Fast moving subject? Dragging the shutter is a great technique for capturing motion and emphasizing action in your photographs. Let’s learn how.

Video: Capturing Motion Using the Shutter Drag Camera Technique

First, what is shutter drag? Shutter drag is a technique for capturing motion by purposely slowing down the shutter speed. The longer the shutter is open, the longer the sensor is exposed to the light. This leaves time for anything in the frame to move, creating a blur. When used creatively, this can have beautiful effects like in this Environmental Shutter Drag Portrait.

Composing the Shot

I’m next to a traffic circle  photographing the passing cars. Not only do we have bad midday lighting, check out how terrible the image looks when I take a regular image.

Setting the Shutter Speed

capturing motion shutter difference
1/10 sec. will capture more motion blur than 1/30 sec.

I find that a slow 1/10 to 1/30 seconds is perfect for capturing motion. The longer the shutter is open, the greater the blur. See the difference between 1/10 and 1/30 seconds above. You’ll notice that at 1/30 seconds, you can still make out some background detail. To add more blur, I’ll be photographing at a slower 1/10 seconds.

Tips for Photographing Moving Subjects

The main trick for capturing motion is to pan with the subject. Holding the camera still with keep the background sharp but our subject will be blurry.

Instead, we aim the camera at our subject beforehand, and follow it at the same speed as it passes in front of us. When done smoothly, the subject will be perfectly sharp and the background will fall into a nice blur. I also recommend turning on High-Speed-Shooting and shooting the entire sequence.

This technique is easy if your camera has great tracking autofocus. However, for those that don’t, a trick is to use autofocus first to set the focus on a passing subject. Then, switch to manual focus and anything at the same distance will be in perfect focus.

capturing motion car 1

capturing motion bicycle

capturing motion sports car

Check out some of the final images.


I hope you enjoyed this article/tutorial for capturing motion using shutter drag. There are many fast moving subjects you can try this technique on to capture fantastic images! To learn more about all things photography, check out SLR Lounge Premium. There, you’ll find complete courses on Weddings, Lightroom Editing, Phone Photography, and more. Be sure to visit Visual Flow for intuitive presets for all lighting conditions!

Don’t miss our next episode of Mastering Your Craft on Adorama’s YouTube channel next week! If you want to catch up on all the episodes, make sure you check out our playlist!