Slow Shutter Shoot-Out - 3 Slow Shutter Speed Techniques

Slow Shutter Shoot-Out – 3 Slow Shutter Speed Techniques

Experimenting with Slow Shutter Speeds can be a lot of fun. Today Charles Clawson from sums up three types of slow shutter techniques and invites you show off your attempts at doing them.

There have been some great articles and interest lately on long exposures so I thought I would put together a hodgepodge of techniques and then turn it over to DPS readers to see what they can come up with. I’ve broken this slow shutter shoot-out into 3 categories. When you submit your photograph, do it under one of these styles. I’ve thrown in a few of my own as examples into the article just to give you an idea. Get a tripod, set your cameras to shutter priority and fire away.

1. Light Painting:


introducing the technique of Light Painting. His video is posted here. Light is what makes up your photos. Perhaps too often we limit ourselves to the normal diffused lighting we are used to seeing. Locking your camera down on a tripod and setting it for a slow shutter speed allows you to manually get some movement on the lights in your scene. Experiment with flashlights, rope lights, candles or anything handy. In the picture here I had a friend sit perfectly still in a completely dark room. I set the shutter to be roughly the time it would take me to walk around his chair holding a candle (8 seconds). His face was entirely lit by candlelight. Since I was moving too quickly to get in the shot, all you see is the floating flame. I know, it turned out a little demonic, but unintentionally. This is just to get your ideas flowing.

2. Capturing Movement:


Blur isn’t always a bad thing, especially when it captures the movement occurring in a photo. Photoshop even includes a filter called “motion blur” to recreate this effect if you missed it while taking the photograph. Find a scene that could appropriately benefit from motion blur and experiment. In this photo, I used a shutter speed just slow enough to get the movement of the carousel, but fast enough to not record my handheld camera jitters or the movement of the kids in the foreground (1/20 second). It would have been nice to have a tripod, but since one wasn’t available I had to fire off a few shots until I got one without camera shake.

3. Turning Darkness into Day:


I recently talked about this on my blog, but on a good moon lit night, it’s fun to create the illusion of photographs being taken in daylight but with the added effects that come with slow shutter speeds. This is a photography I took in Hawaii around 10pm on a dark night. The moon was out in full, so by letting my camera soak in the light for about 30 seconds, the colors start to appear in full vibrancy. When I took this shot, because it was so dark, I had no idea someone was sitting out on the rocks star gazing. If you live near the ocean, I love the dreamy look it gives to the moving water, rendering the waves almost like low-lying clouds.

Share Your Slow Shutter Speed Shots

Have you played with slow shutter speeds? We’d love to see what you’ve done. Head over to our forums and share some of your shots in the Share Your Shots section.

Further Reading on Shutter Speed

Read more from our category

Chas Elliott is a freelance photographer in the Northern Virginia and DC area. See more of his work at

Some Older Comments

  • Rishin January 13, 2012 03:31 pm

    these pictures are from 31/12/2011 shot at Docklands, Vic

  • Mahmoud Raouf November 28, 2011 11:04 am

  • Carl Semien June 16, 2011 10:07 am

    Thanks guys for the great shots !

  • Abhishek December 11, 2010 12:50 pm

    I Love DPS!
    Here is mine.

  • maseth December 11, 2010 07:15 am

    One of my slow shutter speed shoots:
    [eimg link='' title='Time tunnel' url='']

  • Keely August 4, 2010 08:18 am

    I have done a lot of this type of photography, here are some of my shots =]

    [eimg url='' title='index.cfm?fuseaction=viewImage&friendID=162002233&albumID=2259&imageID=44418305']

    [eimg url='' title='index.cfm?fuseaction=viewImage&friendID=162002233&albumID=2259&imageID=44418406']

    [eimg url='' title='index.cfm?fuseaction=viewImage&friendID=162002233&albumID=2259&imageID=44418306']

    [eimg url='' title='index.cfm?fuseaction=viewImage&friendID=162002233&albumID=2259&imageID=44418402']

    [eimg url='' title='index.cfm?fuseaction=viewImage&friendID=162002233&albumID=2259&imageID=44418404']

  • Suvajra June 8, 2010 09:49 pm

    Here's my first successful long exposure on my new point and shoot - Lumix TZ7 - Baudha, Kathmandu at night last month
    15 secs no tripod - just camera sitting on a doorstep
    ISO 80
    F 3.3
    Creates the mood of the place I think [eimg url='!/photo.php?pid=3872904&id=557839292' title='photo.php?pid=3872904&id=557839292']

  • Piotr Golebiowski June 8, 2010 06:38 am

    Night rider :)

    [eimg link='' title='Night rider' url='']

  • Vidhya June 8, 2010 01:50 am

    Here are some clicks from my link :

  • Vidhya June 8, 2010 01:49 am

  • Krasimira Georgieva June 7, 2010 06:06 am

  • Pradi June 5, 2010 01:57 am

    Cool topic. I recently did a lightpainting assignment and had a lot of fun :-) The setting was an empty house in a small town that is nearly completely abandoned.

  • Prasanna SN June 4, 2010 10:59 pm

    Teeerrriific........ I had heard about this during the Weekly Emails & and a Photography Course I attended.
    I got a Chance to try this last month. Check this out at Flickr & pls comment on my photo.

  • Lauren Cotter June 4, 2010 01:22 pm

    [eimg url='' title='ry%3D480']

  • Thomas Stephens June 4, 2010 08:39 am

    [eimg url='' title='img_0791.jpg']

  • marianna June 4, 2010 06:18 am

    wow that last shot is my favorite. Is that at Laie point??? It looks so familiar coz we right by it.

  • craig June 4, 2010 04:24 am

    Here are a couple of my trials. First, I took a few shots in San Francisco on a pedestrian bridge of cars passing:

    [eimg link='' title='DSC_0560' url='']

    Then, I got bored on a road trip and took a series of shots of passing traffic. The curves were created by trying to tilt the camera smoothly during the exposure:
    [eimg link='' title='DSC_0227' url='']

  • Tommy Dickson June 4, 2010 02:45 am

  • Tommy Dickson June 4, 2010 02:41 am

    [eimg link='' title='the chase !!' url='']

  • Mustafa Khayat June 4, 2010 02:40 am

  • Mustafa Khayat June 4, 2010 02:37 am

  • Andy Merrett June 4, 2010 02:25 am

    I've been experimenting with a number of these techniques recently; nothing as dramatic as is demonstrated here.

    I had been learning about slightly slower shutter speeds and set myself the challenge of trying to shoot swans this way. Usually I've used fast shutter speeds to freeze motion, or used a fast enough speed to minimise camera shake while getting just a tiny bit of blur in the wings, signifying movement.

    Using anywhere between 1/8 and 1/30 second was a real challenge, not only because of over-exposure concerns but also because there's a fine line between getting a good composition and having a blurred shot!

    It was great fun to try, and I will be practicing a lot more. I set myself quite a hard challenge, admittedly, trying a fairly new technique AND with nature, which is pretty much uncontrollable :)

    I definitely want to try out the coastal ones at night under full moon. Looking forward to getting to the sea again sometime soon so I can test it.

    Thanks for the great article Chas.

  • Ali May 29, 2010 01:53 pm

    I was in New York last week and while having dinner outside Bryant Park, I saw an opportunity to slow down the shutter speed and take this picture.

    [eimg link='' title='' url='']

  • Retesh Patel May 27, 2010 12:29 am

    [eimg url='' title='NYC%20lights_Panorama1.jpg']

  • Joel May 25, 2010 08:23 pm

    Using slow shutter techniques at night, you can also creating a photo of streaks of light from vehicles passing by:

  • Joel May 25, 2010 08:19 pm

    Fireworks are great objects for slow shutter speed photography. I took these on New Year's Eve:

  • Wishing4 May 25, 2010 06:04 am

    Here's one of my experiments with long shutter speed. Thought it turned out rather interesting.

    [eimg link='' title='moonlight' url='']

  • Wishing4 May 25, 2010 02:52 am

    Here's another one using a slow shutter speed. Only editing was to crop it.

    [eimg link='' title='moonlight' url='']

  • Albert May 24, 2010 10:55 pm

    Sorry, my previous post has no images. :)

    [eimg link='' title='07 - Rainbow Ring' url='']

    [eimg link='' title='06 - Rainbow Unbrella' url='']

    [eimg link='' title='30 - When the Fire Tame' url='']

    [eimg link='' title='28 - When the Fire Tame' url='']

  • Albert May 24, 2010 10:53 pm

  • Albert May 24, 2010 10:52 pm

    Playing with slow shutter speed is interesting. Here are a few of my work:

  • angad May 23, 2010 04:55 pm

    panning is another technique to look at

    Panning of a Light Rapid Transport train in Singapore -

  • Dan May 23, 2010 12:41 pm

    Let's try this again... one of the previous posters mentioned getting a "surprise" when an airplane took off/landed during a time exposure of some city lights.

    I was taking some photos later at night that required a very slow shutter speed and was using the camera mounted on a tripod. To avoid camera shake, I was also using the timer to trip the shutter. So I set up the shot, clicked the shutter, steped back and waited. While I was waiting, along came a... well, see for yourself!

    [eimg url='[IMG]' title='AltoBlur.jpg'][/img]


  • Dan May 23, 2010 12:37 pm

    Someone mentioned a "surprise" in a photo that they took of a city when a plane flew through the image. How is this one for a "surprise?" I was shooting with a tripod and had my camera on the timer so that I could avoid camera shake while tripping the shutter. So, I pushed the button, steped back and waited and a... well, see for yourself!

    [eimg url='' title='AltoBlur.jpg']


  • shrewd May 22, 2010 08:22 pm

    I run a great group for ICM - Intentional Camera Movement at flickr. You are invited to join and to submit your pictures too.

    Enjoy ICM
    cheers - shrewd

  • Phillipa Chan May 22, 2010 08:21 pm

    [eimg url='' title='Shek_O_44_FOTOP.jpg']

    [eimg url='' title='Shek_O_36_FOTOP.jpg']

    [eimg url='' title='Shek_O_47_FOTOP.jpg']

    For more photos:

  • Patrick Skotniczny May 22, 2010 07:50 am

    Great tips on long exposure!

    I enjoy doing star trails personally.

  • ifi_naeem May 22, 2010 06:17 am

    [eimg link='' title='IMG_8944' url='']
    [eimg link='' title='light painting' url='']
    [eimg link='' title='dual light rings' url='']
    [eimg link='' title='Fire DNA Structure' url='']
    [eimg link='' title='Fire blade' url='']

    More on my

  • Dan Ketcham May 22, 2010 06:14 am

    shutter speed is my next task... everytime i think i may have it figured out, i dont... so.. i am going to start working in S mode only soon!

    thanks for sharing... light painting is great and cant wait to try some of that

  • Wishing4 May 22, 2010 05:20 am

    Can't figure out how to get my image to post. It's here:

  • Wishing4 May 22, 2010 05:18 am

    image to go with my previous comment...

    [eimg link='' title='DSC_0176' url='']

  • Wishing4 May 22, 2010 05:17 am

    Tried one of light painting. It's a ball that lights up and blinks. At first I was moving the ball too fast. I slowed down and accidently got a heart. Too bad I also wasn't low enough and cut off the top.

  • bongtschik May 22, 2010 02:31 am

    I tried the second point last weekend in Munich down the subway. Only with my little Samsung S760, freehand
    and without flash. It looks pretty good to me ...

    [eimg link='' title='Abgefahren' url='']

  • Dan May 22, 2010 02:09 am

    A previous comment suggested "bding lucky." I though I'd share this shot as being part of that category. I was using the timer on my camera to trip the shutter so that I could be reasonably sure that everything was steady and that there was no camera shake. About two seconds before the shutter tripped, a... well, see for yourself.

    [eimg url='' title='AltoBlur.jpg']


  • Dan May 22, 2010 01:37 am

    In the "Show Movement" category, one of the neater photos I took of my daughter when she was younger was on a playground merry-go-round. But instead of trying to pan to keep her clear, I got on the merry-go-round with her and had my wife give us both a spin. Since we weren't moving relative to each other, she was very clear but the background was nice and "motion blurred." The pictures turned out really nice and it was super easy to do.


  • d90dewey May 22, 2010 12:27 am

    I happened upon a train at a crossing and decided to freeze one and capture the motion in the this one, we're zipping right along.

  • Craig May 21, 2010 11:57 pm

    I use a slow shutter speed to capture lightning during thunderstorms. I open up my shutter speed and let the lightning come to me (hopefully not too close, lol), or try to react with a slow speed to capture repeat strikes. The latter is how I caught this.
    [eimg link='' title='IMGP1574' url='']

  • Craig May 21, 2010 11:47 pm

    I use a slow shutter speed during thunder storms to catch lightning. If the storm is vibrant, I just set the shutter somewhere from 5-10 seconds (if there is any other point of light in the picture, so it doesn't overexpose), or else I use bulb mode. If the lightning is striking several times, I just have it on a 2 second shutter speed, to catch the secondary strikes. The latter technique is how I captured this.
    [eimg link='' title='IMGP1574' url='']

  • Ritin Jain May 21, 2010 10:53 pm

    [eimg link='' title='Seagul in motion' url='']

    Bird in motion

  • Smitty Bowers May 21, 2010 10:00 pm

    The comment section on "How to get slow shutter results with a point and shoot camera" was closed, but there is another option for owners of Canon Powershots. Do a search for CHDK : that stands for Canon Hacker Development Kit. This is software you can store on your memory card that expands you camera to near-DSLR capability. I doesn't give you a larger, more sensitive sensor of course, but it will give you more options than you are ever likely to take advantage of, including control over your shutter speed.

    I recommend the article "CHDK for Dummies". Find that, and bookmark it.

    Good luck, and have fun.

  • VIJAY KULKARNI May 21, 2010 09:56 pm

    Amazing info...thanks a lot.Will try to work in photoshop :)

  • Danferno May 21, 2010 07:40 pm Slow shutter speed becomes extremely interesting when you've got a flash and coloured lamps. All you need then is moving people, like these dancers.

  • Phillipa Chan May 21, 2010 04:08 pm

    For more photos:

  • Jake May 21, 2010 03:49 pm

  • Jake May 21, 2010 03:41 pm

    Night Photography is mostly all I do anymore. I recently purchase a 5d mark II but haven't had a chance to get a shutter release yet. Fortunately 30 sec shots do ok for now.

    [eimg link='' title='IMG_3033-37' url='']

  • Yves Choquette May 21, 2010 01:01 pm

    You said would have been nice to have a tripod. A good compromise would be to carry a light monopod. I bough a Manfroto for $50, weight almost nothing and fit perfectly in my backpack.

  • Justin May 21, 2010 12:10 pm

    Also, another way to do #3 is to have filters on your camera during the day. I played around with this last weekend and had a 1.8 ND filter on (0.9,0.6,and a 0.3). But I will have to try your way this weekend if it is bright enough at the cottage :D

  • angad May 21, 2010 10:06 am

    I notice how you focus on using light for long shutter speeds.

    My examples focus on a slightly different aspect

    using long shutter speed to blur out the rain

    another example -

  • Dev Wijewardane May 21, 2010 09:42 am

    This was a 11 second exposure.

    [eimg link='' title='New Year 2009 - Sydney' url='']

  • Dev Wijewardane May 21, 2010 09:39 am

    I used a shutter speed of 0.6 seconds to capture this image.

    [eimg link='' title='Empress Falls' url='']

  • Abe May 21, 2010 06:20 am

    [eimg link='' title='' url='']

  • Mark Weiss May 21, 2010 06:15 am

    Turning Darkness into Day, amazing photo great technique thanks for sharing, Mark

  • ashraf May 5, 2010 07:43 am

  • ashraf May 5, 2010 07:42 am

    [eimg link='' title='hogs1' url='']

  • sami ullah January 1, 2010 08:27 pm

    very nice but i dont understand how to soak the camera in the light for 30 secs. please clearify.

  • Juraj September 5, 2009 07:36 am

    how do you set white balance and focus since it’s too dark to see a grey card and I’ve usually got my aperture maxxed because of low light, focus is very tricky when you can’t see the subject

  • craig September 2, 2009 01:41 pm

    I haven't been doing long-exposure stuff for long. I got my first SLR a couple of years ago, and my kids take up most of my time. However, I have found that you definitely catch the unexpected when the shutter is left open for a long time.

    These were my first long exposures ever, not long after I got my D80. A fire broke out on the ridge about a mile away from home, so I got the tripod out and started shooting. A circling helicopter resulted in some fun trails, and a really odd green glow that I'm at a loss to explain:

    I figured this trip would be a good one to muck about and try putting what I'd read into practice, and I wasn't disappointed. What I didn't plan for was them moving the dome in the middle of my shot:

    This was an unexpected bonus from a car that obliterated the previous shot with its headlights on (despite a multitude of signs showing sidelights only) - it parked a few hundred feet away at another observatory with its lights still on, so I caught a bit of colour in return:

    Pity my tripod sucks - the wind was gusting pretty hard that night, and things would probably been a lot sharper without it.

    Feel free to critique!

  • Biomech May 14, 2009 01:39 am

    I would love to be able to take shots like these, really inspiring.
    The problem I have is that any attempt ends in over exposure. I've tried dropping the aperture and EV but 9/10 they are still over exposed. How do you all get the light balance so perfect?
    I use a Fuji S6500FD bridge camera and a Sony DSCW80 compact.

  • Edsar March 30, 2009 01:57 am

    i love the 3rd example it is the result is expectacular.....

    I tried this type of long exposure but the result still overexpose or under expose.....

    Looking forward to have somehow a perfect exposure with out using any software as a recue......

  • Kristen March 27, 2009 09:57 am

    These blogs are so imformative and inspiring. Thank you for all the good tips and tricks. Can't wait to get out there and try so many of these!

  • MeiTeng March 6, 2009 11:58 am

    The 3rd one's amazing. I didn't know you can shoot something in darkness and turn it into day! Wow..:)

  • amir February 5, 2009 06:39 pm

    i love to play with slow shutter speed.

    i still don't quite yet understand how to light paint as in the picture shown in the article

    i have sone several shots of the ocean at night achieving that silky touch of the water. i love it

  • TimeTraveller January 21, 2009 12:20 am

    how do you set white balance and focus since it's too dark to see a grey card and I've usually got my aperture maxxed because of low light, focus is very tricky when you can't see the subject

  • HawleyJR January 20, 2009 04:15 pm

    My favorite slow shutter photo. 60 seconds:

  • vera September 4, 2008 04:52 pm

    i discover your blog, impresssive picture of the plane!! i was looking if you have pictures from Iran,

  • Angella September 3, 2008 07:12 am

    I promise this is not a spam comment (I get enough of them myself). I followed a link from Beyond Megapixels and really love this post. I am an amateur photographer who is an editor for an online magazine called BlogNosh ( I have featured Beyond Megapixels and a few other great photographers, and would love to feature this post. Could you possibly email me back and let me know if you would be willing to be featured?



  • Gian September 1, 2008 06:08 am

  • Gian September 1, 2008 06:07 am


  • Missy August 30, 2008 09:25 am

    Great photos, I really appreciate you you sharing these. I'm taking a photo class now and it really is great to see the techniques we are learning.

  • hydroment August 30, 2008 08:00 am

    This is one that I have actually done! Sorry I have no picture to share of the experience. I set the shutter to about 20 or 30 seconds (it has been a few years), pressed the button in a very dim light and then moved into a location in the field of view, then moved to a second or third location. The background in the photos would become solidly exposed, but I would look like a ghost in 1,2, or 3 places in the image. Since the background was solidly exposed and I was never in one spot long enough to be I would appear to be transparent. It was fun but that is as far as it went. Great pictures and ideas above. Thanks

  • Alexxx August 30, 2008 07:28 am

    Motion blur is Interresting subject. So mines are (in two categories) :

    - Subject moving:

    - Camera moving:

  • Ula August 30, 2008 02:57 am

    Great job! I can't wait to try out there techniques!

  • Maria Sabala August 30, 2008 12:19 am

    I tried this about a month ago on a waterfall my in-laws installed in their back yard. I took these while the sun was going down around 9:00 PM, so the first one required a 5 second shutter speed, while the second one required 10 seconds. They are posted on my blog here:

  • Sarvesh August 29, 2008 11:53 pm

    Awesome post. The last one is almost unbelievable. I never thought that you can get such wonderful photos in pitch darkness.

  • Sybren August 29, 2008 11:13 pm

    I love light painting - really should do it more often.



  • amateur August 29, 2008 10:44 pm

    The last photo may benefit of some cropping - the foreground blured detail in lower left corner should be out, and leveling of the ocean could be the right thing to do.

  • Mark August 29, 2008 06:45 pm

    Thought I'd share my attempt, photo taken of a first dance at a wedding I was shooting last weekend


  • zacco August 29, 2008 11:09 am

    great photos taken and techniques, wicked.

  • Garrett August 29, 2008 07:04 am

    I love working with long shutter speeds because lucky things can happen while the shutter was open that you weren't expecting. For example, I was almost done taking night shots at the shore, when an airplane left a trail across my shot. I adjusted the composition a bit and got this shot which captures the trails of airplanes landing and taking off.

  • Brett Dickson August 29, 2008 06:40 am

    Motion blur is a fantastic technique for portraying a sense of movement in and around the subject in a photo.

    I have a rather extensive collection of motion blured images here:

  • ziad August 29, 2008 05:14 am

    Here's one of my shots. Long shutter, at night, and simply shook the camera to create different effects!

  • boocat August 29, 2008 04:19 am

    I am a total ametuer photographer and just trying to soak everything up and really appreciation everything you guys do on here. Thank!

  • Alexxx August 29, 2008 04:01 am

    Why share into the forum and not here?

  • JH August 29, 2008 01:28 am

    That last photo is great, never would have believed it is a night shot until looking at the details.

  • Rosh August 29, 2008 01:16 am

    Great example. Good job!


  • Noir August 29, 2008 01:00 am

    Wow, I totally love the last one, really great shot!

  • Pete Langlois August 29, 2008 12:33 am

    I really like #1 and the explanation for #3. Great captures!


  • RayPG August 29, 2008 12:15 am

    I have try the slow shutter speed to do some light painting..

    And for this one I paint the roof of my house to get more color :D

    Its interesting but very important to have a tripod