Red Dancers

red blurred dancers

When we photograph dancers and motion performers, it is always tempting to shoot with slow shutter speeds to "smear" the images, and this image shows how well this can work. (Sometimes it is necessary to use very slow shutter speed if there just isn't enough light, but it is a creative technique that is always worth a try even with lots of light.)

Of course, you don't know how the images will look until you shoot the photo, and even then you really can't tell until you view them on the big screen, as they tend to look much nicer on the little camera back screen.

The question is usually "what actual slow shutter speed to use?"

Images will start smearing slower than 1/30, depending on the subject. But it is hard to know whether 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1, or 2 seconds is right. Fortunately, we live in the digital age, so we can test and get instant results – and we don't pay a dollar for every throw-away. I don't think there is any hard and fast rule about best shutter speed for blurring motion. 

The EXIF data from this image indicates it was 1/8 of a second, which means the dancers were moving pretty fast.

One of the aspects of this photo that makes it work SO well is that it was taken against a dark background. It is just a fact of physics and light that blurred images will "paint" nicely on dark backgrounds, but tend to disappear on light backgrounds.

When I shoot blurs or smears, I tend to try a number of shutter speeds and take many, many pix, throwing almost all of them away. I would love to know if this photographer shots hundreds of attempts, or just a few.

Lovely, memorable photo!