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Tips & Tricks

Tips for shooting portraits at very slow shutter speeds

By Matthew Saville on January 30th 2013

There are a number of different reasons why you might want to shoot a photo of people at a very slow shutter speed. Motion blur from water and other things can be very artistic, but how do you get your shutter speed down that slow, without your photos / subjects starting to blur?

Well, grab a tripod (of course!) and then watch this video for a few tips on how to keep your subjects sharp during slower shutter speeds.  ;-)


Of course the main element of sharpness is a tripod.  That is going to sound like a no-brainer for any landscape or nature photographers, and to be honest this video is probably going to make you laugh.  However believe it or not, but many portrait and wedding photographers might not even own a tripod, let alone use it regularly!  And it is not as simple as simply “using a tripod”.  (Which is why this video has some tips for you!)

Don’t get me wrong.  In my opinion always shooting without is fine, but it does limit your ability to think creatively.  You’re locked into “hand-holdable” shutter speeds, …or intentional motion blur and/or strobe flash use.  If this is you, then you should read our article HERE about how to hand-hold a camera!

Indeed, often I find myself in situations where motion blur is desirable, but subject blur is not.  There are many different techniques and tips on how to accomplish this, of course, and this video only covers some of them.  Please feel free to contribute more of your own tips by commenting here, or by heading on over to our forums!

Take care,
=Matthew Saville=

(3 second exposure)

(1/2 second exposure)

(1/2 second exposure, 100% crop)

All images are processed using the SLR Lounge Preset System for Lightroom 4, and using techniques from the HDR Workshop DVD.  Click for more info!

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Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Brian Hammonds

    Great video. Can’t wait to try out some shots like these!

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  2. The 9 Top Photography Tips of 2013 at SLR Lounge


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  3. Eaton Zhou

    Why not just take two pics, one to freeze the couple and another longer one for everything else then merge in photoshop?

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  4. Tips for shooting portraits at very slow shutter speeds Free Photography Tips Tutorials Reviews and Wordpress Themes | Photography tips and photography tutorials and more » Photography Tips

    […] via Tips for shooting portraits at very slow shutter speeds Free Photography Tips Tutorials Reviews and …. […]

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  5. Bryan Leighty

    excellent info!  Beautiful work!  thanks for putting this out there…

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  6. Chris

    Actually the DOF with a 24mm is enough to get 9′ to infinity at f/4 so a faster shutter speed or lower ISO would be entirely possible. Hyperfocal distance is 15.53ft. I can hand hold 1/15th no problem and I’m 64!

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  7. Go49ers!

    Very informative!  Thanks for putting this together.  Do you mind adding the focal & aperture settings to your pics as well?  That would be very helpful to amateurs like me :)

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  8. Jacoblmueller

    A couple things.

    First of all Canon has mirror lock up too.

    And another technique for getting sharp subjects which you used here but failed to mention is to compose with the subject small in the frame. This will minimize the impact of small motion.

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    • Campeters

      Good lord you are brilliant
      and a bit of a jerk

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    • facebook-628734522

      He wasn’t talking about just mirror lockup – he was talking about a Nikon function called shutter delay.  With mirror lockup you have to push the release twice.  With shutter delay, you push it once and the camera does the delay automatically. Add that to a 2 second timer delay or a cable release and you’ve got a pretty steady photo.

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  9. Christopher Wren Brashear

    “your shaky little hands”…  hilarious!

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  10. Rojeenakayastha

    So ur subject was holding still??

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