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Using the Shutter Speed Creatively

I already talked about shutter speed and how it works, as well as the modes that best work to practise it in a previous blog. In todays blog I want to dig a little deeper into shutter speed and how you can use it in order to make more interesting photographs, going a step further into creative photography.

Slow shutter speed = blur movement

Why is this? The slower the sutter speed, the longer it stays open, giving the objects more time to move while the photograph is exposed.

The photographer Ernst Haas was well-known for using this technique in his work:

To obtain this effect, select 'Shutter Priority' (S or Tv) and a slow shutter speed (below 1/40). The slower a object moves, the slower the shutter speed will need to be to see signs of blur. The slower you go, the greater the blur.

Something very important to keep in mind when playing around with slow shutter speeds, is the necessity of stability for the camera. Normally, in an image with blur, we look to keep the background in focus, this way there is a contrast with the subject in movement that will be blurred. This doesn't always have to be the case. We can have a photograph where everything is blurred, it depends on what we're trying to get across with the image.

But in the case that we want only the subject in movement to be blurred, the camera needs to be stable. This is due to the fact that the shutter speed is so slow, that the slightest movement, even our own pulse, will blur the image. This is called 'camera shake', and it's the reason that you need to work with a tripod.

This technique is used for creating light trails. Using blur photography we can create magical-looking images with the city at night as our subject. Passing cars become long trails of brilliant light. In this image we can see that the only evidence of movement is the passing cars, whilst the architecture of the city remains still and in focus.

It's also commonly used in landscape photography. Is can be used when there is water present in the image. This way we can give it a soft fairy-like quality. One of my favourite landscape photographers is Javier Alonso Torre. He mainly photographs the north of Spain and makes it look like a fairytale, using the technique of blur movement:

Fast shutter speed = freeze movement

Fast shutter speed does the opposite of slow shutter speed, it freezes the moment with utmost detail. The subject in photographs appear frozen when using a fast shutter speed because in the instant the camera takes the photograph, nothing has time to move. Remember that the number in the shutter speed is a fraction of a second. Normally, shutter sppeds of 1/125 and faster will start to freeze movement.

An example of this technique is the series that Naoya Hatakeyama did called 'Blast', where he uses a very fast shutter speed (1/2000) to show the destructive effects of Japan's limestone mining on the landscape.

For this kind of technique a tripod isn't necessary, as the camera takes the photograph so quickly.

So to freeze movement, select 'Shutter Priority' (S or Tv) and a fast shutter speed (above 1/125). The faster the shutter speed, the more in focus every single part of the image will be. The faster the movement of the subject in question, the faster the shutter speed will have to be to avoid blur.

And now get out there AND PRACTISE.

But before you do, be sure to check out the amazing book Read This If You Want To Take Great Photographs by Henri Carroll.

This author also has a great manual if you're interested in giving landscape ohotography a go that's from the same series and that I highly recommed called Read This If You Want To Take Great Photographs of Places.

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