Use shutter speed to create movement

Today I’m going to give you some important tips on how to use your camera’s shutter speed to create amazing photos. Taking pictures is not just choosing which settings the camera will work in. It is not just ask your friend to pout and then use some crude filter to post on Instagram. 

There’s a lot more broth in this, my people, we can create a multitude of textures and nuances that will make our photos really contain a story. Sometimes we choose to take super sharp photos, other times we use focus as a composition tool, other times we just get lucky.

And today we’re going to talk about shutter speed as another tool inside your toolbox that will help you unleash your creativity and create some bangers shots.

Use shutter speed to create movement

Use a velocidade do obturador para criar movimento

One of the first things to remember is that shutter speed plays a huge role in our photography, both to create and to freeze the moment. One of the things directly affected by the shutter speed is what we call motion blur.

Motion blur happens because we use a slow shutter speed, which allows the light to be captured by the sensor when it is moving thus and creating an effect similar to a brushstroke.

When to use motion blur

Using slow shutter speeds requires some prerequisites so that picture doesn’t become a gigantic psychedelic soup. So if you have:

  • Favorable light
  • Found the ideal shutter speed
  • How to stabilize your camera
  • Some still point in the composition

You are probably ready to create images using slow shutter speed to create movement and create great photos.

Unfortunately it’s not just taking one picture its done, many times several attempts are necessary, but this will enriches your work a lot.

Keep the subject still

To this kind of shot the level of difficulty can vary, it all depends on what you are photographing. Let’s say that you are photographing a building and want the surroundings to have some movement, this will be an easy situation because the building will not move, just like the first photo in the article.

The only things you will need here are; light, a tripod and choose the shutter speed.

Use a velocidade do obturador para criar movimento

Using a slow shutter speed you can also isolate your subject in the middle of motion blur, something similar with the picture above.

To recreate the above situation, it is very important that the model remains as immobile as possible during capture, while everything happens around her, so the sensation of movement can be created.

Choosing a not too long shutter speed for this case is the key to achieving good results, especially when we rely only on natural light.


Another way to create movement using shutter speed is called panning, a technique very common for those who shoot sports.

It consists of following the subject to be photographed by moving the camera in the same direction as the subject’s movement. It is not an easy technique to perform for beginners, especially to synchronize the progress of the subject with that of the camera.

Once everything is in tune, you will have the subject clearly in your photo and its surroundings out of focus, generating the sensation of movement.

Use a velocidade do obturador para criar movimento

Panning is very common in cycling or racing photography, you don’t need anything other than your camera and a good amount of light to get started. Your chances of success for this type of effect can count on a great help if you use a tripod or monopod.

Getting the right exposure

You will not always be able to use slow shutter speed, and one of the situations where this is very common is when we have a sunny day. When we set the shutter to slow speeds we’re also adjusting our exposure

Use a velocidade do obturador para criar movimento

So it is much more common to see photos with long exposure, slow shutter speed, at night, where we have a much lower amount of lighting to deal with.

One way to get around this during the day is to use a neutral density filter in front of the lens, it prevents the light from reaching the sensor with all its energy. Thus it is possible to manipulate the exposure according to your will and need for the moment.

Fotos de uma lente com filtro ND

There are more than one type of filter, this type of filter has different functions and will be used alone or together depending on the need.

The ideal spot for the best blur

It is very important to choose a appropriate shutter speed for the movement of your composition. Having too much or too little shutter speed will make your photo not look so cool if there is no balance with what is happening in the image. It will never be the same to photograph a waterfall and a busy street at night, even if both use slow shutter speeds.

The shutter speed will depend on what you are shooting and also on your final intention. Generally, elements with slower movements need slower shutter speeds. And faster objects, they need a faster shutter speed.

Balancing all this so that you have the composition and the amount of motion blur correct is up to the photographer. So there is no cake recipe here, each photo will require its specific adjustments.

Pessoas andando em uma feira ao ar livre

In this photo we can see how the motion blur of people walking through the fair, all done with the use of shutter speed, in order to turn most people into ghosts in the photo.

Stability is important

Even if you don’t use a tripod or monopod you can still use slower shutter speeds. For this you need to know how to properly hold your camera to avoid blurry photos. However when it comes to shutter speed with 3 seconds or more of exposure it is very difficult to hold your camera with your hands without shaking.

That’s where good old support comes in handy. If you do not have a tripod at hand, use whatever is available to help your camera have better stability, a wall, a ladder, a bench, everything that will help to keep your camera more stable during shooting.

Fotos com longa exposição

In the picture above we have a classic example of a photo with long exposure that is a trend these days, slow shutter, tripod, are things that you will need for this kind of photograph.

Foto de uma kombo wolkswagen

During a panning using a tripod or monopod will help you a lot to stay in line with what you are photographing.

Second curtain flash sync

Many cameras offer the option of synchronizing the flash so that it fires just before the shutter closes, first or second curtain synchronization.

Doing this combined with slow shutter speed and movement produces interesting effects. When the flash fires near the end of the exposure, it appears that the movement is partially frozen. Using a slower shutter speed when there is fast movement, the subject will appear almost transparent, like a ghost.

Step Step Jump de Dave Austria

This particular technique requires a little more of your head because in addition to doing the math to choose the best shutter speed, you also have to work with the flash lighting. Every detail during this process counts, and it is very gratifying to get results like the one from the photo above right on your camera without editing in Photoshop.

Using the shutter speed to create movement is fundamental and will be the big difference between a simple photo and a work of art.

If you have more tips on how to use the shutter speed please leave in the comment below

Written by Rix Mascarenhas

Rix Mascarenhas is a photographer, videographer, and drone pilot at

Art lover, always involved with crafts, design, painting etc... As a photographer, I enjoy taking pictures and creating stories that have meaning and help people to thrive. My work is guided by the stories behind each scene that really represent the moment.

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