There are many great techniques that allow us to add movement or other elements of visual interest to our images during capture. Some of these include multiple exposures, multiple flash exposures, or panning photography.
Dragging the shutter while using the flash is one such trick and it’s not difficult to use but you must know a few things. Let me show you!
What is shutter drag?
Shutter dragging combines flash, and freezes our subject with a slow shutter speed to capture motion blur.
When shooting in low light conditions, a slower shutter speed allows more light to reach the sensor to create an exposure. It also captures the movement of anything in the frame, which we call motion blur. If we don’t use a tripod while taking long exposure shots, they can also be blurry from camera shake. With the shutter drag, we intentionally introduce a camera shake or motion blur into the shot for a creative effect.
Shutter dragging is a two-step process for each exposure. First, the flash freezes the subject in the frame so that they are sharp. Now move the camera while the shutter is open to create a light path with the background light. It’s a great combination of sharp and soft.
What gear do I need for shutter dragging?
For shutter dragging, we don’t need that much equipment. The important things are given below:
- A camera with manual shooting mode
- A speedlite flash (
- A wide-angle lens (Sony 16-35mm f/2.8)
- Editing software
Sometimes, we need to shoot in low-light conditions with obvious ambient light in the background.
How to set it up?
Step 1: Choose the aperture.
It should be around f/5.6-8.0 to make sure that we have a wide depth of field.
Step 2: Set up shutter speed.
Now we need to choose a shutter speed slow enough to allow our subject to move after the flash fires. This is variable, I would recommend starting with 1/6s.
Step 3: Set up ISO and flash power.
Because it is so dark usually ISO would be around 800-1000, and flash at 1/64, 1/128 as you don’t want to use full power right in front of your subject.
Step 4: Choose the subject.
Need to treat it like a normal shot because it will be the main focus of my image.
Step 5: Take a Photo.
When the flash fires, it records the first pose our subject has. After that, move your camera so the lights in the background get blurred.
Step 6: Make adjustments.
Now that we have a test Shot, we can evaluate how the image looks and adjust our shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and flash power.
Step 7: Take some more photo
Need to take as many pictures as possible to make sure we get the results we want. Sometimes, magic happens, and get it in the first few frames, but other times it might not. So we should continue taking pictures until we are confident about the results.
Tips and troubleshooting
We can say that shutter dragging is all experimental. Because sometimes we get results that are disappointing or don’t look right. It can happen to anyone. So, if this happens to you, these tips and ideas can be helpful.
Light trails aren’t very long
If the light traits are too short, just speed up the shutter speed, or increase the movement of the camera.
Do the images look a bit blurry and confusing?
If the images are blurry or confusing, try using a slower shutter speed first, or increase aperture. Also, remember to have setting of your flash set up to the front curtain!
Is your subject blown out?
If the flash is a little too powerful, try reducing its power output or decreasing ISO.
The light trails are obscuring my subject
If you Drag your camera across your subject, it can draw light trails over them. Instead, spinning or twisting the camera can help.
Is shutter dragging good for different situations?
Flash freezes the subject, which means keeping the camera still but letting the motion in the background do the work. It could be passing traffic or any moving subject with lights.