Creative Shutter Speeds

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A carefully chosen shutter speed does a lot more than provide a correct exposure. Used creatively, it can freeze the motion of a hummingbird’s wings or create an impressionistic rendition of a galloping horse. Fast shutter speeds arrest action, while slower ones tend to imply motion. When slow shutter speeds are combined with panning, photographic works of art can be created.

Motion can be conveyed by freezing peak action through the use of a high shutter speed or by exaggerating it using a slow shutter speed. The faster the action, the higher the shutter speed that’s necessary to stop the movement. This will dictate using higher ISO settings especially on overcast days, if shooting indoors, or if you’re using a slow lens. On the other hand, if the photographic goal is to pan with the subject’s motion or create impressionistic blurs, low ISO settings are required.

Anytime a photographic subject is in motion, an artistic rendering can be made. Compare the effects in the side-by-side shots of the running bisons. The image on the left was shot at 1/800 of a sec, ISO 400 at ƒ/5.6. The bright overcast afternoon light provided me with just enough shutter speed to stop the action. During the stampede, a thicker cloud passed in front of the sun diffusing the light so I took advantage. I stopped the lens down to ƒ/11 giving me a shutter speed of 1/30 and I panned the camera with the running bison. Same subject matter in the same conditions, but completely different renditions.

Challenge yourself to go out and create some great motion photographs. Use a high shutter speed to freeze the movement. Then use a slow shutter speed to create a more painterly effect. Then try panning the camera in the direction in which the subject moves. Try varying your shutter speeds while panning. Each will provide a different effect. Look at the LCD to see if you’re getting the desired effect. If not, adjust the shutter speed accordingly. It’s a fun technique and it may net you some winners.


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