Photo Tip “Freeze Motion”

To avoid motion blurring and to “freeze“ motion, relatively fast shutter speeds are required in photography. “Relatively fast” due to the subject’s motion speed playing a key role. Therefore, faster shutter speeds are required to freeze an arrow mid-air than if you’re capturing a snail race. Additionally, the required exposure periods depend on focal length, direction of motion and distance. This makes it difficult to specify the exact shutter speeds required.
Therefore, you should treat the following specifications as initial values that should not be exceeded if you want to freeze motion in an image. If need be, you can also choose faster shutter speeds. On the basis of: the faster, the better.
As aspects such as focal length, direction of motion and distance have an impact on the image result, you should vary the exposure values in order to develop a feel for the effect the exposure period has.

Empirical values of classic image subjects
Maximum shutter speed to freeze motion

  • Car 1/250 seconds
  • Children 1/250 seconds
  • Dog scampering around 1/500 seconds
  • Sprinter at sporting event 1/800 seconds
  • Swimmer 1/500 seconds
  • Drop of water 1/500 seconds

To sum it up, you can determine that shutter speeds that are under 1/500 seconds are usually sufficient to capture fast motion in an image.

How can I achieve fast shutter speeds?
Exposure time depends on the lighting conditions, the lens being used, the film (in analog photography) and the chosen camera settings. To achieve fast shutter speeds, you may need to increase the diaphragm’s diameter and/or increase the ISO rate.
The program mode that is often recommended you use to control the period of exposure, is the Shutter priority auto exposure (TV) mode. However, due to the limited variation possibilities of this mode, the Aperture Priority Auto Exposure (AV) is often the better choice. By default setting of diaphragm and ISO rate, the desired exposure time is achieved. If drastic changes in brightness occur (e.g. from full sun to cloud blocking sun), this can result in unwanted increased periods of exposure and therefore create a wipe effect (motion blurring). The advantage of this mode is that due to the wide range of variations available to the camera in this mode, in contrast to the Shutter priority auto exposure (TV) mode, it only rarely results in over or underexposure. If you are using the Shutter priority auto exposure (TV) mode, be aware of the f-number and the over/underexposure warnings.

To capture a sharp image, you need to bear in mind the possible risk of blurring for hand held images.

They are dependent on the exposure period and the focal length used.

Boy with a ball – Spain

Exposure: 1/400 sec
F-number: f/7.1
ISO rate: 100
Focal length: 450mm

Kite surfer mid leap – Italy

Exposure: 1/800 sec
F-number: f/10
ISO rate: 100
Focal length: 600mm

Jump into the water – Havana – Cuba

Exposure: 1/800 sec
F-number: f/8
ISO rate: 200
Focal length: 50mm

Push into the water – Children playing – Cuba

Exposure: 1/500 sec
F-number: f/9
ISO rate: 100
Focal length: 150mm

The following image was captured with a shutter speed that was slightly too slow to completely capture and freeze the child’s movement. By speeding up the shutter speed from 1/250 or 1/500 seconds, the motion blurring could be avoided. This could also be achieved by increasing the diaphragm’s diameter or by increasing the ISO rate. On the other hand, the remaining motion blurring gives the image more dynamic.

Children playing – Cuba

Exposure: 1/160 sec
F-number: f/9
ISO rate: 100
Focal length: 50mm

Don’t forget that besides freezing motion, there are countless other creative possibilities that can be created through motion blurring

Um Bewegungsunschärfen zu vermeiden und Bewegungen "einzufrieren", werden in der Fotografie relativ kurze Verschlusszeiten benötigt. "Relativ" deshalb, weil die Bewegungsgeschwindigkeit des Motivs eine entscheidende Rolle spielt. So werden für das Einfrieren eines Pfeils im Flug deutlich kürzere Zeiten benötigt als für ein Schneckenrennen. Zudem sind die benötigten Belichtungszeiten von Brennweite, Bewegungsrichtung und Entfernung abhängig.
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