with your hand when firing the shutter.
The other method it to note the shutter speed when composing, put the camera into manual mode, and set the shutter to that metered value. You can then back off from the camera and trip the shutter with no worries about the camera changing any settings on you. If you happen to have forgotten your remote cable at home (which I’ve done more than once), just use the camera’s timer feature. That way, you’re not jiggling the camera when the shutter fires.
A quick word about image stabilizing technology: whether it’s in the camera or in your lens, turn it off unless the manufacturer says it’s designed to be activated while on a tripod. Some even sense when they’re on a tripod, and dampen mirror slap, such as Canon’s 70-200 f2.8L IS USM lens. Otherwise, leaving it on actually will blur your image.
“Silken Glow” captured by Debra Vanderlaan (Click Image to See More From Debra Vanderlaan)
So, experiment with your settings. Play with longer and shorter shutter speeds, under and over exposing, etc. You will then get a good feel for your camera’s capabilities, which leads to more beautiful pictures to add to your collection. Although this is a technique used to create many images you see in coffee table books, etc, it’s still a satisfying experience creating your very own!
About the Author: James Hutchison (burnstownimages dot ca) is a graduate of the New York Institute of Photography, and a member of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals.
6 REASONS TO TRY LONG
The purchase of a nine stop neutral density filter two years ago changed my approach to landscape photography. It allowed me to take photos using shutter speeds of one minute or longer and gave me a new way of photographing the sea (I live on the coast at the bottom of New Zealand’s North Island).
17mm, 30 seconds @ f/11, ISO 800
Long exposure photography is very enjoyable and rewarding, and if you haven’t tried it yet, what are you waiting for?
1. Long exposure photography is easy. It’s a very simple and pure genre of photography. It’s just you, the camera, a wide-angle lens, and a tripod. The success of the shoot comes down to the drama of the landscape and your eye for light and composition. If you shoot at dusk, a neutral density filter isn’t required as the low light will let you use shutter speeds of 30 seconds or longer.
40mm, 201 seconds @ f/13, ISO 200
2. Longer exposures help you appreciate the beauty of the landscape. One of the things I like about it is the natural slowness of the process. It gives me time to slow down and enjoy the beauty of the landscape and the light.
3. No reciprocity failure. Long exposure photography has become popular since the rise of digital cameras. The instant feedback of the LCD screen, plus the lack of reciprocity failure take the guess work out of exposure, leaving the photographer to concentrate on light and composition.
17mm, 6 seconds @ f/5.6, ISO 400
4. If you have a nine or ten stop neutral density filter, you can take photos during the middle of the day during overcast conditions that traditionally are not considered suitable for landscape photography. Neutral density filters give you a new way of taking landscape photos, and extend the time in which you can create beautiful images way beyond the golden hour.
23mm, 30 seconds @ f/14.5, ISO 400
5. Long exposure photography appeals to photographers who work in black or white or see themselves as fine art photographers. The simple style and composition of the best long exposure photos lends itself to the fine art approach.
6. Long exposure photos are a new way of looking at the landscape. When a non-photographer sees a long exposure photo, they know that they can’t get the same result themselves on their compact cameras or smart phones.
40mm, 1.5 seconds @ f/11, ISO 400
The photos in this article are all taken from Slow, which explores multiple ways of using slow shutter speeds creatively; including panning, slow-sync flash, intentional camera movement and long exposure photography.
A special thanks to PictureCorrect and the 3 authors who contributed to this special project: Long Exposure Photography. The amount of information is priceless. Thank you so much, and the pictures are incredible, too.
This concludes day 2 of our 3 day extravaganza on Long Exposure photography. Tomorrow: Tuesday, February 23rd, we will wrap it up with one more gallery presentation of great photos, and more instruction on how to take great "Long Exposure Photography". Don't miss it.