dragging the shutter Question

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by steve_andrews, Sep 16, 2008.

  1. i have read a few articles on dragging the shutter ( i also read the article on Planetneil ). I understand the idea and concepts, but in all of
    the articles it states that "you measure for the correct ambient light reading then stop down one or two stops which will still give you
    enough detail in the background and the flash will be used as your main light."

    So My Q is, w/o a light meter how do you measure the ambient light correctly? Maybe im missing it, or just not understanding the wording.
    I simply put my camera on P mode, take a shot, and then adjust from there doing the calculations in my head to get the aperture that i
    want, and the corresponding shutter speed that goes with it. Is this what they are talking about? Is there another way then the way I do

    Thanks in advance, im learning so much.
  2. I always thought with dragging the shutter you were in manual mode.

    I would put your camera in manual mode with the aparature wide open. Then change the shutter speed until the "in camera light meter thing" is in the middle. Once you find this spot, change the shutter speed to make the "in camera light meter thing" move 1 or 2 stops down.

    I think that's what they mean.
  3. Just taking a shot is one way of doing it, although I wouldn't use P mode. I'd use aperture priority if I was going to do this, since you can set an aperture (the one you want to use). But this method is not so accurate. A more accurate way is to use a gray card, holding it in the light you are trying to measure while using (preferably) your in-camera partial or spot meter to measure the card.
  4. Tom... sorry, i wasn't specific. I should have said after i take a test in P, i switch to M and do the calculations...BUT your
    way seems so much earlier.... not sure why i didn,t think of that. Does this work well for you?
  5. You can also use your palm, knowing that most palms (even among differing skin tones) are about 1 to 1.5 stops brighter than middle gray. You factor that in, but if you are already on the verge of being confused and unsure, I'd just get a gray card.
  6. thanks Nadine, i might just get the grey card.

    So i was just playing with my camera inside, dark room. Tried Toms method. Canon 30D, 580ex, M mode. Set aperture to f4
    then ajusted shutter speed until the "in camera light meter thing was in the middle" then moved it to minus 1. setting were iso
    800 1/8 at f4. got a nice pic and histogram.

    BUT then i just jumped shutter speed up to 1/125 and kept everything else the same, took pic. this exposure looks the same
    and histogram is almost exactly the same as the prior image. Why? If this was a "real shot" of two people in a room would
    the pics look the samewith the two different settings?
  7. http://www.photo.net/wedding-photography-forum/00QmsA

    Scroll down to Marc's reply. Worked like a charm this past weekend.
  8. So the flash sent out a more powerful balst on the second shot ( 1/125 @ f4 iso 800) then the fist shot (1/8 @f4 iso 800) to
    get the same exposure? Makes me assume that when using flash you have a lot of room for error with aperture and s
    speed settings with flash?
  9. First of all, one stop difference between the flash EV and camera EV is not going to stop motion. You do that deliberately if you want light trails and subject blur.

    Secondly, in a small room where flash reflectivity is effectively lighting up the whole place, you may not see much difference using different shutter speeds, particularly if the room is generally light colored. Did you also have a moving subject to simulate a dancing guest?

    Third--do read Marc's explanation that Sp noted. Marc has a way of explaining complex things simply. However, his method, while probably fine for most situations, isn't always perfect for some. For instance, if you followed his rule about using the old hand holding guideline--if you used a 200mm telephoto (unlikely at the reception, particularly with flash, but you never know), you'd be setting your shutter at 1/200th, while will probably not get you nice ambient rendition. You need to also understand the theory--the whys of a technique or those occasional situations will stump you. This is why I start with an ambient reading of the room.
  10. I should add--there will be times where dragging the shutter is using a pretty fast shutter speed--like at a reception room that is brightly lit and it is in the day.

    Also, over time, and with experience, you won't need to measure the ambient light in a room. You'll know what general range to try, do a few tests, and be fine.
  11. thanks nadine...i figured that 1/8 would be too slow to stop action, etc.....and i didnt take into account the size of a the
    room, vs. a large room or church. So aside from the situation that you pointed out above from Marcs example...... and im
    reading it correctly, if i set the aperture i want, and the shutter speed close to the focal length, while using my flash, i
    should get decent results? I would assume that if image is still to dark i would just adjust the ISO to bring in more light??
  12. Well...Marc's method works 'most of the time'. What I was trying to say above was, it won't work in every situation, and especially if you don't understand the theory in the first place. The logic to his method is not tied to the actual ambient light so when the ambient light is very different from the norm, it won't work. In that situation I mentioned above--bright indoor reception--if you follow his method, and you are using a 35mm focal length, you set your shutter to 1/30th and find that you are getting motion blur because your ambient EV at 1/30th is actually overexposing your scene. At some, fairly bright daytime receptions, I am using 1/160th shutter, dragging the shutter.

    I seem to get that you are confused about dragging the shutter and don't entirely grasp the basic concept yet. That's OK--it too me a while to understand things too. Flash, and mixing it with ambient, is a confusing thing. I recommend you keep testing things by metering the ambient and figuring your shutter drag accordingly until you get the hang of things.
  13. Nadine is absolutely correct, Marc's recommendation works where the ambient light is quite low. The idea is that you adjust the camera to a setting that will minimize motion in the background caused by camera shake. But as soon as the subject moves into an area where the ambient light overexposes the manual setting you've chosen, you adjust accordingly.
  14. The thing about adjusting accordingly when the ambient is brighter, is that you begin to run into problems continuing the focal length match up method because many times you are bouncing the flash, and if, for instance you bring the ISO down, you will run out of options for bouncing the flash. At ISO 100, you will be hard pressed to bounce the flash off a higher ceiling or distant wall, even at wide open apertures. That is why it is best to know the theory and concept, even if you use this method.
  15. dragging the shutter should be used sparingly, and it requires a lot of practice. Otherwise you can just
    end up with a blurry mess.
  16. In a brighter situation, you usually don't need to drag the shutter.

    If I'm using a 200mm with VR or IS then 1/125th is fine. Likewise, with wider lenses you can cheat a little on the shutter
    speed. Even a non-VR/IS 200 @ 1/200th you can just jack up the ISO a bit. Concept still works.

    Once you grasp the concept, you can adjust to fit.
  17. Marc--exactly my point--one needs to grasp the concept, whatever method used, so one knows how to bend and adjust. I do sometimes still drag the shutter (technically) in brighter conditions, though, for fast dancing, which you can't really freeze entirely until you get to 1/1000 and higher (without flash). Particularly in rooms where there is a variance in ambient light between areas near, for instance, walls of large windows and toward the window-less wall.
  18. Well, to keep it in perspective ... the suggested solution I gave was in reference to Mark Guthrie's original post on another thread about
    shooting on a "very dark" dance floor.

    I guess I do not have the same exact definition of "Dragging the Shutter" as you do Nadine. I've always took it as opening up the "black
    wall" behind subjects in darker conditions by using a slower shutter
    speed to capture as much ambient light as possible without introducing blurr in the background due to camera shake ... in combination
    with fast flash duration on the foreground subject to freeze the
    movement. Flash duration was always part of the equation.

    I fear that comments like "dragging the shutter should be used sparingly, or you'll end up with a blurry mess" indicates a fundimental
    lack of
    understanding how the flash duration concept actually works.

    I personally prefer to simplify anything and everything I can so I can concentrate on shooting, not fussing with my camera. So, for me
    there is only one decision to make in a room with varying ambient
    lighting ... like a hall with windows flooding light at one end and none on the other end ... at what point do I swap from Manual to Aperture
    preferred? One camera setting ... none on the flash (that's always
    TTL.) That decision always seems pretty easy, just look at what the meter is telling you to do ... or the meter in your head which is even

    BTW, The camera makers are making all this easier and easier. Auto ISO (with user inputted limits for highest ISO and lowest Shutter
    Speed) is beginning to eliminate even having to manually adjust the
    ISO in lighter or darker conditions. You determine what is the acceptable high ISO ... and the camera uses the entire range available up
    to that limit. Pretty cool.
  19. This is a technique that takes a bit of time and practice to master. Technically rather than dragging the
    shutter I prefer the term Slow Sync, which is more about what the technique is. Think about it like this, you
    are building up the shot like a painter, first you cover the background, maybe in not so much detail and also not
    too vibrantly and then you paint in the main subject in full sparkling colour.

    From personal preference I always use a tripod or monopod, just to keep the camera steady. You also have to
    brief the subjects about what you want them to do. In the mid 80's I lived in Bristol and did a number of
    weddings in the Autumn time, so with a late ceremony, by the time of the reception, it was dusk or fully dark.
    My 'Money Shot' was to get a picture of the couple on the bank of the Cumberland Basin in Bristol with the lights
    across the water and up into Clifton and the wonderful Brunel Clifton Suspension Bridge as a backdrop. So I
    metered for the scene, probably quite stopped down to get a bit of detail in the background, and with a shutter
    speed maybe as low as 1/4sec or more. Basically I was looking to expose the background about a stop or two
    under, enough to get some detail, but no more. I got the happy couple to stand very still in a comfortable pose
    and then fired the flash to expose them about a 1/2 stop under. I used a Vivitar 285 with a bounce card so that
    was relatively easy to do, the flash sensor doing the metering. So that built up my finished shot in the two stages.

    My other Slow Sync shot was to get a picture of the happy couple in front of a blur of the party behind them.
    Again, think about building it in two parts, the background is a busy dance floor with the guests dancing around
    and the foreground is the happy couple standing posed in front. So the contrast here is you want to expose the
    background pretty much out of focus, so you want the lens opened up as far as possible, you also want to pull the
    focus back so that the hyperfocal range just gets the couple in and no more. Again meter for the background,
    expose a stop or two under so you get something on the image but it is going to be blurred anyway and then again
    use the flash to expose the couple just a tad under or bang on. The end result should be this dreamy shot of the
    couple gazing at each other whilst the World whirls away behind them.

    I cannot stress to much though that for this to truly work well you have to have the co-operation of the couple,
    and you maybe need somebody to control the lighting for the inside shots. If the ambient lighting is too great,
    it is just not going to work. Shooting in a light environment, for example framed against a window with late
    afternoon light coming in, is about using fill in flash, which I admit is a related but different technique.

    Finally I have said it before and I will say it again, you need to practice these techniques and try out to find
    what works for you. Some of these techniques you have to learn, nobody can teach you! Back in the 60's when I
    was an apprentice at United Photographers in London, on quiet afternoons I was encouraged to take the out of date
    film stock, ends of rolls from jobs and take photographs and see what worked. With digital these days it is so
    easy, just make sure you keep a notebook and note down what you did so that you can repeat that cracking shot
    that really did the business!

  20. Marc--I don't think we disagree. I personally don't put that much emphasis on the necessity for avoiding background blur when dragging the shutter, but rather I place it on the desired but relatively unchanging background EV. Your response in the other thread was indeed in reference to photographing on a dark dance floor. However, Sp suggested that Steve use it as a general method for dragging the shutter, which, as I explained, will work in most situations, but not in some, because the logic in the method is not actually tied to the EV present. Steve would be fine in most situations, but if he didn't actually grasp the concept, as you say, he would be thrown in some situations. I get the feeling that Steve is looking for some easy method to always use to drag the shutter. My suggestion is to truly understand the concept first.

    We've had this discussion before, I think. Some methods, such as your suggested one, are indeed easy to remember and work in most situations, but without both broader photographic understanding and specific understanding of exposure (such as a beginning photographer might have or not have), rote following of a set of instructions can be dangerous. Your way of dealing with brighter but varying light using one camera setting and the meter info or meter in your head assumes one knows what to do with that info and one has a meter in one's head. Actually, it is ironic that shortcuts and some of the automation available in cameras these days are great in the hands of a photographer who doesn't really need it but can be dangerous (or not so successful) in the hands of a photographer who doesn't understand the concepts to begin with. I'm not saying Steve is such a photographer--just that he should be sure he understands the concept first.
  21. Yep Nadine, if you don't get it then it can bite you later when something doesn't work and you don't know why.

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