During a recent wedding, I was approached by Samara, one of the lovely bridesmaids for a photo with Luke. They were in a dim space outside the reception hall, enjoying some drinks and chats. As always, wanting to achieve a well-lit, sharp image, I turn on my flash unit and fire away I went. Next, Luke asked if I can drag the shutter. Technically, I understand how to drag a shutter and what needs to be done. However, it's the first time someone ever ask me to "drag shutter speed". Being professional, I did attempt a couple of shutter dragged. I took 3 attempts and the best shot came from my first. How do we drag shutter speed? To drag the shutter speed, you need to lower the shutter speed to at least half a second. It would be best to select camera "Manual" mode, dial in the shutter speed, aperature and ISO. With a longer than usual shutter speed, you will get motion blur due to movement of the camera etc. Yes, this motion of lights are what we really want to achieve.
How to keep Luke and Samara sharp when we drag shutter speed? A flash unit is required to "freeze" Luke and Samara while the camera move. 2 options on using flash. They are "First Curtain" and "Rear Curtain/Second Curtain". First curtain is where the flash fires at the start of the shutter opening (freezing of the subject comes before the light movement). Rear curtain is where the flash fires just before the shutter shuts (freezing of the subject comes after the light movement)
Normally, dragging of the shutter speed are used in dances/nightclub photos. Photos with drag shutter are sometimes deemed as light-leaked and poor photography skill as it is associated with blurry images. However, I do love the shutter drag photo of Luke and Samara.
Above: f/6.3, 0.4sec, ISO4000
Above: f/1.4, 1/125, ISO4000
Scott Goh Photography | Drag shutter speed