I have a potential assignment shooting an underground punk band doing typical punk band things like smashing guitars and other equipment. They want a "grungy" underground photo of them being "aggro" during a show. I don't want a static shot. I want motion blur but want to control the amount and style. I don't want a smooth streak, I want the guitarist's guitar to sort of be visible as he's smashing it on the stage. I shoot manual mode. What shutter speeds should I start at to achieve this effect?

Imagine http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/simonon_4027.jpg but "streakier" if that makes sense.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Will this be done during a live performance or during a simulated performance in a studio setting? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Feb 12, 2015 at 1:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Live performance or during a sound check. \$\endgroup\$
    – dperry1973
    Feb 12, 2015 at 2:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you can use flash even in the live setting your options are greatly increased. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Feb 12, 2015 at 5:47

3 Answers 3


You can use a flash along with a long exposure to show both a clear image at some point in the action and blur during the smash. Take advantage of settings for flash timing at shutter open or close, and try it with stronger and weaker flash settings (or use a handkerchief over the flash).

It's hard to recommend an exact shutter speed, though my guess is about one second to get the full swing.

Most importantly, rehearse beforehand, perhaps with a friend swinging a nerf-bat, and decide what effect you like.


I'd go with slow sync flash (i.e., flash and a slow shutter speed). 2nd-curtain so that you get follow-streaks, not leading streaks, and possibly stroboscopic mode (where the flash gives off regular period bursts at a given frequency, in Hz) to get individual moments through the movement. Rehearse, figure out what ambient you want vs. the flash. You may also want to consider using a shutter speed slow enough for you to zoom during the shot as well.


I would not consider the example you are posting as a long exposure. It looks frozen, so in my opinion is 1/100s or faster.

Yes, it is very grainy, so they are using a high ISO, and yes very large aperture.

Again you need to test what kind of style you want. You must decide between the style and the capabilities of your camera.

These "long exposures" will depend not only on the speed of your subject, but also on the focal length you are using, except in the case when you are using a tripod.

A good relationship on the lowest speed you can use, to avoid your own shake, is that focal length and shutter speed should have the same numbers. E.g., if you are using a 50mm lens you can safely shoot at 1/50 sec. If you are using a 200mm lens, you need like 1/200. Of course if you are very good you can reduce your own shake, perhaps say 2-4 times.

If you are actually using a tripod or a very firm support, I would make some tests photographing a friend waving something.

You can try shutter speeds below 1/15. 1/8 or 1/4.

If you combine the long exposure with a flash try to configure your camera with rear curtain sync. If not the subject could appear to be moving backwards. But that can be interesting too.

In the end: you need to do some tests. Do them methodically.

One more thing: As this grainy and very high contrast photo is interesting you can underexpose the photos, and then adjust the output in post production. This will magnify the grainy look. In black and white would be interesting... In colour will depend on your sensor.

Shoot in raw.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Lenses with good Image Stabilization (IS), Vibration Reduction (VR), or Vibration Control (VC), etc. will allow you to shoot below the 1/focal length rule of thumb by several stops without suffering from blur caused by camera/lens movement. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Feb 12, 2015 at 5:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ And if you are using a crop sensor you will have to shoot faster. That 50mm is actually 75mm or longer depending on the crop factor. \$\endgroup\$
    – Robin
    Feb 12, 2015 at 20:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, true guys. Great coments. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rafael
    Feb 12, 2015 at 20:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.