Teaching my mum to shoot

Shutter Speed: My Mum Shoots Back

My mum, Mair, came down to London a couple of weekends ago, along with her friends Maddy and Anne who are also into photography. We met up around London Bridge and spent some time taking photos of giraffes - an installation at the time. Since my last tutoiral post about shutter speed, my mum got herself a new camera - a Fuji X-20. I hadn't realised that her compact didn't have a shutter priority mode and it was a bit fiddly to adjust shutter speed on it. She's been having a go at using the shutter priority mode on her new camera to freeze things in motion and generally stop taking blurry photos - which is a great thing. Here's a few examples of her photos with the shutter speed underneath.

Mair's shutter speed examples

I think the first of these is actually with the old camera, but she's still managed to freeze Matthew in the air nicely. In the second picture, Matthew is apparently flailing his arms around and it's quite dark, but it's still turned out quite sharp. That's Mair's friends, Anne and Maddy in the top right. They're not moving much, but they're not blurry - a perfectly reasonable selection of shutter speed given there's plenty of light.

The jugglers and the vehicles are all pretty much frozen, which is great because it means it's possible. It would be interesting to compare with shots of the same subjects using a slightly slower shutter speed which would have retained some impression of movement. For example, using 1/60 and trying to freeze the juggler's face while showing the motion blur of the clubs. In the case of the van and the bus, panning the camera to follow the vehicle and using a slower shutter speed would give the background a bit of blur and an impression of movement. This would be a good experiment to do once you get the hang of freezing everything.

The water's a very interesting thing to try out different shutter speeds on. The same moving water will look totally different depending on the shutter speed used. In landscape photography it's common to use some tricks (a tripod and a neutral density filter, and choosing the right time of day) to get as slow a shutter speed as possible, in order to give water a very characteristic smooth look (this guy does some nice Lightroom tutorials too). In this case Mair's used 1/800 which makes it very sharp and shows up all the bubbles. The important thing to realise is that the main thing that changes the look of the water between the two extremes is the shutter speed - everything else is just to compensate for that choice.

That's why it's important to be able to control your shutter speed - because it's actually a creative decision and not just a technicality of correct exposure. The same can be said for aperture, which I'll get on to next time.

Aside - photoshop fun

I am not ashamed to say I use Lightroom and Photoshop to do additional work on my photos. Mair sent me a few of her RAW files, so I was curious to see what I could do to 'improve' them. I will definitely be doing another post about RAW vs. jpeg, but one great thing is the ability to fix a photo if you get the white balance wrong in camera. Here I took it a bit further and tried to improve the lighting, and the background, and the lens flare...

Matthew in J J Abrams style

To give her credit, my mum also fixed the white balance of the photo in lightroom, and her solution was to crop the door:
Matthew flailing with fast shutter speed