ShutterDrag_nicolesy

The image above was photographed with a Nikon P5100, ISO 800, 1/15th @ f/2.7.
(Photo is Copyright 2009 Nicole S. Young – All Rights Reserved)

Image and Post by Nicole Young – Follow Nicole Young on Twitter

I have never been a fan of on-camera flash as the main light-source for a photograph, especially when I’m out using my point-and-shoot. If you have your camera and/or flash set to “auto” then it usually will turn the flash on when it’s really dark outside, or when you are inside and there is very little ambient light. If you’re using your camera in one of these situations then you would probably end up with a very bright/over-exposed subject (usually the person you are trying to photograph) and the rest of the image is dark or completely black.

To get around this problem, and to insert a bit of fun into my photography, I use a technique called “dragging the shutter”. Here are a few tips on how to achieve this effect:

1. The first requirement you need on your camera is a flash. Change the setting of the flash so that it always fires. Avoid turning it to “auto” or you might not get the results you are looking for. You can also set your flash to “rear-curtain-sync” if it has that option.

2. The second requirement you will need is the ability to slow down the shutter speed. If you have a camera that allows you to shoot in “manual” mode, or if you can manually adjust your shutter speed settings, then you will have no problem setting up your camera (I usually start at 1/15th of a second and go from there). If you can’t shoot in manual mode … don’t worry! Most other cameras will give you the option of choosing a specific “scene setting”. If you have one of these cameras then change it to a “night-scene” setting and you should get a similar effect.

3. The backdrop of the scene will really make a huge difference in how the overall photo looks. I find that night-time is the best time of day to get good results with this technique. Also, try to find an area where the background is lit with lots of different lights (think of a Christmas tree) and you should get really neat results.

4. Once you have everything set up and ready to go, line up your subject, press the shutter, and twist or move the camera as you are taking the photo. Try several different shutter speed or scene settings, and don’t forget to experiment.

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Join the conversation! 6 Comments

  1. [...] Last night Rich was gracious enough to pose for a quick photo at Joe’s Crab Shack. They have some really cool lights hanging from their ceiling and it made a perfect backdrop for this type of photo. This image is a fun re-creation of an image I shot w/ my point-and-shoot about a year ago … it’s accomplished by twisting the camera while dragging the shutter and using the flash. I wrote an article about this technique on Photofocus … you can check it out here. [...]

  2. [...] Because of wanting to spend every moment with my family, I didn’t really get a chance to see any of my California friends while I was down south. When I got home I was hunckering down to a stack of photos to edit when Jason telephoned to say he was in town. Jason Presson is one of my childhood actor buddies (see ~ Jason ~ ). He was in town helping Corey Feldman with his music tour. Mary and I met up with him for pizza in the U-District. He was very patient with me as I made him hold still while I snapped a ton of pics while dragging the shutter. [...]

  3. [...] Last night Rich was gracious enough to pose for a quick photo at Joe’s Crab Shack. They have some really cool lights hanging from their ceiling and it made a perfect backdrop for this type of photo. This image is a fun re-creation of an image I shot w/ my point-and-shoot about a year ago … it’s accomplished by twisting the camera while dragging the shutter and using the flash. I wrote an article about this technique on Photofocus … you can check it out here. [...]

  4. [...] of the rickshaw, and triggered it wirelessly with the pop-up flash on my Nikon D700 camera. I also dragged the shutter, which, together with rear-curtain flash sync, enabled me to capture a core of well-exposed [...]

  5. [...] of the rickshaw, and triggered it wirelessly with the pop-up flash on my Nikon D700 camera. I also dragged the shutter, which, together with rear-curtain flash sync, enabled me to capture a core of well-exposed [...]

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About Nicole S. Young

Photographer, author, entrepreneur. I love photographing food and landscapes, and have written several how-to books on Photography, post-processing, and creative inspiration. You can find more about me on my blog, online store, as well as on Google+ and Twitter.

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Shooting, Technique & Tutorials

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