Using Slow Shutter Speeds to Add Further Beauty To Your Images

If you’re at all used to your DSLR, you might have realized you have a lot more options now than you used to with your old compact camera. The fact that you have full control over aperture and shutter speed is certain to bring you a creativity boost. However, as with every tool, you first need to know how to use it in order to put it to good use.

Shutter speed isn’t only that funny number on your display that allows you to take incredibly sharp images in the middle of the day (well, it is, but it has a lot more to offer than just that). Understanding this sits at the core of adding a different angle to your images.

Now this is the perfect example of a play with shutter speeds. Now, whether you’re using a DSLR camera or a compact camera, you have to understand that automatic settings on both types are built to create the perfect still image. You need your image to be perfectly exposed every time, and most of the times they don’t take into account the fact that you might or are able to use a tripod and so on. To shoot the type of image displayed above you will certainly need a tripod. Slower shutter speed don’t always require a tripod, but most of the times they do.

Now, these types of images are well-known between car-fans. They’re the best way to give the impression of speed while still taking still images of the object. How does this happen? You basically have to match the speed of the vehicle with the movement of your hand (your camera being in your hand). We will discuss a full tutorial on how to create panning photographs at a different time. But you will also need to learn how to control shutter speeds for this particular task as well.

You can do panning with every moving subject – whether it’s an athlete that runs around the track or a car whooshing past you. Okay, and how does shutter speed step in? Slow shutter speed allows you the opportunity to build that beautiful, blurred background while the fast movement of the hand keeps the car in a sharp environment giving it clarity and emphasis. Panning, as a photography task takes a little bit to master since it won’t always go smoothly from the beginning.

For the time the shutter is open (reason for which the slow shutter speed is relevant at this point) you keep following the object in movement. How does this happen? Relative to your shutter, the object itself doesn’t move (if you manage to sort of match the speed of the vehicle) however the background does, creating that blurry effect. Now, if you were to use a faster shutter speed, you’d obviously obtain a less blurry background and you’d have everything sharp.

What’s important to note is that you have to find that balance between a slow shutter speed, the type of exposure you want to build and how much light you want in your image. Sometimes it might just be impossible to lower your shutter speed that much because there will be too much light hitting your sensor. What do you do then? Elevate aperture number.

Getting back to our initial image. It’s a bit of a different story there – those images require a low shutter-speed, high-aperture and maybe even an ND filter. These neutral density filters darken the image by 2-4-8% depending on your filter choice, and give you more maneuvering space in terms of finding the right shutter speed for your image. Keep in mind that high apertures are relevant since it would be interesting to have a sharp surrounding. Just think about it, incredibly sharp stones and a milky water – is that what you’re trying to obtain? Good, then this is the way to do it. Find some sort of stable ground, and start shooting at your waters. It will obviously take some getting used to, but this is the first step towards learning new and interesting things.

Slow shutter speed can also be used for creatively depicting night-time images. For example, remember those luminous car-trails? Then all you have to do is apply the creative shutter speed rule, and find a crowded place (in terms of vehicle activity to apply it). Set your tripod on a bridge under which you have a lot of traffic, or above some sort of u-turn, and you’ll soon have the desired effect.