If you’re looking for a technique that helps you take stunning photos, then we have just the thing for you. The technique that we will discuss today is all about manipulating shutter speed to create clear and beautiful photos, despite motion! This blog will discuss what “shutter drag” is, what you need to take photos while implementing shutter speed, and some tips to help you take better photos!

What is Shutter Drag?

Before we get into how to use shutter drag for your photo assignments, let’s talk about shutter drag definition. The easiest way to describe shutter drag is to say that you slow the shutter speed of your camera which allows you to capture ambient light as well. Now, what that means is, in general, with general settings, exposure is dictated by your camera’s aperture because the flash is extremely fast, which gives us a crisp photo. However, shutter drag is all about creating a dreamy photo by capturing ambient lighting as well. When you slow down the shutter speed, you will still be able to capture the subject lit by the flash. But along with it, you will also be able to capture any ambient light around the subject.

To sum it up: Shutter drag simply means that your photo composition will capture beautiful swirls of light around your photo subject. This will give you an impeccable photo. 

Note: While shutter drag helps you take creative photos and can be a great tool for engagement and wedding photography, it also means that the exposure will be a lot brighter than your regular photos. So keep that in mind when you set up your photo shoot area.

What You’ll Need to Use Shutter Drag? 

Usually, you do not need anything more than a camera to use shutter drag to capture motion. All you’ll need is a camera. You’ll need to use the manual settings. The first step is to set the shutter speed, 1/30 sec or 1/10 sec are good options to start with. And the second step is to look for movement or set up a scene to capture motion.

Understanding Shutter Speeds for Shutter Drag

Although these, the two we mentioned earlier, shutter speeds work well for motion, it is important to remember that the shutter speed should be selected as per the speed of the subject or the object. One of the things to note is that the longer your camera’s shutter is open, the greater the blur in the background. One of the things that can pose a problem when you take photos of “motion” is the noise from background elements. As motion photos are all about capturing an object or a person in motion, the key is to focus solely on the subject or the object in the frame. And for this, you will need to gauge the speed of the object or the subject. If, after you manually select the shutter speed, your photo looks jagged, try decreasing the shutter speed more.

For a better understanding, let’s take the example of manual camera photography. Manual photographers know that shooting low shutter speeds will give them a blurry photo. To replicate the same idea, but with your digital camera, all you need to do is leave your camera’s shutter open for a longer period. To make it easier, let’s take an example. For example, if you reduce the shutter speed by one second, the photo you’ll get will do the trick. However, the subject will not be recorded clearly. Now, if you reduce the shutter speed further, like to 2.5 seconds, you’ll find that despite the ambient light being captured in the frame, you will still be able to see the subject clearly.

Why is Shutter Drag a Great Technique to Master? 

Well, one of the primary reasons why shutter drag is popular among photographers is that it helps them to capture objects and subjects in motion. However, another reason for you to learn and use this photography technique is to add light trails to your photo in order to make it look lively and artsy. Shutter drag is a great way to capture the vibe of a party or a fun time because it helps you capture motion.

How to Use Shutter Drag for Your Photos? 

It is no secret that shutter drag photography helps you improve your photo compositions. Before we start, remember that using shutter drag for your photo compositions can take some practice. But that should not stop you from trying it out. The steps below will help you figure out how to use shutter drag for your photos.

Step 1: Setting it up 

The first step is always to set up your gear and look for the motion you want to capture in your photos. The trick here is to look for the motion you want to capture. Since you’ll be taking photos in an engagement or wedding venue, create a timeline of the photo you’ll like to take before you get to the photo assignment. This will help you to take on your responsibility as the wedding or engagement photographer, without losing out on the important moments of the photo session.

Think of the timeline of your wedding photos or engagement photos, before you begin to set up your camera. This will help you plan which events or scenes will be perfect for shutter-drag photography. Ensure that your camera is set to shoot long exposure before you get to the event you want to capture in photos.

Step 2: Light is Your Friend 

As you will work with clients for engagement and wedding photo sessions, the light will hardly be a challenge for you. For weddings, especially, you’ll have plenty of light around you. For example, lighting up spaces, light runners, and lamps will be the perfect source for ambient lighting. For engagement photo sessions you can either use natural light or other light sources to add more ambient light to the scene. Apart from the regular light, make sure you have ambient light filling the space.

Before we move on to the last step, remember that the shutter drag technique works best only when you have plenty of light around the subject.

Step 3: Moving Subjects and Objects 

For shutter drags to work, as we said earlier, you need two things, only. Firstly, you need the camera set to lower shutter speed and motion. When you’re prepared with your camera, look for areas with “motion.” A great tip for shutter drag photography is to choose or already decide when you’ll be taking photos with this technique.

Another way to make sure that your photos show the beauty of shutter drag, for a wedding, try to take photos of the clients when they’re dancing, or when they’re making their wedding exit. For engagement photo sessions, you can think of poses where your clients will be in motion and take the shots.

Bonus: For Better, Shutter Drag Photos Try This… 

One of the best ways, or cheats, for better shutter drag photos, is to ask your subject to move as you take their photos. The way you can do this is to set up the ambient light and ask your subject to pose. And right when you click the photo, ask your subject to move slightly. This will give you the same effect for the portrait.

Tips to Take Beautiful Photos with Shutter Drag 

  1. Light and Time of the Day 

A great way to take stunning shutter drag photos is to time your photos. For indoor photography, which is usually possible for wedding photo assignments, you don’t need to time your photos with natural light. However, when you’re taking photos outdoors, usually for engagement photos and for a small section of a wedding photo assignment, you will need to pay attention to the time of the day.

The trick is to choose the time of the day. Dusk and dawn are the perfect time to take photos with shutter drag. The light during dusk and dawn is just low enough for you to capture the light and movement. Setting your camera to 1/4 s or 1/2 will be enough for you. On the same note, if you want the same effect during midday, you can either close down your aperture or you can use an ND filter.

  1. The Movement to Capture Movement 

As we mentioned earlier, ask your subject to move slightly as you fire the flash and take a photo. This will help you to capture the light swirls as well as the details of the composition. Another way to capture movement is to move with your camera when you take the photo, this will help you to control the effect.

  1. Pay Attention to the Angle 

The easiest way to make the photo look absolutely stunning is to add every element of the photo to the frame. Experiment with a couple of angles before settling on one. Always remember that the frame captures not only the movement but also your subjects.

  1. Use Anything and Everything 

Taking photos with shutter drag is easy and exceptionally fun. You can use pretty much anything to add movement to your photos. You can also use the rolls of waves on the beach, moving vehicles, lights from buildings, and even portable lights. As long as you can gauge the speed of the moving object and adjust the shutter speed, you’ll be good to go.

Additional Tip: When you’re taking outdoor or indoor photos, take a few sample photos before settling on the location in the venue or area to take the photos. Sometimes, some areas look absolutely stunning, but in photos, details don’t look as beautiful as they look in person. This is why you should always take a sample photo, just to see how the entire frame looks for you.

Bonus: Use Wide Angle Lens and High Frame Rate 

Apart from the tips mentioned above, a few more reminders can help you capture the perfect scene while implementing the shutter drag technique. Wide-angle lenses are just perfect for capturing the entire space. These lenses also allow you to use negative space for your photo compositions as well. Also, shooting at a high frame rate allows you to capture the entire movement of motion. Although this may sound like hocus-pocus, it actually helps you ensure that at least one of the photos will capture the entire movement.

The Takeaway 

Shutter drag can take a while for you to use perfectly. But once you do, it will be worth it. The blog above lists out some easy and simple steps to help you get started. The thing with shutter drag is that you can use practically anything to add to your photo shoot. To add more distinct details to your photos when you’re using shutter drag, you can learn how to use more ambient lighting for your photos and photo sessions.

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