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DRAGGING THE SHUTTER EFFECT IN PORTRAIT PHOTO, OR HOW TO MAKE THE PORTRAIT MOVE

The effect of “lengthening exposure” is familiar to anyone who used a compact camera set to “night portrait” mode. In order for bright blurred streaks to appear around the main subject, it is necessary to highlight it with a flash using a slow shutter speed. Without this, the background of the photo will be just dark. Accepting a shutter speed (dragging the shutter) works especially well with a bright background.

Exposure exposure time creates a crisp, clear, well-lit background, and the subject itself is clearly visible, even if there are Las Vegas night streets or a brightly lit interior in the background. But this technique does not allow to add intentional motion blur to a static frame.

When you deliberately violate the rules for getting “good photos” and lengthen the shutter speed to deliberately introduce blur, you can get interesting effects.

The effect of dragging the shutter in portrait photography
When the background is illuminated with a constant light source, prolonging the shutter speed creates a visible blur that separates the subject from the background.

How it works

First, let’s look at the effect that this technique causes. It is based on the simple principle that the flash and the ambient light can be controlled separately with a single exposure. This works solely due to the shutter speed.

The flash fires much faster than 1/250 seconds. Its duration is so short that at shutter speeds equal to 1/250 or more, the shutter will always open longer than the duration of the flash.

The flash fires at a fixed intensity and changes its duration when adjusting the power level. Thus, a full-power flash can fire within 1/1000 of a second, and at half power, within 1/2000 s. In each case, the flash turns on, switches to full power and turns off much faster than the time during which the shutter is open. All of this means that adjusting the shutter speed does not affect flash exposure as long as you are within sync time. To change the flash, you must adjust the aperture or ISO. Changing the shutter speed on the flash will not affect.

Where is it used

You can use shutter speeds to create motion when shooting in or out of the studio, indoors or outdoors, in almost any situation where the background has a certain brightness and the subject is shaded (or may be dimmed) so that ambient light does not enter directly to his foreground.

The ideal situation may be a dim lighting in the background of the interior or the glow of the evening sky after sunset, but at the time there is still some lighting. It is preferable, of course, that the background be brighter, since it does not require the use of very long exposures and facilitates balancing with the flash. For example, the aforementioned Vegas cityscape is the perfect background for lengthening exposure, as well as a window, a white wall or any other bright background. The brighter the better.

The effect of dragging the shutter in portrait photography
The image on the left has a bright background against which the light falls. Without flash exposure, the subject is in shadow. The image on the right shows not only how the flash makes clear the details of the object, but also how the model’s hair and shoulders become blurred as if they were moving, which undoubtedly adds an interesting effect to a simple photo.

This technique requires a flash. This may be on-camera flash or studio monoblock. The main thing is that you will work not with a constant light, but with a pulsed one, since the short flash duration is necessary for separate control of the lighting for the background and the main subject.

In a room with a bright background

Start by choosing the exposure for the background, considering that you can get from a flash with the lowest possible ISO (say, 100) and an aperture size of about / 5.6. Then set the shutter speed in the range from 1/10 second to half a second, aiming to get values ​​from 1/4 to 1/6. Such settings are suitable for a large number of lenses – from portrait lenses to 150 mm. The blurring of boundaries created by natural movements when photographing the camera in hand, with these exposures will look quite acceptable. In the end, you need to slightly blur the edges of the object, and not get something so blurry as to destroy all the details in the picture.

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