Dragging The Shutter

One of the great things about my recent vacation was that I had the chance to take a ton of pictures (over 5,500 for the week) and experiment with some new photography techniques.

One of the techniques I tried is called 'dragging the shutter'. I first learned about this approach in Scott Kelby's The Digital Photography Book, Volume 2. For those of you who aren't familiar with this book or the first edition (The Digital Photography Book, Volume 1), I can't recommend them highly enough if you are interested in bite-sized, non-technical tips and tricks for getting the most out of your photos. Kelby is a very active writer, photographer, and blogger whose website Photoshop Insider is one of my favorites.

Dragging the shutter involves taking a meter reading of your scene and shooting at those settings....but with a flash. Where flash photos are typically taken at 1/60th of a second, when you drag the shutter you slow it down - which allows in more natural light before the flash fires. The end result is better looking flash pictures. I've included a couple of pictures of my father in law who graciously agreed to model while I practiced this technique. I think you'll agree the second photo - where I dragged the shutter - looks much better.

In case you were wondering how I managed to take more than 5,500 pictures....1,600 of them were taken as part of three time-lapse series I shot - two sunrises and one sunset; many of the rest were a result of shooting RAW + JPEG together, which yields two files for every shot. I'll have more to say about each of those thing in a future post!


Steve Wilner said...

Is dragging the shutter the same thing as rear curtain sync? I am not familiar with this term. Guess you can teach an old dog new tricks!

aweber9 said...

There's another entry in The Digital Photography Book, Volume 2 on rear shutter sync, so I believe rear shutter sync is different from dragging the shutter - though the effect is somewhat similar.

More info at this link:


steve wilner said...

So "dragging the shutter" is effectively a slow sync mode. This works with objects which are stationary but will not work with objects that are moving unless you want to get the blurry effect with a stop motion moment at exactly the point at which the flash goes off.