We Simplify The Technical!

Simple explanations on how to create images with silky water, light painting, and other slow shutter techniques that add movement and an abstract feel to your images.

 *Please scroll to the bottom of the post for more images from our guest.*

Episode 163

Slow Shutter Speed Creativity 

Slow shutter  

  • Anything you can’t hand hold without getting camera shake. 1/60 sec, 1/20 sec to more lengthy shots of 20 seconds or even 20 minutes or more!
  • Most slow shutter applications require a tripod and a shutter release cable, but not all!
  • Since the shutter remains open for a longer period, many of these techniques are done in the early morning or late evening hours to avoid overexposing your images.
  • Daytime techniques can be achieved by using filters.
  • Static objects will remain crisp, while anything in motion becomes blurred.
  • Adds a more abstract element to your images and offers a way to show movement.


Techniques to Try

  • Streaking Lights – Slow shots of traffic produce streaks of red lights across a static background. – Find a good background to focus on.

– Set up your tripod LOW to the ground – about the level of the taillights. – A shutter speed of about 30s produces a great streaking effect.

  • Silky Water – Moving water smooths out and becomes silky-looking with slower shutter speeds. – Use a small aperture to restrict the amount of light entering the camera. (f/22 or f/36) – This technique produces the best results in semi-darkness OR by using a filter to keep from overexposing the image. – Try a 3 second exposure (3”) at ISO 100 and f/8. – The length of the exposure will determine how blurred and silky the water becomes. Play around with timing until you get the desired effect.

– To counteract any moving foliage from wind, take another picture – stay at f/8 and set shutter to 1/100s.  Images will have to be layered and blended in post-processing.

  • Zoom Blur/Zoom Burst – Can be done during the day. – Produces an abstract movement of your subject. – Shutter speed set to 1/15s. Meter at 0.  As you hit the shutter, manually zoom out (or in) with your lens.
  • Horizontal or Vertical Blur – This effect can be done without a tripod. – Similar to zoom blur effect but can enhance vertical or horizontal lines – Same settings as above. As you hit the shutter, quickly jerk the camera in either a vertical or horizontal direction.
  • Panning – Keep moving objects sharp against a blurred background. – Can be done in daylight. – Does not use a tripod. – This technique takes lots of PRACTICE! Even with experience, you may only get 1/10 of your images to turn out. – Start at 1/15s.  Meter at 0. – Press the shutter and follow your moving subject.
  • Light Painting ON a subject. – Allows you to “paint” light onto a dark subject or can be used to eliminate shadows. – Placing the camera in ‘Bulb’ mode keeps the shutter open. – If they move quickly, the person holding the light will not show up in the image. – The amount of time spent lighting each area is variable and takes practice.
  • Light Painting AS the subject. – Any light source can be used to draw or paint streaks or pictures, outline a subject, or in a variety of other creative ways. – Use an off-camera flash to freeze and light your subject in addition to light painting.
  • Steel Wool Sparks ** Take extreme safety precautions – you’re playing with fire and spreading sparks in a wide area. The sparks WILL ignite anything flammable nearby. ** – Wear a hat to keep from lighting your hair on fire and gloves to protect your hands. Dark clothing will keep the spinner less visible. – Use fine gauge steel wool.  “Fluff it up” a lot.  Place it inside a wire whisk connected to a string or chain. – Set your shutter to 30s.  Have your helper swing and spin the whisk around.  The steel wool will smolder and not look very exciting to your eye, but the camera will pick up much more light and create an interesting effect.
  • Ghosts – You can create a transparent image of a person by using a slow shutter speed. – Set your shutter to 30s. Have someone pose within the frame for about 10 seconds and then move out of the frame.  The resulting image looks like a ghost!
  • Star trails – Set up on a tripod. Set camera to ‘Bulb’ mode to keep the shutter open. – Trails or streaks can be produced with a 20-30 MINUTE exposure. – Crisp points of starlight need an exposure of less than 20s.


Mentioned on the Show

Shutter Drag Article

Singh-Ray filters




Listen to the Understand Photography Show on iTunes:  https://tinyurl.com/y66g545vTo leave us a review (we’d REALLY appreciate it!), click on LISTEN ON APPLE PODCASTS, then OPEN IN iTUNES


Understand Photography 
General Notes 

What you need to learn for a solid photography education.  Watch our free video:


Upcoming Trips:

Everglades 4 Day Adventure
Jan 16-19, 2020  

Everglades 4 Day Adventure
Jan 30-Feb 2, 2020

Florida’s Forgotten Coast 
March 25-29, 2020 

Ladies Luxury African Photo Safari and Tour
Sept. 19-30, 2020

Understand Photography is a member of the Amazon Associates Program.

I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work in bringing you  information about photography

Gear Recommendation of the Week


 Gobe ND Filter Kit

ND lens filters reduce the light intake to eliminate overly bright & washed out images. They also enable a range of creative possibilities; facilitating a wider aperture for a shallower depth field and a slower shutter speed for capturing the beauty of time and movement.
















Peggy Farren Zoom Blur Neon
Peggy Farren Panning at the Louvre
Peggy Farren light streaks
Joe Fitzpatrick Greyhound
Peggy Farren horizontal blurred sunset
sierra steel wool PF
Peggy Farren Vertically Blurred Trees

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This