Artistic Choices in Shutter Speed

Deborah Sandidge Deborah Sandidge

Artistic Choices in Shutter Speed
Artistic Choices in Shutter Speed

When photographing the subject, one of the most interesting choices that are yours to make is… shutter speed. You can make artistic choices by shooting in low light or by using a neutral density filter to control light, both options can result in a long exposure image. This is one of my go-to choices for commonly photographed areas, as your photo can be more creative and beautiful by simply making a decision about shutter speed.

For example, I noticed the developing cloud formations over the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in the afternoon after returning from a morning of shooting in the area. I made my way back to the Embarcadero with my Nikon Z 7, wide-angle lens, tripod, and neutral-density filters. Mid-afternoon light is very bright, so I chose a 15-stop neutral density filter to extend the exposure time into the six-minute range. I composed to include the aging dock that leads to the more contemporary bridge, I loved those two elements paired with the developing cloud structures. During the course of six minutes, the clouds build and are painted by the gentle wind, creating an image that is unique and beautiful.

During the evening, no filters are necessary, you can use low light to take advantage of a long exposure. On the pier, I noticed a previously empty sky filling with fast-moving clouds over San Francisco. I placed my camera low to the ground for an appealing perspective and chose a 30-second shutter speed to record the action of the clouds. The couple stopped just long enough to make the image perfect.

I love finding ways to create unique imagery in commonly photographed locations and I love the opportunity to pair technology with creativity for artistic imagery.

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