Implied Motion: Dragging the Shutter

Implied Motion: Dragging the Shutter

So, you've got a story to tell, and it involves much more than you can say with a static image.

Photographers have been using motion blur, or "dragging the shutter" to help illustrate and imply motion for decades.

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Sometimes, it is best to be subtle: the rogue strands of hair slightly blurred as she shuffles around to fix her wardrobe, the layers of fabric draped over her body; these details all have the potential to tell so much more when set into motion.

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A college professor once told me that most people can hold a camera reasonably still at around 1/30th of a second... which of course only challenged me to push that further.

Sure, 1/30th of a second is plenty of time to turn a moving automobile, or an athelete in action, but if your subject is a person, just hanging out and being themselves, you are going to need to slow down and drag that shutter for even longer.

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In this series of images, you can see a handheld shot of model, Lily Roze, having fun celebrating her birthday in the studio. Her arms and legs were moving but the rest of the image is frozen, but I had to go all the way down to 1/10th of a second.

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Take a deep breath...but dont hold it in!

Breath out slow and steady, while firing your carefully timed shots. Remember, we want to SHOW motion, so the position of these moving parts is very important, right? This type of shooting is all about communication with your subject, and a careful combination of direting and anticipating their movements.

This was shot with all natural light plus a bounce at ISO 320. Once the technical stuff was set, we just experimented with timing and slow shutter speeds.

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Post by Atomic Joshua

Photographer + Filmmaker turned studio owner.

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