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A case against Stop Action

The usual “rule” for photography is to choose a shutter speed fast enough to eliminate the jitter or bluriness when the subject moves.

But sometimes ignoring the rule leads to more interesting photographs.

Here’s a few examples.

This little girl is practicing to become a major league baseball player. She’s winding up, ready to let ‘er rip.
By using a slower shutter speed, can’t you feel the breeze as she whips the ball towards the batter? Here the shutter speed was 1/50th second. Had I used a faster shutter speed, her left arm would have been frozen.
Here she’s enjoying the outdoor swingset. By itself, the photo shows no movement. But seeing her at the apogee (highest point) of the swing, doesn’t it conjure the feeling of motion? Recall that at the top of her swing, the velocity is zero – enabling you to use a relatively slow shutter speed to “capture” the motion.

Again we see a subject on a swingset but this time upside down. The relatively slow shutter speed of 1/100th second stops the action at the top of her swing.

In this case, the pose with her legs flailing about helps to introduce movement. And see how her hair is flying thereby adding to the feeling of action in the image.

A final example is this photo that lets me see the speed of the hoop and just about hear the air whirling around.

For this photo, I patiently waited for a moment when the young girl’s face was in a relatively fixed position while at the same time her arms were wildly gyrating within the hoop.


Use your camera’s shutter speed priority mode. Try setting the shutter speed to 1/100th of a second or slower – e.g. 1/25 or 1/50. If you use an even slower shutter speed, you may end up with blurry photos since you may not be able to hold the camera steady enough without introducing camera shake.

With just a little practice you can make your photos move.

Written by Arnie Lee


Don’t Just Stand There

05th August 2011

a case for more activity


With fourteen grandkids, I feel very lucky to have ample opportunity to catch them on film.

And while I enjoy taking portraits of them – conventional static pictures of them at rest – I also like to capture them as they’re going about their youthful business.

Below are a few examples of each.

Here I’ve asked Logan to give up a few seconds from playing in the sandbox and “hold still”.

In this shot I’ve caught Eden in the air just as she jumped onto the pavement as she emerged from the back door.

Both are pleasant enough pictures of each.

But let’s look at a couple of other snapshots to see if there’s a different way to capture the kids.

Can you feel their joy as they slurp down the cold ice cream on a warm summer evening? For me, this is a more memorable picture.

Instead of another “smile please” snapshot, I was able to shoot Ezzie practicing her longboarding skills.


You have a many choices when capturing kids. If you haven’t done so already, try shooting the young ones as they’re involved with their activities.



Written by Arnie Lee


You don’t always have to stop the action


Sports and action photos are most often made with a higher shutter speed that “stops the action” and produces a tack-sharp image.

However by using a relatively slow shutter speed, you can emphasize the movement to create a totally different feel to the picture.

This “stop action” photo was captured using a relatively high shutter speed of 1/500th second. The young girl’s face is sharp.

By changing the shutter speed to 1/15th second, the blurred image creates a definite feeling of movement.

Here, the movement is mainly the girl’s arm striking the tree. Her face is still relatively sharp with a 1/30th second exposure.

Using a relatively slow shutter speed and panning (moving the camera to follow the action), produces blur except for the main subject. It takes a little practice to produce this effect.


Don’t hesitate to set your shutter speed to 1/30 or slower and let the action do the talking. Slow dancing can make for some interesting photos. Do you agree? Send me your comments.



Written by Arnie Lee


Beyond the Faces

06th May 2011

Adding Action to Portraits


As a grandfather with a camera, I’m very often snapping away when the grandchildren are nearby. So it shouldn’t be surprising that I have hundreds (maybe thousands) of photos of these kids in my collection.

Yesterday, three of them were out playing in our backyard. Here’s a few snapshots that I took. I’m a big fan of trying to incorporate action into these portraits. You be the judge of whether the action helps to make the picture.

My favorites are the candids. These are shots where the subject is totally unaware. When they’re preoccupied with having a fun experience, they may not know that you’re “spying” with your camera.


Obviously this is not a candid. Eden
knows that I’m taking her photo

But here she is unaware that
I’m snapping away

When it’s not possible to be totally candid you can use a semi-posed action shot. The action helps to avoid a face that’s preoccupied with the picturetaker.


This full length portrait of Logan
shows little motion

Here the angle of the shot
emphasizes his action on the slide

With a little patience, you can turn a static shot into a live action photo. A few minutes after taking the photo on the left below, she was being doing calisthenics – making the photo on the right much more exciting.


Here Ezra is clutching the wooden
post that’s supporting the swing set

Here she’s showing me the
agility that I wish I could still muster.


While each of the left-hand photos are OK, I’ve learned that adding a little action to the mix can turn my snapshots into real “keepers”.

Do you agree?



Written by Arnie Lee


Enjoy those Winter Brights

24th January 2011

In my last article Fight those Winter Blahs, I pleaded that you not put your camera away for the winter. In our part of the universe (western Michigan), December through March are known to bring day after day of heavy, blanketed overcast. Along with these dark clouds come lots of dull lighting that tends to stifle the picture taking mood of many of us. I suggested that despite the dark skies, there’s plenty of opportunities to find ways to make your subjects “shine”.

So it was a very pleasant surprise to see today’s sterling bright sunshine. As I looked out the window, I could see a crystal clear blue sky and blinding reflections coming from our snow-covered lawn. But as I opened the front door to fetch the Sunday newspaper, the bone-chilling winds reminded me that a 10-degree temperature makes Grand Rapids feel like the Arctic.

After enjoying a cup of hot tea, a couple of the grandkids were prodding me to play outside in the snow with them. Despite the icy cold, I decided that I wouldn’t miss this chance to have some outdoor fun and maybe take a few winter photos too. So I tracked down my trusty ski jacket and soon followed the grandkids outdoors.

Don’t let the winter make you think hibernation. Look for those days when the sun will make an appearance. Think beyond the cold, endure the snow, ignore the clouds. Stay with it and make those winter photos shine. And have fun too!

Written by Arnie Lee



Kids Tip # 5

06th November 2010

Taking pictures of kids is one of the most popular uses for digital cameras. This is another article that we present to you for taking better kids pictures.

To Pose or not to Pose – the case for Candids
When you ask a child to pose, you may get varying reactions, looks and faces. If your subject is cooperative you’ll probably end up with a nice portrait. But sometimes, catching your little one candidly – in a “surprise moment” – can often produce a more pleasing photo.

For this shot, we asked the young boy to smile for the camera. He cooperated with this open mouthed smile, but his pose otherwise seems kind of static.

Later in the day, we found him playing near the pool. Instead of posing him, we called out his name, he turned and we captured him looking more natural.

For this photo, the young lady was quite aware that we were taking her picture. We captured her with a nice smile

Using a telephoto lens, we waited patiently. She was unaware that we took this candid shot with a more relaxed look.

Here again we asked the young girl to stop what she was doing to take this shot. She cooperated by giving us a generous smile.

In this photo, you can see that we were able to capture her inner smile. We didn’t ask for one yet her running activity produced a great one.

Of course these tips are subjective and there is no right nor wrong way – especially if the subject is your own child! Candids are just another tool to add to your gadget bag.

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Kids Tip # 4

26th July 2010

Taking pictures of kids is one of the most popular uses for digital cameras. From time to time, we’ll present tips for taking better kids pictures.

Fill the Frame
When shooting portraits, the usual tendency is to carefully frame the subject in the viewfinder.

In this snapshot, we’ve left an even border around the head and upper body of the child. It makes for a nicely framed shot although the background is a little distracting.

For this shot, we moved in closer to fill the viewfinder with the child’s head. There is almost no border around the photo, yielding a more dramatic view of the child.

Action Tip #1

05th July 2009

When your subject is moving, the usual way to capture the action is to use a short shutter speed. This freezes the action, but is there a better way to “show” the action?

Capturing the motion

By using a short shutter speed, you can freeze the action of your subject. For this shot, I’ve used Sport mode to stop the motion of our young girl.

By deliberately using a short shutter speed e.g. 1/30th or 1/15th of a second, I’ve captured the subject as she’s moving. While the young girl is no longer in sharp focus, we can almost feel the swinging motion.

Kids Tip #3

18th May 2009

Taking pictures of kids is one of the most popular uses for digital cameras. From time to time, we’ll present tips for taking better kids pictures.

Get Down
Keep in mind that kids’ faces are closer to the ground than an adults’ face.

By taking photos from an adult’s viewpoint, you’ll be pointing the camera lens downward and you may miss the expression on the kid’s face as we can see in the snapshot on the left.

In this snapshot, we’ve lowered the viewpoint to that of the child and can see that her expression is quite different from that on the left. Kneel down and you’ll see the world differently.

Kids Tip #2

09th March 2009

Taking pictures of kids is one of the most popular uses for digital cameras. From time to time, we’ll present tips for taking better kids pictures.

Move in Close
Many times, when you first see a “picture moment”, you’re tempted to take the picture quickly so as not to disturb the subject.

The result is often a “microscopic” picture of your subject similar to the snapshot above. The size of the toddler is so small as to make it difficult to pick out her face.

By moving in closer, we’re able to see much more detail of the same toddler. It takes only a few steps to “enlarge” the photo. I call this zooming with my feet.

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