What is that blur? | photography lesson

June 29, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Have you ever taken a picture of something or someone that was moving and when you looked at your finished image you wondered why they were blurry? More than likely the culprit was your shutter speed. Shutter speed? What's that? The shutter curtain is what's in your camera that allows light to come in and determines how long it will be let in. On SLRs/DSLRs (Single Lens Reflex/Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras, you can set your shutter speed. The closest you can get to setting your shutter speed on a point and shoot camera is using the dial selection with the very bad image  of a running person. Anyway, think of your shutter as the blinds to your house. When you open them, light comes in. When you close them, they keep light out. The faster they move, the less light gets in. The slower they move, the more light that gets in. There are different types of shutters like focal-plane shutters, simple leaf shutters, diaphragm shutters and so on. Don't worry, we won't get into shutter curtains like that because it's really not necessary at this point.

When you are taking pictures of a moving subject, you have to be cognizant of your shutter speed. Plus you have to determine whether or not you want to show movement or stop it on a dime.  So depending on your subject, your shutter speed could be 1/20 of a second or 1/2000 of a second. Below are a few images I took years ago when my husband and I went to Hawaii. It was outside in the evening causing a low light situation. Since I didn't want to use my flash, I had to open up my aperture really wide and raise my ISO to get the shot I wanted. I believe these were taken at 1/80 of a second. Any slower and the images could have been a blurry mess. Any faster and the flames may have been sharper than I wanted. There's also the possibility of the images being too dark as well.

images from Hawaii images from Hawaii

As you can see, there is a lot of movement in these images. I wanted to capture the circle that the fire made and I could only really do that at a slow shutter speed. To be honest, I didn't have too much choice considering I needed to let in as much light as I could just to get the shot. I also had to steady myself on the table, otherwise I would have ended up with camera shake. Generally camera shake happens when you have a slow shutter speed and hand holding the camera causes the photographer to move the camera up and down slightly. No, I didn't bring my tripod to the luau.

Since I wanted the above images to be more of an artful interpretation I allowed for a lot of movement. Here are some images where I wanted to stop the action cold. This first image I used 1/125 of a second, along with a strobe light. I mean, she wasn't moving as fast as the man twirling the fire baton nor the hula dancer and I had better lighting. I wanted to make sure that I caught her with both her feet off of the ground.

atlanta child photographer_MG_3274-Edit

This image I had them sprint towards me. This time I had my shutter speed set to 1/160 of a second. They were a little bit faster than the little girl who was jumping. I very rarely have to go above 1/200 a second because my subjects don't necessarily move that fast. Maybe if I start photographing sports or race cars, that may change, but I don't really see that happening. Or if we're outside and it's extremely bright, a fast shutter speed will help also.

atlanta child photographer

Now here is an image I actually bumped up to 1/250 of a second. Since dogs are pretty fast, I knew that I'd have to have a faster shutter speed than usual. This was just a casual day at our neighborhood park with my family. That's our dog Jazz. He loves being chased and hasn't quite mastered the art of retrieving and object and actually bringing it back to us. He is a Labrador Retriever after all, so I don't think I'm expecting too much from him.

There is so much more information about shutter speed, but this is the basic information. You have to determine what you want to do first before setting it. Letting in enough light so that you can keep a certain f-stop is one thing, but manipulating for speed is another. Just practice and see what you like and don't like. You may come up with some really cool effects. If you do try some things out, I would love to see the results! My inbox is always open.



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