How to Make a Crowd Disappear from a Photo (Without Photoshop!)

For street photographers, few obstacles are as difficult to work around as crowds. No matter the hour, there’s sure to be someone walking through your periphery. And more often than not, passersby can seriously disrupt a composition. However, most photographers can’t exactly shut down a street in order to snag a shot.

Luckily, photographer David Bergman has a way of solving this issue in camera—no Photoshop required:

The trick?

Slow down your shutter speed.

Often times, photographers working during the day opt to keep their shutter speeds short and sweet in order to get a properly exposed image. However, doing so effectively freezes crowds in place.

Slowing down the shutter speed allows the crowd and other active objects in the frame to retain some degree of movement and flow. The longer the shutter remains open, the less distinct figures in the composition become. After just a few seconds, people walking through the frame begin to disappear entirely.

1/200 second exposure Time's Square

1/200 second

1/5 second exposure Time's Square

1/5 second

5 second exposure Time's Square

5 seconds

Of course, it’s necessary to adjust your settings to compensate for using a slower shutter speed. In order to avoid over exposing your images, lower you ISO and close down your aperture. It may also be wise to use an ND filter to cut down on the amount of light hitting the sensor. In addition, as with any long exposure photograph, it’s important to keep the camera stable while the exposure is in progress. Bring along a tripod to secure the camera and attach a cable release to avoid unnecessary camera shake.

So the next time you want to get rid of some of the hustle and bustle to make a photograph, you don’t have to wait around for the crowds to dissipate. Instead, try this simple adjustment and see for yourself the difference it can make!

For further training: The Long Exposure Photography Guide

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2 responses to “How to Make a Crowd Disappear from a Photo (Without Photoshop!)”

  1. Paul H says:

    The ability to do this was the main deciding point in purchasing a good ND filter system for me. Its really helpful at popular tourist sites

  2. Michael says:

    I always forget about shutter speed. I’m going to try to remember next time I’m out shooting. Cheers

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