How to Freeze Motion In Camera

If you’ve ever tried shooting images of your pet or kids (not necessarily in that order) playing in the yard or fast sports action, you’ve surely faced the dilemma of choosing the right shutter speed. This tutorial from Aaron Nace could just be the thing you’ve been waiting for:

“Freezing motion can be incredibly useful in photography because you can capture images that you can’t actually see with your human eyes.”

The human eye does not detect each individual “frame,” when it sees motion. A continuous series of images are captured and then processed by the brain. When the brain plays it back, that’s how you have an experience of the outside world.

how to effectively freeze movement

A fast shutter speed can freeze motion.

A camera, on the other hand, does not take a series of images but one image at a time. So, if you could, somehow, make it capture one image in a very quick timeframe, you could actually freeze movement.

There are a number of ways to freeze motion, but here Nace shows us how to stop action just by manipulating the shutter speed while shooting outdoors on a sunny day.

Camera Settings

Nace recommends you set your camera to shutter priority mode (Tv or S). This way, you have control over your shutter speed and the camera automatically adjusts the aperture for you to create a technically correct exposure.

Which Shutter Speed is Best?

The speed of your shutter depends on the speed of the action you’re photographing. You wouldn’t need the same shutter speed for taking a picture of a running cheetah as you would for a slow-moving snail.

how to eliminate motion blur in images

A collage that shows how increasing the shutter speed reduces motion blur

Nace first starts with a shutter speed of 1/60 of a second. That creates a lot of motion blur. He increases it gradually to 1/125 of a second, then 1/500 of a second and then all the way to 1/2000 of a second. At that speed Nace was able to practically freeze the skateboarder in mid-flight without any motion blur whatsoever. You’ll need to experiment like this until you find the shutter speed that works for you.

When you’re in bright enough conditions, you don’t need anything other than a quick shutter speed to stop motion in mid-air. However, if you plan to freeze motion indoors or in otherwise low lighting conditions, you’ll need to learn to use strobes.

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