How to use slow shutter speed
The shutter of your camera is the device that times light hitting the photographic medium. For most of us, this is going to be a physical ‘curtain’ that covers the film or digital sensor. When the shutter-release is pressed, the shutter opens to allow light to hit your film or sensor for a specified amount of time. It then closes and the image is finished recording. If this time is extremely short, we are able to freeze motion. As it becomes longer, objects may move during the exposure time and be recorded as a blur. We can use this control to great creative effect.
For the purposes of this technique, we’re not going to give a firm definition for what a slow shutter speed is. Rather, we’ll look at it as any shutter speed that introduces blur due to the objects in the scene moving. This will vary based on the objects in your scene and how quickly they are moving.For example, the beating of a hummingbird’s wings will blur at a much faster shutter speed than a person strolling through the park.
When using this technique, I recommend being in Manual mode. It’s certainly possible to achieve this is Shutter Speed Priority or Program mode, but with Manual, you know exactly what’s going on and can keep your exposure consistent.The first thing you’ll want to do is select an appropriate ISO setting. During the day, this would be as low as possible, but as light fades, you might want to bump it up a little depending on the amount of light available.Then, you’ll want to set the shutter to the desired value. When you first begin, you’ll need to experiment with this. For blurring humans walking across the frame, I would recommend starting at around 1/15, for speeding cars 1/60 should be enough.Now you can use your aperture to set the required exposure. During the day, you may need to dial down to f/16 or f/22 to get a correct exposure.
Here is the important part of the article. Photography being a visual art, means that we shouldalways convey some sort of meaning, or story, with our images.Slow shutter speeds are a great way to do this. By allowing certain objects in our scene to blur, we are suggesting motion in a still image. Depending on how much we blur things, or which things we blur, we can suggest different emotions.For example, a sole person standing in a crowd of blurred people can suggest loneliness. Doing the same thing with a couple embracing might suggest eternal love. A bus screaming past a bicycle rider can suggest the difference in speed. Birds in flight can show chaos or grace, depending on how they are blurred.
Head out with the intent to use long shutter speeds. Take your tripod for this first experiment. It will help you to make sure that something stays sharp and you can really see the effect of blurring various objects. Start with simple things like people walking, cars driving, and people at work. Then move into more complex scenes involving different objects moving at different speeds. All the while, vary your shutter speed for the scene as much as you can. What does a person walking across the frame look like at 1/60? How about 1/15? What about someone walking towards the camera? How about nearer objects vs. farther objects? Do they blur differently? What happens at 1/60 if you have a person walking across the foreground and a taxi whipping through the background?