Banakas | Photography

Dragging the Shutter

This is by no means to be a technical article on how this all works, but I just wanted to spend a few minutes talking about a photography technique, sometimes called “Dragging the Shutter”, but also know as “Rear Curtain Sync”. This is a technique that can help with in some circumstances when using a flash (both on and off the camera).

Typically when working with flash photography, the flash fires off the instant you hit the shutter button. But when “dragging the shutter”, the flash is fired off at the end of the shot. In situations where you are using a fast shutter speed, you may not even notice that the flash is being fired at the beginning of the shot, but when the shutter speed is a bit slower you will notice. Dragging the shutter allows you even more creative control over your flash photography. There are a number of reasons for dragging the shutter such as helping to create a balance of equal exposure between your subject and it’s background. This technique also helps in creating some “special effects” in your images without needing expensive software to achieve. The classic use for this setting is to combine the flash with a slow shutter speed to create motion in your image while still capturing a sharp subject as seen in the images below.

For the images below (which may not be the best examples for this technique), I set my camera to use the rear curtain sync and asked my daughter to fling her hair around. I set the camera at a slower shutter speed. The flash is set to fire at the end of the shutter being open. Because of this, I am now able to capture the light from around the room, some motion of the hair moving flipping around and finally the flash fires and it freezes her in mid-movement.

This is a setting that can be found on most DSLRs and some of the mid- to higher end point and shoot cameras. You may need to refer to your cameras manual to find out.

These may not be the most artistic photos, but my daughter had fun helping me demonstrate a simple, yet creative, technique.

 Dragging the Shutter Close
This shot was taken using a NIKON D5000 at ISO 100, f/3.2, for 1/3sec

Dragging the Shutter Wide
This shot was taken using a NIKON D5000 at ISO 200, f/5, for 1/3sec

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