Shooting with Slow Shutter Speed

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With slow shutter speed (otherwise known as long exposure), the elements of time and motion are introduced into your photography. We’re going to run down some quick suggestions and examples on some ways to get you started, but before that, here are a few things to keep in mind:

• The tripod is your friend, especially when shooting with slow shutter speeds.
• Long exposures create noise. Set your camera’s ISO to the lowest possible setting.
• Mind the light. You will not always be able to use long shutter speeds, especially if the light is too strong since you will lose detail in the highlights.


This is probably the most common use of extended exposure that you will see all over the place. Just find a busy street and shoot away. Get creative by finding roads that have interesting shapes and including other items like bridges in your composition.

CC Photo by anna pearson f/29 at 30 secs

Some wedding photographers like shooting couples in the middle of the road as traffic zooms past them on both sides. It makes for a dramatic urban shot.


By using slow shutter speeds, water crashing on the beach will have a mist-like appearance. Look for large rocks or other obstacles that water travels through to get a more pronounced effect. Look at the work of David Burdeny to see a master at work.

CC Photo by roberto shabs f/36 at 13 secs


When using this technique, the motion blur is caused by the camera’s zoom function rather than the subject’s movement. Select a scene with a lot of colorful lights. Select a shutter speed of about 1 second or longer and set your zoom lens on its widest focal length. After you click on the shutter, zoom in to your lens’ longest focal length. It takes some practice to pull it off smoothly.

CC Photo by Sami Kainanen f/28 at 1 sec


In this style, the motion is caused by the photographer’s motion. Usual instances would be shots taken from inside a moving car.

CC Photo by cbamber85 f/2.6 at 1/15


Portraits and motion do not always go together but if done right then it can inject a sense of energy in your shots. Some creative examples in doing this would be taking a shot of your subject surrounded by moving people or a ballerina twirling.

CC Photo by Lili Vieira de Cervalho f/3.2 at 5/8 sec


Most photographers focus on movement that is happening on the ground but taking photos of moving clouds can add a lot of emotion to a photo. If you plan on capturing clouds in motion during the day then one thing you will need to do this is a neutral density filter. Neutral density (ND) filters are basically just tinted filters that darken a scene. These are available in different grades depending on how dark they are. This is necessary since clouds are very bright and if you attempt to capture them with slow shutter speeds then you’ll most likely blow them out.

CC Photo by ctd2005 f/2.8 at 15 secs

Moving clouds are best captured just before or after a rain shower when the skies are moody. Places located in higher altitudes are also perfect for these kinds of shots since cloud movements appear much faster.

If you find that your foreground is being affected too much by the filter then try using graduated ND (GND) filter. GND filters are also tinted at the top but the tint slowly fades until the bottom part is clear. These are specifically designed to affect just the sky of a photo. To learn more about filters, watch out for our upcoming filter article coming out by next week.


Photography literally means drawing with light. This can be clearly seen when light trails are used to create abstract photos. There are a lot of different ways to achieve abstract effects but two things remain constant: select a long exposure and move the camera while the shot is being recorded.

CC Photo by Gaetan Lee f/3.4 at 10/13 sec

Have fun shooting this weekend!

Related Reading:
Going Manual: Learning Exposure Basics
Starlight Effect: Creative Use of Aperture
Tips on How to Take Tack Sharp Photos
Tripod Heads 101

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