Harris Shutter Speed


Today’s Question: Can you suggest a shutter speed that would capture the “movement” that you mention [for the Harris Shutter effect discussed in Monday’s edition of the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter]?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Actually, when capturing individual photos to create a Harris Shutter effect the shutter speed is generally not critical, though I recommend a moderately fast shutter speed in most cases. The effect is achieved in part by capturing three photos with a delay between each capture. The change that occurs in the scene during that delay is what contributes to the final effect.

More Detail: I was a little surprised (and very delighted) at the strong interest and response I received following the question (and answer) in the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter about the Harris Shutter effect.

As noted in yesterday’s Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, the Harris Shutter effect is produced by combining three separate image elements into a single full-color result. The original effect was created using film in conjunction with a set of colored filters that would be positioned sequentially over the lens, but you can create the same basic result with digital captures.

A full-color RGB image is comprised of a red channel, a green channel, and a blue channel, which combine to provide all of the color information for the photo. With the Harris Shutter effect, the red, green, and blue channels are captured from the exact same scene but at slightly different times, so that any movement within the frame is rendered as a color based on the channel used for that capture.

As a result, the main determining factor of the final result is the change within the scene between the individual captures. The shutter speed can obviously play a role in how the scene is rendered and the degree of variation from one frame to the next, but you can use a fast shutter speed for your captures and still produce a very dramatic result simply by introducing a delay between the individual photos that will be used as the basis of the final image.

It is worth noting that the original effect (using a physical mechanism for the overall exposure) was created by Robert S. Harris of Kodak. You can read a bit of the background of the effect in the Wikipedia article found here: