Freeze Frame

Taking pictures of non-moving subjects can be hard enough, but throw in a moving subject and it's a whole other ball game. The general rule of thumb is to ensure your shutter speed is at least 1/60 of second when hand-holding your camera, but this only really helps with one part of the equation. A blurry photo can be caused by two things: the photographer's movement or the subject's movement. Often times, 1/60 of a second will avoid camera shake but is not fast enough shutter speed to freeze a moving subject.

When shooting indoors it can be a challenge to find enough light to choose a fast enough shutter speed. But this summer, I shot plenty of photos outside, allowing me to experiment with faster shutter speeds. In the photo below, the super fast shutter speed of 1/1250 of a second ensured my little girl was crisp and clear.  Could I have ended up with the same sharpness with a slower shutter speed (like 1/400 or 1/250 of second)? Maybe, but I didn't bother risking it. Unfortunately, I still rely on trial and error most of the time to figure out how fast my shutter speed needs to be,  in any given situation.

Very fast shutter speeds can create really interesting effects with water. In the two photos below (shot at 1/1250 and 1/800 of a second respectively), I was able to capture movement so quick that even the human eye wouldn't have been able to see it in the same way.

One interesting (and unexpected) thing that I have realized when shooting moving subjects is that sometimes "blur" is a good thing. At times, it can create a more interesting photo than one that was crisp and clear.  Take the picture below as an example. On one hand, the photo is a perfectly nice - it clearly captures the joy of my niece's face as she rode the ferries wheel. On the other hand, there is something missing: by freezing all motion, I failed to capture the very thing that caused my niece to smile  - the fast, circular motion of the ride.

Panning can help to over come the above problem by helping to convey a sense of motion. Although fairly difficult to master, it involves picking a slower shutter speed and moving your camera in the same direction as your moving subject and shooting continuously (see full explanation in following link). If you get it right, you'll end up with a photo with a sharp subject set against a blurred background.

Here's my attempt at panning on the ferris wheel shot at 1/10 of a second.

Finally, as you'll see with the two photos below, different shutter speeds can both work, but will change the creative effect (first shot at 1/80 sec, second at 1/3 of a second). Which do you prefer?