Conveying movement in a Photograph

August 1, 2016

I'm patron to a local photography club here in Fleet where I live.   My main role is to teach members about photography through training sessions during their meetings.  

We're going through a series looking in-depth at the exposure triangle: aperture, shutter speed and ISO.  Most new photographers seem to struggle with how these three elements interact with each other and I would say that of all the subjects I teach in private lessons, these are the most misunderstood.

A simple way to look at aperture and shutter speed is like this...

Aperture determines the quantity of light to hit your camera's sensor 
but shutter speed controls just how long that quantity hits it.

Imagine a darkened room.  Outside the sun is shining.  Now open the door.  The wider you open the door, the more light enters the room.  That is just like the aperture on your camera.  


At first you only open the door for a few seconds.  As you get used to the light, you begin to leave the door open for longer.  That is like the shutter.  The longer you leave the door open, the more light comes comes in.   

Combining how wide you open the door with the length of time you live it open it is just like combining the light that hits your cameras sensor when you select any given aperture with any given shutter speed.

This is a very easy concept, yet seems to baffle so many people when they first enter the world of photography.

Capturing movement


So today I'm looking at the shutter and using the shutter speed to capture movement.  


You have two options; either you can freeze movement completely (as in the image below), rendering it in full sharp detail, enabling you to examine the moment in time... or you can slow your shutter right down, so that movement becomes a blur.

The blur is a creative representation of the movement.  


It tells the viewer here is something moving, here is something that perhaps is best displayed in it's transition from one point to another.  The blur trail is important to the story you're capturing.  Without it, something of the moment, the action taking place, is somehow less important.  


If the movement is important - show it.

In the shot above, one person remains static while everyone moves around her, as they disembark from the train.  


This image is meant to convey passenger chaos and is highlighted by the single static figure in the centre (-ish).   The people were moving quite quickly and a relatively short exposure of half a second was plenty of time for a camera shutter to capture this movement.  

The camera, on this occasion a Fuji XPro2, was sat on the station platform.  I had a 10-24mm lens fitted, which was zoomed right out to 10mm.  I monitored the image and fired the shutter remotely from an app on my iPhone.



Capturing movement with longer shutter speeds

For shots like the one above and below, the sea is rendered into a silky-smooth finish by much longer shutter speeds, in this case they were over a minute long.  


The camera was mounted on a tripod and was fired by a remote cable.  Most cameras don't have shutter speeds of more than 30 seconds, so the shutter has to be set to B for bulb and held open manually via the remote cable.  You time yourself, and at the right time release the button on the remote.


Interestingly, not so much of the movement is conveyed in the water photos.  What you do get however, is a dreamy smooth, very calming representation of the movement.  


Learn more

In my landscape photography workshop we look into how this works in practise and what tools you need for the job.  More info

If this is something you'd like to know more about and can't wait until the next Landscape Photography workshop, why not book a private lesson with me.   Details of my photo mentoring can be reached by clicking here.  

Alternatively, call my office on 01252 643143 for a brief chat.



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