3rd Course – Shutter Speed Tricks

3rd course: Shutter type, shutter speed, freezing movement, zoom panning, bulb, fill flash & techniques to practice

Shutter Types:

Mechanical camera shutter:

It has moving parts & comes in two kinds – leaf & focal plane camera shutter types, leaf can be found in old cameras, film compacts & medium format camera lenses & the shutter is located inside the lens, focal plane shutter vertically running that gives more opportunity for higher speeds, this shutter is located in the lens focal plane inside the camera body & in-front of the film plane.

Focal plane shutter: is found in all digital DSLR cameras & consists of two curtains that work together, it travels in front of the digital image sensor, just above the plane of sharp focus hence, it’s name & works by opening one curtain to begin an exposure & closing another curtain to end it, the front curtain opens first, moving across the plane of the sensor until it’s fully open, then after the sensor has been left exposed for the desired amount of time the rear curtain begins to follow it, gradually covering the sensor until it is completely concealed.

Electronic shutter:

Simply turn the sensor on & off to capture the exposure, the image build up as light is captured by the sensor, because these camera shutter types don’t have moving parts they are less expensive & can be found in the cheapest cameras, but ironically also in the most expensive, they can be exceptionally accurate when designed with precision.

Shutter lag:

Is the time between pressing the shutter release & the camera responding by taking the picture, while this delay is insignificant on most film cameras & some digital cameras, it may be a problem when trying to capture subjects who are moving quickly such as in sports photography, today release shutter delay might be less of an issue again due to the release lag becoming faster & faster.

Shutter cycle:

It’s a process of the shutter opening, closing & resetting to where it is ready to open again.

Shutter speeds:

DSLR shutter speed range: 1/8000 up to 30 seconds, for beyond 30 seconds exposure you should use the “BULB “B” function.

Note Any long exposure you have to use: Cable release (lock) or self-timer, tripod, mirror lock-up.

A fast shutter speed will stop action (sport) while a low shutter speed will show (trail lights), a shutter speed of 1/500 is usually fast to freeze an action but a bird might need 1/2000 of a sec. shutter speed.

There is a common mistake when photographing sports using the fastest shutter speed to freeze action, this is fine in basketball or baseball, but with speedy sports such as motorsports, freezing the action with a fast shutter speed will result in posed-looking shots.

Instead, convey a dynamic sense of motion with a slower shutter speed while panning with the action (the subject stays sharp & the background is blurred).

So now you have two choices either a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion or a lower shutter speed to give a sense of movement of the object

Freezing movement:

When photographing a tennis player hitting a serve, you would be trying to capture the athlete fully extended with the ball poised just on or before the racket and use high ISO.

Special lenses with a wide aperture & usually a fixed focal lens are required for sports photography.


Is the horizontal movement of a camera as it scans a moving subject when you pan you are moving your camera in synchronicity with your subject as it moves parallel to you, in order to pan successfully your camera has to follow the subject’s movement & match it’s speed & direction as perfectly as possible.

panning shot of a car

Tips for successful panning:

  1. Panning requires steady hands & a relatively slow shutter speed, The actual shutter speed depends on the speed of the subject but generally, it will be 1/200 or slower, 1/200 if your object is really flying along, like a speeding car on a race track, & maybe 1/40 if your subject is a runner on a track.
  2. Keep in mind the faster your shutter speed is the easier it will be to keep your subject crisp, especially in the beginning don’t slow your shutter speed too much just keep it slow to begin to show some motion, till you get enough confidence you can slow your shutter more to show even further motion & thus separation of your speeding subject from the background.
  3. Make sure your subject remains in the same portion of the frame during the entire exposure, this will ensure a crisp, sharp subject.
  4. Remember the faster your subject is moving the more difficult it is to apply the panning technique.

Panning techniques:

1-Zoom Panning:

With the zoom lens set at minimum or maximum extension, select a slow shutter speed, when the shutter is opened smoothly zoom either in or out for the duration, this technique can create a very interesting motion effect.

2-Swirl effect:

This is achieved by moving the camera in a semicircle from left to right, or from right to left while keeping an area in the finder as the point of axis or point of focus.


Moving the camera up/down or left/right depending on the orientation, for example, panning trees would use up/down movement & moving water or other horizontally oriented subjects would be panned left/right.

4-Multiple zoom:

This can be made using a tripod, after each exposure just rack the zoom inwards a bit, if there is a point of focus or primary subject, make sure that you re-focus on the subject after each zoom exposure.

Bulb (B):

It is a shutter speed setting on an adjustable camera that allows for long exposure times under the direct control of the photographer, with this setting, the shutter simply stays open as long as the shutter release button remains pressed.

Note: Some cameras will produce excessive noise & are not suitable for long exposure photography, ensure you have a high ISO & long exposure reduction function in your camera menu enabled to reduce the noise.

Direct Flash Photography

Direct flash:

When to use Direct flash, in professional photography direct flash is often used as the last measure, in other words for a professional to shoot with direct flash, the available light is atrocious, there are no walls to bounce light from, or it’s just pitch black, in those cases direct flash is a lifesaver.

Most cameras designed for amateurs have a built-in flash that blasters light directly at the subject, creating the same kind of “deer in the headlights”, the addition of an inexpensive flash unit for bouncing flash can reduce this harshness & give your picture a professional look.

Fill Flash Photography Tips

Fill Flash:

When taking photos outdoors, using the fill flash setting can dramatically improve the quality of your photo, use it in bright sunlight to lighten dark shadows under the eyes & nose of your subject, this is especially important when the sun is directly overhead or behind your subject, you can also use it on cloudy days to brighten up faces so they stand out from the background, in indoors if you are taking picture beside a window the only source of light is the sun coming through the window from outside, if no flash used the object will be dark & the background only will be fine but by using Fill flash we will able to properly expose the subject & the background.

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