Hold onto your hats! This week in our 52 week Photography Challenge, we are looking a different ways to photograph movement
The rules are simple: Interpret the theme using digital photography on any device. Only minimal editing allowed.
How do photographers show a sense of movement in still images?
As you know the planet we live on is constantly moving and as a result, we are surrounded by perpetual movement. Environmental and human subjects move, as does the weather and so the list goes on.
Photographers need to make choices about whether to feature this movement in the shot or not. Therefore, the ability to capture or compensate for movement is incredibly important.
Let's look at a four different techniques that can be utilised to capture movement in still photography.
The first thing you need to know is that capturing movement is all about shutter speed. So, ditch the auto settings, it's time to go 'Shutter Priority' or 'Manual' mode.
I call the first technique the 'frozen moment' method. Movement is captured in a split second ( less than a second actually). As the images above and below show, the action is frozen and the result is a clear, crisp focused image depicting one moment in time. The sense of movement is represented as something that happened at that moment, which was in the past, but is recorded by the photograph.
This technique is great for very fast action as in the Shotover Jet boat above. It requires a reasonably fast shutter speed and/ or increase in ISO settings above 100 to capture the frozen look. Since it requires a fast shutter speed, there is no need for a tripod, but you will have to 'pan' or track the action with the camera as you shoot.
The second method is the 'partially frozen' technique. Here we have parts of the image in focus while others are blurred from the action within the scene.
This technique requires a tripod because you need to slow the shutter speed down to capture some of the blur. Careful selection of the subject is crucial because you need to show some movement and some still areas. The contrast of blurred and focused areas is esential for showing movement.
The third method is long exposures. Only possible at night or in very low light conditions, the long exposure is ideal for capturing movement visible as light trails. It is a very controlled process so the sense of movement is more staged or organised, often creating a sense of peace or calm. Typical images are crisply focussed and feature intense colours due to the long exposure.
Very slow shutter speeds are the essence of this technique, which is why they are only possible at night. A tripod is also a must to eliminate shake as well as a fast ISO to increase sensitivity to light. To work out how long you might need, set your tripod up in a place where the action will pass you and time how long it takes, eg a boat chugging by.
Again, it is the contrast between the sharp focus elements and the light trails that create the idea of movement within a limited space of time. The photograph is a record of several moments rather than a split second.
I call the fourth method the 'Total Blur' technique. Some old-school purists would say this not a technique, just a bunch of mistakes. In fact, when I studied photography, this idea was not considered valid. However, these days, thankfully the 'rules' have changed and anything goes!
Depending upon lighting conditions and the speed of the movement, this technique requires a slightly slower than usual shutter speed and a steady hand, or tripod.
Excessive blur creates the idea of continual movement, the photograph is a record of the action as it happens and continues to happen.
Some may find the lack of focus frustrating, however, if you question whether the intention of the image is to capture movement, a completely blurred image is a less conventional, creative approach that expresses the notion of movement very effectively I think. .
Understanding how to manage movement in your photography is an essential skill.
- Decide which method is right for your subject- Frozen, partial blur, Long Exposure or Total blur
- Ensure you are using Shutter priority or Manual mode on your (D)SLR
- Experiment with different shutter speeds for the same subject.
- Be creative and look for a different way to tell the story of the image.
- Ensure you have a tripod and adjust ISO settings if necessary.
Which technique will you use to capture your next movement shot?
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