Balancing Shutter Speed

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Today’s Question: I saw your recent photo of a crop duster on Instagram, and wonder how you managed to get a blurred propeller without having the airplane blurred too.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The photo you refer to (https://www.instagram.com/p/BVFQzi0AjPw/) was captured with a shutter speed of 1/350th of a second, which provides a good balance for providing an image that is sharp overall while retaining a blur for the propeller.

More Detail: When photographing a propeller-driven aircraft in flight, it is important to have a degree of blur visible in the propeller. Otherwise, the result makes it look like the propeller isn’t turning at all, which obviously would suggest an entirely different tone for the photo.

As a very general rule, a shutter speed of around 1/250th of a second will provide a degree of blur for the propeller, but will still provide an adequately fast shutter speed to sharply render the overall airplane, even when you are hand-holding the camera (as was the case with the photo linked above).

The specific shutter speed that will provide the best result will vary based on the rotational speed of the propeller for the aircraft you are photographing. In addition, you’ll want to take into consideration other factors such as whether you’re hand-holding the camera and the lens focal length you are using to capture the images. But in general I find that a shutter speed of around 1/250th of a second provides a good balance between propeller blur and a relatively high percentage of images that are otherwise sharp overall.

You can view more of my images from the Palouse (and elsewhere) by finding me (and following me!) under user name “timgreyphoto” in Instagram on your mobile devices, or by pointing your web browser here:

https://www.instagram.com/timgreyphoto/