Tag Archives: tutorial

Playing with shutter speed

Shutter speed is the length of time a camera’s shutter is open–essentially, how fast it goes “click” when you press the button to take the picture. Shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second, so 1/10 is actually a pretty long and slow shutter speed, whereas 1/400 is very short and quick. On a practical level, the faster the shutter speed, the more “frozen” the action you capture–in the picture above, the droplets of water and the shadows they cast on my arm and face are frozen in place. Slowing down the shutter speed will mean motion in your pictures has a “blur” to it, which can be frustrating when you want a crisp image, but great when you play with it in the right way and are able to capture a sense of movement.

If you have a camera that allows you to manually set your shutter speed, I’d like to encourage you to play with it. My camera (Nikon D5000) has a setting called “S”, which stands for “Shutter priority.” I can dial the shutter speed up, or dial it down with the little rotator thingy. By using this setting, the camera will automatically adjust the aperture for you so that you don’t have to worry about any other settings and can simply focus on setting your desired shutter speed.

“Rotator thingy.” Don’t you love how precise I am?

Here are some fun examples of what can happen with different shutter speeds.

FAST SHUTTER SPEED (1/250 or faster)

A fast shutter speed will freeze your subject, like this picture of my friend Vessie I posted a couple weeks ago.

My friend Vessie took these shots of me when we were swimming/sunbathing at Pony Pasture in Richmond.

Please ignore the dorky expression on my face in the picture above–the point is the frozen arc of water.

And no, in case you’re wondering, the sunbathing didn’t do any good. I am still as white as bleached flour, though I may have gained an extra freckle or two. And a couple pounds from all the snacks we brought–yeah, that too.

It’s also fun to use a fast shutter speed to freeze pets in motion, like my sister Erica’s cat Teds. The shutter speed wasn’t quite fast enough, so it’s not as crisp as I would want it, but you get the point.

Children in motion are always a favorite–you can capture the most bizarre, hilarious expressions. This is my friend Eve’s son. This picture just makes me laugh.

SLOW SHUTTER SPEED (1/30 or slower)

Here is another Vessie-flipping-her-hair picture, but with a slower shutter speed. Unlike the one I posted above, this one captures the motion of her head.

I also used a very slow shutter speed (1/2 second up to 5 or 6 seconds long) for some camp fire pictures at Family Vacay 2010, up in the North woods of Wisconsin.

As you can see, the camera has captured the motion of the people, but also the motion of the embers floating upwards–we can see the whole trail they follow.

Don’t the trails of light kind of look like party streamers?

You can use this same technique to capture moving traffic at night so that your final picture shows trails of light instead of individual vehicles.

I should note at this point that when your shutter speed is very slow (especially 1/30 or longer), any movement of the camera will result in a blurry picture, so make sure you have a tripod or tripod substitue. I have a tiny tabletop tripod that’s about the height of my hand. I love that thing, mainly because it’s so small and folds up so nicely that I can slip it into my purse. In fact, I always carry it with me. You never know when you’ll be going about your regular business and suddenly need to capture an image with a slow shutter speed–you gotta be ready in this crazy world, I’m telling you. But no need to dash out and purchase a tripod–you can also simply set your camera on a chair or table, and use books or magazines to prop it up at the right angle so that it can capture the frame you want.

You can also use changes in shutter speed to portray water differently. Here is a picture with fast shutter speed (1/400).

See how the water is “frozen” in action?

However, by slowing down the shutter speed to 1/2 second or even multiple seconds, you can achieve that ethereal, smooth water effect that many photographers like to play with (click here for an example). I had full intentions of giving you an example from my own camera . . . but there’s a piece to this that I couldn’t figure out. With my shutter speed set so slow and in the bright daytime sun, my camera was “absorbing” too much light. I set my ISO (essentially, the sensitivity of the camera to light) as low as possible. I made sure my aperture was as small as possible (f22)–but with a shutter speed of even 1/5 of a second, there was still so much dang light that every picture I took was simply bright white. Any more experienced photographers know how to fix that problem?

Anyway, go forth into the world and play with your camera settings! I am by no means an expert, but if I can encourage any one person to switch out of “automatic” and start using their camera to a fuller potential, I will have achieved my mission here.

For tomorrow, the roast recipe I promised you last week. In the meantime, cheerio!

Another Photoshop miracle: virtual lipstick tutorial

During our Family Vacay 2010, many glorious pictures were taken of all family members. But every so often, briefly, my own camera was turned on me. In some cases, this turned out to be . . . a problem. Since I wasn’t usually wearing much make-up or any lip gloss, there was nothing to bring zip to my normally washed-out look. In reality, this is fine, and I fully support make-up-lessness. However, when captured on film . . . well, that’s a different matter. My lips, for example, had very little pink in them and slightly resembled the lips of a zombie. Yes, I am very, very pale, and this can play out in both wonderful and/or hideous ways on camera.

Thankfully, I grabbed a hold of Photoshop.

“Photoshop Photoshop on the wall, make me the prettiest one of all!” I implored.

And while I didn’t become the prettiest one of all, there was a vast improvement.

I am now going to walk you through steps that will essentially add more color to your lips. I call it ‘virtual lipstick.’ Yes, it’s completely cheating the system. Probably extremely vain as well. But every now and then, I really like a picture except for the death-like lips, and hey–I’m a solution-driven person, and this is my way to make it all better.

Let’s start with the picture at hand: me, at an outdoor flea market, sporting a visor cap with fur growing out of the top. Please don’t ask further questions about this visor cap. The answers can only be disturbing.

Open ‘er up in Photoshop CS4:

1. Using the lasso tool (indented icon to the very left, second from the top), select the lips. It does help to zoom in to the area at hand before lassoing. To do that in a Mac, simply press ‘Command +’ until you’re at your desired closeness. To drag the image around so that the lips are in the center of your screen, hold down the ‘space’ bar and use the mouse to move the image about. Oh, and please ignore my little “actions” folder on the right, where “Resize for web V” is selected. It has nothing to do with this post.

2. Go to Image —> Adjustments —> “Selective Color.” Ever since I discovered Selective Color, I’ve been using it non-stop. Non-stop, I tell you.

3. Now, the color in my lips is a combination of both “reds” and “neutral,” so we’ll play with both selections in turn. First, select “reds.” Essentially, we’re telling the program to take pixels that fall into the ‘reds’ category, and adjust the color in them.

Now it’s time to play with the different sliders. As you can see, I am adding some “black” to the existing red in the selection, which essentially just makes it darker. I can also add some yellow if I want to warm up the color, and I’m definitely adding a little magenta. Mmmm.

The sad fact is that the pixels in my lips don’t qualify enough as ‘reds’ for you to see much of a difference. But wait! There is another step. And that step will be our salvation.

4. Next, I select “neutral.” Let’s be honest–that’s the color we’re dealing with.

Time to play with those sliders again, and this time I promise you’ll see a difference. Let’s add a little black . . .

Whoa! OK, not that much black!

Basically, just play with them there sliders until you have the look you want. Using this technique, the applications are countless. If you suffer from redness under your eyes, you can use this trick to select that area and reduce the “black” therein (which will essentially lighten it, though you have to make sure it blends well with the rest of the image). You can increase the “white” and reduce the “black” in the neutral pixels of your teeth. You can use it to bring out the blue in your subject’s eyes, or turn one eye red and one eye yellow–it’s up to you as Photoshop Master in Command.

After scaling back the black, adding some yellow and magenta and reducing the cyan, this is what happened:

It is to my liking. Enhanced, but still natural-looking. Amen.

Here they are side by side. If I had been a good girl I would have made side by side collage of the before-and-after pictures with a witty caption on it . . . but I didn’t. Please don’t tell Santa. The holidays are approaching fast, and I just know he’s waiting for me to slip up.

Thank you Photoshop for one more little miracle.

My parting words of wisdom to you are as follows: don’t go too hog wild. Always remember to use a light touch. You don’t want to completely lose perspective and turn a nice, innocent photo like this . . .

. . . into this :

Because take it from a woman who’s been there–that’s only a hair-breadth away from this debacle:

Eyes everywhere, lips sprouting from every available surface . . . I don’t think I’ll ever be able to sleep again. Vessie, I’m sorry I had to involve you in this mess.

Think light touch, people! Light touch!

Over and out!