If you need to freeze a motion when shooting, you may want to use a fast shutter speed. However, if you want to highlight a movement, it is a great advantage to use a long shutter speed.
The shutter is a device inside the camera that controls how much light is let into the image chip during an exposure. The shutter opens as you press the shutter button, and shuts down again when exposure is complete.
The longer the shutter is up, the more light is let into the image chip and the more movement you can capture.
How do you set the shutter speed?
The easiest thing is to set the camera to shutter priority (set your camera to TV / S). Then you control the shutter speed, while the camera adjusts the aperture to make sure the image is well exposed. This is a semi-automatic function. You can also force the camera to take brighter or darker images by using exposure compensation.
You can try to set the shutter speed somewhere between 1/15 – 1/30 sec. Keeping the camera steady at such long shutter speeds is demanding – especially on top of a revolving carousel and you get more and more dizzy. But exercise does master! 🙂
Where does the border between fast and long shutter speed go?
Of course, it depends on what you are shooting and what kind of lighting conditions you are shooting in. When shooting handhelds without a tripod, it is a good rule of thumb to use a faster shutter speed (in sec) than focal length (in mm) to get usable sharp images.
If you use a 50mm lens, the shutter speed should be faster than 1/50 sec. If you use a wide angle of 24mm, the shutter speed should be faster than 1/25 sec, etc. But when it is precisely the blur of motion you want to achieve, as in these pictures, you can stick to slightly longer shutter speeds than what this rule says.
The picture above is taken with a shutter speed of around 1/30 sec. When we both spin around and around it makes the background full of movement and you get a greater sense of speed. Had I been standing on the ground next to it, the carousel and Benjamin would be blurry, while the background would be sharp.
In the same way, you can try to photograph someone cycling past you. If you follow the cyclist with the camera while taking pictures, the background will be blurry, while the cyclist will be relatively sharp.
It creates momentum and dynamism in the image. Because there was a lot of movement in these motifs, I didn’t need to use a shutter speed longer than 1/30. But if the carousel had spun more slowly, I would have had a longer shutter speed to create the same speed feel as here.
On Highlight Day, you will find that a long shutter speed lets in too much light and the aperture fails to compensate for this. Then you either have to wait to photograph until the lighting conditions are more appropriate, e.g. postpone photography until later in the day. Or you can invest in an ND (neutral density) filter, also called gray filter. This is a neutral filter that you put in front of the lens. It is dark and lets in a little less light. It allows you to shoot with long shutter speeds and large apertures at the same time, even on a bright day.