Thursday, November 15, 2012

How To Show Motion In Your Photographs

I've been asked a few times how I'm able to show motion (or movement) in my photographs. This seems like a basic photography principal, but, since some don't know, I'm happy to explain it.
Two Trains - Tehachapi, California
The ability to freeze motion or show motion has to do with the shutter speed of the camera. When you press the shutter release button, you are capturing a very small moment in time, usually a very tiny fraction of a second. Because the time that light is exposed to the sensor (or film) is so short (a fraction of a second), there is little or no movement of the objects that you are photographing during that extremely short moment.
Circle K - Tehachapi, California
In order to show motion in your photographs, the shutter speed has to be long enough that whatever you are photographing has a chance to move during the time that the shutter is open. In other words, a slow shutter speed is required to show movement.
Fireworks Over Lake #2 - Lake Isabella, California
How long the shutter needs to stay open depends on how fast (or slow) whatever you are photographing is moving, and how much movement you wish to capture. The shutter may need to remain open for several minutes, or it may need to be open for 1/30th of a second. It will be different for each situation.
Fast Slide - Tehachapi, California
One method to achieve a slow shutter speed is to use a small aperture (such as f22). That will reduce the light into the camera. By using a small aperture you increase depth-of-field, which may or may not be what you want. You also reduce sharpness because diffraction typically starts to show up after f8.
Train Underpass - Tehachapi, California
Another method is to use shade. There is overall less light in shaded areas, allowing for slower shutter speeds. Heavily overcast days and immediately after sundown are two other times to take advantage of.
Quick Train - Tehachapi, California
Night is ripe for using slow shutter speeds. If you are interested in exposures of several minutes, this is the time to do so.
Train And Full Moon - Tehachapi, California
Using a neutral density filter is another method for achieving slow shutter speeds. These filters screw onto the front of the lens and reduce the light into the camera. These filters will reduce the light anywhere from one f-stop to 13 f-stops, depending on the filter.
Rock And River - Kernville, California
Any time that you have bright light, such as typical outdoor daytime lighting, you will have trouble showing the motion in your photographs. You will need to find a way to reduce the light, such as with the methods mentioned above. The one exception to this is if the object that is moving is doing so very quickly. A fast car on the highway, for example.
Steadfast Movement - Mojave, California
Anytime that the exposure is less than 1/15th of a second (and sometimes as quick as 1/30th of a second), you will want to use a tripod. Anytime that you are dealing with slow shutter speeds, you've got an increased risk for camera shake and blurry images. If you don't own a tripod, you will want to purchase one. Or, place the camera on a flat and sturdy surface and use the camera's self-timer.
Blue And Yellow River - Kernville, California
By showing motion in your images, you are increasing the drama and visual interest. You are capturing energy and conveying that to the viewer. It can be a powerful tool for the photographer.
Ties That Bind - Tehachapi, California

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