Master shutter dragging
Achieve abstract results with this relatively simple technique for creative images
Sharp imagery is the goal sought by most photographers, but a purposely blurred image can often look quite intriguing and be far more evocative as a result. Shutter dragging is a technique that involves combining motion with a slightly longer exposure.
Wedding photographers use it to capture more of the atmosphere of the first dance or the couple walking back down the aisle, but landscape and fine-art photographers can employ it for impressionistic effects. Find a scene with strong lines – either horizontal or vertical – and bold colours, then simply move the camera during the exposure.
The results can be very striking, and depending on your technique and chosen scene, will either be wonderfully abstract or minimal and painterly. Experimentation is key here. You don’t necessarily have to use a tripod for this technique, but one has been employed here in order to achieve a level horizon.
1 Select a location This technique is most effective on subjects with strong lines and colours that will streak through the final image. This quiet beach scene with its strong horizontal lines is an ideal choice.
2 Set up a tripod Secure the camera to the tripod and decide whether you want the blur to be horizontal or vertical. For this scene, horizontal blur is the aim, so the camera needs to panned left to right.
3 Set a slow shutter Select Shutter Priority or Manual mode and set a shutter speed between 1/15 sec and 2 secs, depending on how much blur you want. You may need to attach a neutral density (ND) filter in brighter light.
4 Choose manual focus Select Live View to see what is happening in your composition without looking through the viewfinder. Set your camera to manual focus so it won’t hunt for focus every time you hit the shutter button.
5 Move the camera Practise moving the camera up and down or side to side depending on the direction of blur desired. Move the camera before you press the shutter and keep it moving until after the exposure.
6 Take the image You might have to take quite a few test shots with this technique in order to get it just right. Take a series of images then change your settings or technique if you have to.