Educational Failures: Shutter Problems

May 15, 2008 / by / 0 Comment

[singlepic=184,320,,,right]In my own experiences, I have found that there is far more to learn from the mistakes that I have made than from my best work. As I analyze my own failed attempts, I have no problem sharing them them with you so that you may also learn.

The subject in this out-of-focus photograph is my son. It was not a particularly great day for candid photography. But that day was a rare case where he and his cousins were able to be at the lake together. I wouldn’t pass up an opportunity like that. The cloudy weather causes light problems for candid photography, especially with fast moving children. Ideally, I needed a much faster shutter speed for this shot. But trying to freeze a moving child in motion is no easy task. Normally, if light were an issue and I had no preference for my depth of field, I would open up the aperture. The problem with this, however, is that you have a very narrow focus window. So when you’re dealing with erratically moving subjects (such as children), most of your shots will end up out of focus. To correct for this, you need a deeper depth of field for a better error buffer, so you need a smaller aperture. Therein lies the problem. As you know, a smaller aperture means less light getting to the image sensor. On a cloudy day, this solution doesn’t work well, especially with candid photography such as this where tripods are a hindrance. I tried to pick an aperture that was small enough to ease my focusing problems, but wide enough to let in enough light. In this particular case, I didn’t quite reach that point.

There are a few possible solutions that I could’ve applied for this photograph. A gut reaction would be to use a tripod. As I mentioned earlier, tripods aren’t ideal for this type of candid photography. A monopod or a collapsed tripod would help to provide some stability for this shot, but it would have limited my vertical movement. Another alternative would be to use a faster film or increase the ISO (this was shot with a ISO of 200). The drawback is that you will introduce grain or noise to your photograph. But what’s a little grain if you have a shot like this in focus?


About the Author

D. Travis North is a professional Landscape Architect, a Freelance Photographer and founder of Shutter Photo. Ever since he picked up his first SLR, his father's Nikon N2000, he's been hooked on photography. Travis likes to photograph urban environments, architectural details and has a new-found interest in close-up photography. His work can be found at D. Travis North Photography. Follow Travis on twitter: @dtnorth.