I was walking around London recently with my camera and I got a bit bored, as I had been wandering by the same part of the city a thousand times, waiting for inspiration. To make it more fun I thought I would try experimenting with long shutter speeds. All of a sudden things got interesting and before I knew it a few hours had passed by.
Here is an article on how to do slow shutter zoom photography. Photography, like many things in life, is easy once you know how. Here is my 6-point guide to creating these impressive effects (there is also a cheat sheet at the bottom of the post that you can print and take with you as a reminder of how to do it).
1. Control the Zoom
The main principle to taking these types of shots is really quite simple. Once you have set your camera to a slow shutter speed, you press the shutter release button whilst simultaneously zooming either in or out and this will automatically distort your pictures.
One of the best things to do is to play around with different zoom techniques as you will discover the best ways to dramatically change the effect of your photographs. Try zooming at different speeds – go from fast to slow or stop half way through for a split second. If you have a camera with a wide zoom range, for example 28-300 mm, you might want to alter the zoom in a more controlled manner otherwise you might get more distortion than is desirable.
2. Watch out for the Light
Although the secret to creating these types of photographs is to have a slow shutter speed, this will only work well in dim lighting and on overcast days. When the sun is out you might well find this technique near impossible to achieve, this is due to over exposure. The problem is easy to combat, to an extent, by increasing the aperture value to as high as it will go. For example, if you set the aperture on your camera to F32 this will make the hole in your lens very small, automatically reducing the amount of light entering the camera. It is also better to have your ISO down low. Try setting it at around 100 as this actually makes the sensor in your camera less sensitive to light, therefore, when the shutter is open your photograph will not be over exposed.
3. Keep the Camera Still
This is a no brainer but it really does pay to keep the camera as still as possible – this is easer said than done though as you inevitably move your hand when you turn the zoom. Try twisting the zoom smoothly and not snatch at the controls. This might take a bit of practice but it will definitely pay off. Get in a comfy position and try to support yourself and your camera using whatever is available. This will enable you to get the best possible results.
4. Shutter Priority Mode
Putting your camera in shutter priority is a good place to start with your ISO set to a low value, just turn the dial down to increase the shutter time until you get the results you are looking for. If the light is changing because of the clouds then you will have to tweak shutter speed for the current light levels. I use 1 second as a starting point and then adjust the shutter speed from there up or down to get the results that I want.
5. Let’s go Full Manual
Sometimes you might want to go manual to get the shots you want. How you set your camera all depends on the light conditions, but if you are shooting on an overcast day you might have a very small aperture, which is a high F number in the 20-30 range, and your ISO very low at 100, which is a similar set-up to the shutter priority mode. I would then set your shutter speed to 1 second as I find this is a great starting point and then you can tweak the shutter speed setting to get the results you like by increasing or decreasing the shutter speed time.
To take effective and interesting blur-effect photographs will initially be a case of trial and error but with a little practice and using the tips I have suggested you will soon get the hang of things. The beauty of learning this technique is that it not only encourages you to use all the different settings but it will ultimately give you a much better understanding of your camera.
I have enclosed a cheat sheet (below) that you can print off and take with you as a reminder of how to achieve these results. Please use this sheet as a guide only as all the settings will change depending on the light levels, the subject you are shooting and the camera you are using. Click the image below to get the full-sized image.
Founder of the Official London Photography Tours with a love of everything to do with photography. On our London photography tours we use London as our playground and are proud to offer the best London photo walks in the capital.