How Shutter Speed Affects Motion
If you've been following my lessons, you know that I talk about photography as having both a technical element and a creative component. That is, photography is both science and art. This lesson will show you how the technical process of shutter speed can be used for creative effect.
Shutter speed is one component of the exposure triangle. Each component, ISO, shutter speed and aperture have two uses (one technical and one creative). The technical use of shutter speed is to determine the "exposure" or the amount of light that is allowed onto the digital imaging sensor by controlling how long the imaging sensor is "exposed" to light. The second effect of shutter speed is creative. It allows you to control "motion" in a photograph.
The following set of pictures will show you this creative principle in action. The photos were taken at the same time, only moments apart with the same camera and lens. Each photo represents a halving of shutter speed from the previous photo. In other words, the shutter speed was lowered by 1/2. Of course, the f-stop was subsequently increased to net the same exposure value.
As you look at the photos pay attention to the motion of the water.
Shutter speed 1/500, f4, ISO 200
Shutter speed 1/250, f5.6, ISO 200
Shutter speed 1/125, f8, ISO 200
Shutter speed 1/60, f11, ISO 200
Shutter speed 1/30, f16, ISO 200
Shutter speed 1/15, f22, ISO 200
Shutter speed 1/8, f29, ISO 200
Shutter speed 1/4, f32, ISO 125
Motion Freeze and Motion Blur
As you can see from the above photos, when you lower the shutter speed (increase the amount of time the shutter is open), you are able to create a sense of "motion" in your photograph. Likewise, with faster shutter speeds, the motion in a scene can be "frozen."
So by controlling the shutter speed, you can either "freeze" motion, I call it "motion freeze" or induce motion by causing "motion blur."
Faster shutter speeds "freeze motion," while slower shutter speeds "blur motion."
Therefore, when you think of shutter speed, I'd like you to think in terms of "motion freeze" or "motion blur." Ask yourself:
- Do I want to freeze motion? In that case you would use a fast(er) shutter speed.
- Or do I want to blur motion? In that case you would use a slow(er) shutter speed.
I hope this helps you understand the creative effect that shutter speed has for your photographs.
Take your own "motion freeze" or "motion blur" photos and post them in the comments below.