The Light Chaser: Capturing motion

February 14, 2015

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The Light Chaser. A blog by Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief.

Chapter 4: Exposure — shutter.

Last week we introduced you to exposure and understanding ISO. This week we will discuss shutter.

After you have set your ISO, ask yourself “what is my subject?” Are you photographing a moving object or a still object? Are you trying to capture a grand landscape where the entire picture should be sharp from foreground to background or do you prefer that the background is out of focus and the foreground is in focus?

When photographing an object in motion, you will want to next set your shutter speed. Shutter is measured in seconds and fractions of seconds. Standard shutter speeds include:

  • MPL Valentine 2-151 second or longer
  • 1/2 second
  • 1/4 second
  • 1/8 second
  • 1/15 second
  • 1/30 second
  • 1/60 second
  • 1/125 second
  • 1/250 second
  • 1/500 second
  • 1/1000 second
  • 1/2000 second

The measurement between each setting is known as a stop. When increasing the shutter, you are allowing in half as much light for each stop.  The longer the shutter is open, the more motion will be shown in a photo. As a general rule, freezing motion in a typical sporting event means setting your camera to at least 1/250 of a second.

The faster the shutter speed, the more motion will be frozen. I have found that when photographing a sport, a shutter needs to be set at a minimum of 1/250 to freeze motion. Obviously the faster the motion, the faster the shutter.

If a shutter is set too slow you will want to use something to steady the camera, such as a tripod. Normally, once you get below 1/60 you shouldn’t handhold and you will want to use a tripod or something else to steady the camera.

In the photograph used above, the shutter was open for several seconds, allowing the carnival ride to go around several cycles and thus causing a streaking effect. Keeping this photograph in focus required a tripod.

Next week: aperture.

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