Art of Photography

Rob Townsend

Exercise – Shutter speeds

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Brief:

Take a series of exposures of a moving object that fills the frame with various shutter speeds, from the fastest available on the camera to a very slow one. Observe the differences and the speeds at which the image is sufficiently sharp and in focus.

Equipment:

Canon EOS 650D with EF 40mm f/2.8 STM lens, tripod.

Method:

I set up my bike upside down and spun the front wheel to the fastest speed I could by hand. The camera was set up on a tripod and manually focused on the centre of the wheel to ensure consistent framing and focus. I started at the slowest shutter speed I could without blowing the highlights (1/10 sec) and worked up to the fastest shutter speed (1/4000 sec).

Results:

With the shutter speed at 1/10 sec, 1/25 sec and 1/50 sec the movement blur is so much that the tyre appears to be completely smooth and the spokes aren’t visible. Markings on the tyre are rendered as smears. The white reflector attached to the spokes gets progressively shorter as the shutter speed increases.

1/10 sec

1/10 sec

1/25 sec

1/25 sec

1/50 sec

1/50 sec

When the shutter speed was increased to 1/100 sec, 1/250 sec and 1/500 sec the texture of the tyre tread is increasingly revealed, and the spokes start becoming visible first vaguely and by 1/500 are quite well defined. There is still a blurriness to the lettering on the tyre though.

1/100 sec

1/100 sec

1/250 sec

1/250 sec

1/500 sec

1/500 sec

At shutter speeds of 1/1000 sec, 1/2000 sec and 1/4000 sec the image is getting increasingly sharp. At 1/1000 a very slight blur is evident on the ‘Continental’ lettering, but at 1/2000 and 1/4000 the image looks like that of an absolutely stationary wheel. The image is completely frozen at these shutter speeds.

1/1000 sec

1/1000 sec

1/2000 sec

1/2000 sec

1/4000 sec

1/4000 sec

What I’ve learned:

Shutter speeds of around 1/2000 sec will freeze movement to the point of appearing stationary. Deliberately slowing down the shutter speed can give a real sense of movement – the one at 1/100 depicts this best in this set, in my opinion. Choice of shutter speed is therefore dependent on the effect one if trying to achieve.

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