We were fortunate to live in Montclair New Jersey for 15 years in a wonderful old victorian house. Montclair is just a short commute to New York City and has been used as a location for a lot of movies including “Analyze This” and “Seven.” One time when I was in Boston I called home and my daughter was very excited because Jennifer Anniston’s Trailer was parked in front of our house because they were shooting a scene in a local restaurant called The Cozy Inn. I was pissed being in Boston and having Jennifer Anniston parked at my house. One day when I was working at home a crew showed up to shoot a commercial right in front of our house. They went door to door to let us know they had permits from the city and permission to block off traffic on our street. They also gave us permission to enjoy the catering truck…so lunch was on them. You can see other images from movie locations at my commercial site.
Most still photographers don’t think about panning very much. Panning is commonly used in cinematography but in still photography will cause motion blur. Sometimes motion blur can make an image work by giving the illusion of motion. If you place the camera on a tripod and pan with the action during a slow shutter speed you can still create blurred motion but through panning make the subject blur less. This was shot at an exposure of 1 second and the camera was panned with the action during exposure. The panning causes the background to blur but by panning with the action the deer are not blurred as much making them stand out. You can see more of my nature images at my gallery by clicking here.
Students sometimes ask why are my pictures blurry? It is really simple, either the camera moved or the object (subject) moved. There maybe times that you want an image to be blurry to express motion. This image of a running doe and fawn was taken on a tripod and the tripod was panned during exposure to add a sense of movement to the image. In most case though, you want to freeze the action of an image to define the ultimate moment of the scene. There are a number of reasons that images are blurry but the most important factor is the movement of the camera during exposure. If the camera moves, the image will blur. I know that most of like to think we are as steady as a rock, but we aren’t.
When shooting with a hand held camera, try leaning against a rail, building or tree to steady your body during exposure. It is actually more difficult to steady the camera when holding it at arms length and using the screen of a digital camera. It is easier to steady yourself while looking through the viewfinder during exposure. The exposure of an image is caused by light, shutter speed and aperture. Aperture is controlled through iris, the smaller the iris the less light strikes the sensor. However, smaller apertures provide an increased depth of field. Make your decision about aperture first. Shutter speed controls the amount of time the shutter is open and letting light strike the sensor. The faster the shutter speeds, the faster the action you can freeze. When photographing sports, you should have a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second minimum. Faster is better for freezing action. Adjust the ISO sensitivity so you can achieve the faster the shutter speeds.
Use a tripod whenever you can. Get to know your tripod, have a relationship with it. I believe a serious photographer needs two tripods. A large sturdy tripod used for scenic views and portraits at the best ISO sensitivity to capture the detail. This may require a slow shutter speed and small aperture and even the use of a cable release to make sure you have no camera movement. The second tripod is a mini tripod that you can pack up in your camera bag. Sometimes I just can’t carry a big tripod with me.
Take the time to know your lenses. Longer focal length lens are great for sports but very heavy. I can steady a 200mm lens at a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second. The more zoomed in you are to your subject, the more difficult it is to steady the camera. Larger lenses have image stabilization systems but they can be very expensive.
Test your own ability at each different shutter speed. Take hand held pictures of an object that doesn’t move. Take a picture at each shutter speed with each lens. Review the images and see which ones are blurry. This will give you a personal guideline of when you need to get out the tripod. Blurred motion can be great way to photograph moving objects but only if you can control it. Take the time to learn your own limitations so you can make creative decisions of when to use slow shutter speeds with bodies in motion.