Freezing Motion

One of the coolest things you can do with your photography is to freeze motion of a moving object so that you can capture all the details. There are two ways to freeze motion, the first is to increase your shutter speed and the second is to use a strobe light.

Freezing motion using the shutter is an easy way to stop motion for objects such as cars, planes, humming birds or even water. To stop motion just turn your shutter speed up to at least 1/1000th of a second, but the thing to keep in mind is you need sufficient light to pull this off. When shooting outdoors, it’s easy especially if it’s a nice sunny day but when the light is weak you may need to turn your ISO up higher or use a fast lens such as a F/2 or F/1.4 if you have one. In my example here I used my Canon EF 100mm F/2 Macro lens so freeze the water in my kitchen sink the image is a bit dark but I also shot this at night so all I had were the kitchen lights. In this first image, I stopped the flow of the water using a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second.


The second method I mentioned for stopping motion or freezing objects is to use a strobe light. Now if you are testing as I am by shooting running water in your house it might not be fun dragging out your studio strobes but you don’t need to. Lest we forget, Speedlites are also strobes, just smaller and they run on double A batteries. Now, grab your Speedlite and set your ISO to as low as possible (I used ISO 50) and then set your shutter speed to the same or slightly faster than your focal length (I used 1/125th of a second since I used a 100mm lens). Aim your Speedlite at the water and snap your image, when the playback shows on your LCD you will see that the water is perfectly frozen in time like my example below.


Now how fast you set your shutter depends on what you are trying to stop. 1/1000th of a second is plenty for a car or plane or water but let’s say you want to freeze the flap of a humming bird’s wings and get the best possible detail. I would recommend 1/2000th of a second as it will give you better results. Now, just as in my example you can use a strobe, but how often can you catch a humming bird with a strobe? The ones around my house are too flighty for that, they often won’t stick around if I am even holding my camera, but it has been done. I saw an article on a photography blog where a person used four Speedlites posted around a flower that humming birds were really drawn to and he got a fantastic capture that way so it can be done.

So, give either of these methods of stop motion a try and see what kind of results you can get, I think you will be amazed!