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  1. #1
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    Help me explain dragging the shutter... please...

    I understand how to drag the shutter and how it works but I want to explain it to group of non-technically savvy friends who could benefit from using it. Everytime I try to explain it I make it sound more complicated than it is though. Can anyone help me explain it to a group of non-technical camera users? (Most are using Digi Rebels with external flash if that matters.)

    Thanks for your help!

  2. #2
    don't tase me, bro! Asylum Steve's Avatar
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    Maybe you could start...

    Quote Originally Posted by mmedlyn
    I understand how to drag the shutter and how it works...
    ...by explaining it to me. I've been a photographer for 25 years, and I've never heard the term...
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  3. #3
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    Re: Help me explain dragging the shutter... please...

    Ok... I'll try... like I said though I make it much more complicated than it is. Dragging the shutter is using flash and existing light at the same time to create more natural looking lighting. Basically you manually set the camera to a slow shutter speed (1/30) to allow existing light to illuminate your background while using your flash to stop the motion of your subject. It also allows the background to motion blur (depending on where/what you're shooting. It's paticularly neat when lights are in the background.)

    You probably do this but don't call it that. I know wedding some photographers call it "dragging the shutter" not sure if there is another name for it.

    So how did I do? See why I need help explaining it????

  4. #4
    has-been... another view's Avatar
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    Re: Help me explain dragging the shutter... please...

    AKA "slow sync"

    You can use a much longer shutter speed too - I've used one second before. Basically, the speed that the flash goes off is much faster than the shutter speed. Because of the speed of the light from the flash, you'll get a sharp image imposed over a blurry image (due to the long shutter speed). It can be a cool technique to use, but it's one of the ones you don't want to over-use. 1/30 can come in handy in dark rooms (like wedding receptions) to get a little light in the background so it doesn't look like you were in a cave...

    How much blur you get depends on how long the shutter speed is and how much motion you have. How much background exposure you get depends only on the shutter speed. Does this help?

  5. #5
    don't tase me, bro! Asylum Steve's Avatar
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    Hmmm, turns out...

    ...that's one of my favorite techniques. Just never heard that term before...
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  6. #6
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    Re: Help me explain dragging the shutter... please...

    You can use a much longer shutter speed too - I've used one second before. Basically, the speed that the flash goes off is much faster than the shutter speed. Because of the speed of the light from the flash, you'll get a sharp image imposed over a blurry image (due to the long shutter speed). It can be a cool technique to use, but it's one of the ones you don't want to over-use. 1/30 can come in handy in dark rooms (like wedding receptions) to get a little light in the background so it doesn't look like you were in a cave...
    OK, now I'm rethinking my need to explain this technique. Is it only helpful in really dark rooms like wedding receptions. I'm thinking of my intended audience and they are mostly snapshot photographers taking pictures of their kids and everyday life etc. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) I'm just wondering if this is something they would use if they knew how to do it... or is it strictly an artsy kind of thing and/or a really low light kind of thing... (I'm showing my "green"ness here...) Thanks for humoring me...

  7. #7
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    Re: Help me explain dragging the shutter... please...

    I haven't heard that term since I was a kid!! I know where it came from but thought it was a regional colloquialism from the Plains and Mid-South.

    There were some view cameras made that had a large lever attached to the spring cam that drove the shutter and was used to hold open the shutter for framing and focusing. Then you loaded the film and pulled the dark slide. With the shutter set, cocked and loaded if you will, you could lock open the shutter (a bulb setting, some models you squeezed a pneumatic bulb!) or trip the shutter when you had enough light outside. Most all of them had a couple of speeds associated with how long the shutter would stay open depending on how you set the cam and the spring. The lever could be used to hold open the shutter as well, but normally was just a counter weight to the cam and spring.

    Prior to sync, the "flash" was literally powder and one would open the shutter with one hand via the bulb and with the other trigger (literally) the powder flash. Voila! A photo and then you could release the lever/shutter.

    Photographers discovered that when shooting against a non still background, like wind in the trees or livestock in the distance, they had to do something a little different to not have a completely blurred background from just leaving the shutter open. Soooo, they beefed up the springs, and literally used the pull of the lever to trip the flash.

    The resulting "drag on the shutter" changed the shutter speed perceptibly and produced what we view as slow sync today. It also generated a synced flash. There are still some Burke View cameras in use that have a mechanical device that pulls a lever. Most of these levers/connections were removed at the advent of reliable continuous or 'hot' lights as they were notorious for snagging something. Every local/regional history museum in this country has photographs in their collections that illustrate the use of this technique.

    Similar to what we use it for today, it was to control blur. They wanted to minimize the blur, we use it to generate a controlled blur.

    Some of my grandfather and his buddies talked about this when I was a kid in the 60's. They had a cool way of shorting the magnesium bulb sockets with foil to change the firing time of "modern" cameras to get a similar effect. Lots of trial and error!

    Melissa, looking forward to more of your posting and welcome to PR!
    Last edited by drg; 11-29-2005 at 11:43 AM.
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  8. #8
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    Re: Help me explain dragging the shutter... please...

    Wow drg! Thanks for the information. I loved the explaination of where the term comes from! I had no idea!

  9. #9
    has-been... another view's Avatar
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    Re: Help me explain dragging the shutter... please...

    Quote Originally Posted by mmedlyn
    Is it only helpful in really dark rooms like wedding receptions. ... or is it strictly an artsy kind of thing and/or a really low light kind of thing...
    These are probably the two main reasons you'd use it. At a reception, you could pose a few people together and they won't be moving (not enough, anyway) and that 1/30 shutter speed at ISO400 will keep the background from going too dark. Blur gets kinda artsy, which is why I mention that you want to be careful with overusing the technique. I don't have any examples here but I'll see if I can dig something up.

    BTW, Nikon calls it "slow sync". The camera knows that a flash is attached and will default to a 1/60 shutter speed because of it. If you turn on the slow sync mode, it ignores that default and sets the shutter speed based on ambient light in the room.

  10. #10
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    Re: Help me explain dragging the shutter... please...

    Simply put. Expose for ambient and turn on the flash to fill in shadows.

    The only considerations are that your shutter speed is fast enough to 1) hand hold and 2) stop any movement by the subject. You also need to stay below the synch speed.

    The easiest way to drag the shutter is in manual mode. If you turn on the flash and set the Av and Tv for proper exposure, you will be dragging the shutter.

    You just need to be aware of mixed lighting if doing it indoors.

    Mike

  11. #11
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    Re: Help me explain dragging the shutter... please...

    Thank you Mike. That is a very good explanation!

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Platts
    Simply put. Expose for ambient and turn on the flash to fill in shadows.

    The only considerations are that your shutter speed is fast enough to 1) hand hold and 2) stop any movement by the subject. You also need to stay below the synch speed.

    The easiest way to drag the shutter is in manual mode. If you turn on the flash and set the Av and Tv for proper exposure, you will be dragging the shutter.

    You just need to be aware of mixed lighting if doing it indoors.

    Mike

  12. #12
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    Re: Help me explain dragging the shutter... please...

    I was reading the feedback of this main subject. Dragging shutter in perspective for my wedding photography is when I set my aperture and ISO for any shoot, I drag my shutter to about 30 or 60 for those wedding shot, and if the shutter is not set at 30 or 60 then I adjust my aperture or ISO to retain my shutter speed. Most Canon with rear shutter speed wheel such as the 20D up to the 50D can be accomplish in this mode adjustment to bring out the best saturated color as a end results of your pictures. For Daytime shoot I do the same thing as above but use the 125 shutter speed as my reference. Now you need to make sure the subject is still, such as wedding ceremony and portrait. Use flash in this situation but on a fill-flash technique and I use the Flip-it method on all my flash pictures. I hope everyone usderstand my method of dragging shutter.....very similar when shooting on Manual mode.

  13. #13
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    Re: Help me explain dragging the shutter... please...

    Quote Originally Posted by mmedlyn
    I understand how to drag the shutter and how it works but I want to explain it to group of non-technically savvy friends who could benefit from using it. Everytime I try to explain it I make it sound more complicated than it is though. Can anyone help me explain it to a group of non-technical camera users? (Most are using Digi Rebels with external flash if that matters.)

    Thanks for your help!
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