Photo Feature: Movement
In this edition of my ‘Photo Feature’ series, I will look at how you go about photographing moving subjects – whether you are shooting vehicles, people, wildlife, fireworks, etc. There are basically two distinct ways of dealing with moving subjects when taking photos… and they are:
To freeze any kind of action, you need to use a fast shutter speed – how fast a shutter speed you need to use will depend on the speed at which your subject is moving…
Here are some examples of suitable shutter speeds to freeze different types of action:
Standard, everyday photos – 1/125
People walking – 1/500
A running race – 1/1000
Motorsports – 1/2000
Set your shutter speed first if trying to freeze motion, then adjust your other settings to suit the other conditions, such as the amount of ambient light.
But does using flash freeze movement?
Hmm, maybe, but only in certain circumstances… using your flash will freeze movement a little at slow shutter speeds. However, this only works if the subject is not well lit and they are not in front of a brightly lit background… so it’s not totally a totally failsafe method. And, also, if the subject is fast-moving, it’s not going to work – you will still get some blurring in the final image! Experiment with this technique is my advice…
To blur movement you need to do the opposite to freezing movement – use a slow shutter speed. When using a slow shutter speed, you will need to use a tripod to avoid camera shake as this will make your entire final image blurred (rather than just the moving part!).
One of my favourite things to photograph – and one of the trickiest – is fireworks. Using a slow shutter speed produces beautiful, coloured trails of light across the sky. For the shot below of a firework display at Disneyland Paris my settings were ISO 1000, f3.5 and shutter speed 1/20. This was a pretty reasonable effort to say that, despite what I keep saying about needing a tripod for this type of shot, I actually took this handheld. Unfortunately a tripod was just not an option due to the crowds…
The main thing to watch out for when using a slow shutter speed, is to make sure you don’t overexpose the image by letting in too much light. To do this, you can alter the ISO and/or aperture settings to compensate.
To blur motion, your shutter speed should be around 1/20 or slower… If you want to do a bit of writing with sparklers (and who doesn’t love doing that!) you need to set a shutter speed of between 5-10 seconds. Start with an ISO of around 400 and a shutter speed of around f16 and be prepared to play around with these settings a bit, depending on how dark the night is (ie, is the moon bright, are there street lights, etc).
I think both techniques have their merits and it very much depends on the subject and the effect your are looking for which one you decide to use…