Short exposure times: Photographing Motion

Short exposure times: Photographing Motion

Photographing moving objects is not that easy. Short shutter speeds avoid unattractive blurring in the image and freeze the dynamics of a movement.

Running water, a passing car or the powerful shot of a soccer player: If you want to capture moving objects, you have to use short shutter speeds. Otherwise, the background is crisp, but the actual subject is blurred. This can be quite charming in individual cases. But actually you don’t want that.

Speed essential for exposure time

Unfortunately, there is no rule of thumb for capturing movements. And for a simple reason: Objects move at different speeds. In addition, the actual exposure also depends on the desired image composition. In sports, for example, you want to emphasize the dynamics. With a river, on the other hand, the leisurely calm of its flow velocity.

Camera mode: Fully automatic, bye-bye

But there is one certainty: The fully automatic mode of the camera is the wrong choice here. When moving, you should set the exposure manually, or at least use “Aperture Priority” mode. The reason: The fully automatic mode ensures a correctly exposed image. However, it does not know that the subject is moving. In short: The fully automatic mode is comfortable, but deprives you of any design possibilities.

Short exposure times: The shorter the better

For a rough orientation one can say: “The shorter the better”. But: Easier said than done! The actual shutter speed depends to a large extent on the lighting conditions. In addition, on factors such as focal length, distance and the direction of movement of the object.

Standard values: Which time for which movement?

The basic rule is: “Try it, then study it”. Exposure bracketing helps to get a feeling for the correct shutter speed. Using the thumb you can say: With shutter speeds of 1/800 sec. and above, it should be possible to freeze a movement. Here are a few guidelines to help you:

  • Cyclist, raving children 1/300 sec. or bigger
  • Car, trains, motorbike: 1/500 sec. or larger
  • Athlete 1/800 sec. or greater

If you don’t want to be disappointed later on, you should zoom into the picture and check the sharpness directly. All pictures look sharp on the camera display. This circumstance often leads to misjudgements.

ISO sensitivity: Use carefully

Good lighting conditions increase the chances of success and allow shorter shutter speeds. If the lighting conditions are not good, e.g. for indoor sports, higher ISO values can be used to save time. But beware: don’t exaggerate! High ISO values (from approx. ISO 800, depending on the camera) cause unattractive image noise. A tip: It’s better to take the pictures a little darker and make them lighter during post-production.

Capturing moving motifs

Pulling the camera: Dynamic blur effect

In addition to freezing, there is another design effect for moving motifs. If you pull the camera with the movement, the object is sharp, the background gets a dynamic blur effect. This requires relatively long shutter speeds of about 1/15 sec (e.g. pedestrians) to 1/30-50 sec (e.g. cars). Another tip: The camera modes “Interval Shooting” and “Sharpness Tracking” are very helpful when dragging along. This way, several shots are taken in succession and the best moment is captured.

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