By: Todd Winner
The spin shot is one of the easier motion shots to pull off because you create the movement by spinning the camera and not relying on the subject to move through your frame to show motion. It works well with static subjects but I have also used it on sharks and other moving subjects. Shots like this tend to do quite well in shoot out style photo contests, especially if only minimal editing is allowed. I wouldn’t want it to be the only shot I entered, but it’s a great addition after you’ve nailed the traditional macro and wide angle shots.
The shot is essentially a slow shutter ambient lit image with a strobe lit foreground. Because the strobe fires on and off in such a quick burst, any part of the subject lit by the strobe will be sharp just like it was shot with a fast shutter speed. The remaining ambient exposer continues to capture the movement of the camera until the rear curtain closes.
- Wide angle lens. (Fisheye, WACP and WWL-1 are great options but any ultra wide lens that focus close will work)
- Manual camera exposure.
- Aperture (You will need to stop down because we are letting in a lot of light from the slow shutter. f/11.0 - f/18 is a good starting point) (f/8.0 or higher for compacts)
- Shutter speed (1/15 is a good starting point)
- ISO (Use a low ISO. We are letting in a lot of light from the slow shutter, ISO 100-200 is a good starting point)
- Strobes manual settings (We are using low ISO and a small aperture so we need a lot of power, 3/4 power or full is a good place to start.)
- Strobe arms tightened down (if they are too loose they will flop all over the place when you spin the camera.
- Strobes in the 9 and 3 o’clock position, 12 and 6 for vertical.
- Foreground subject that you can light with your strobes and a background with enough ambient light to capture the spin.
Getting the Shot
Start by finding a subject you think would look good with a swirl around it. Obviously there needs to be enough ambient light on the background. Tighten down your strobe arms. If they are loose they will flop all over the place. I also keep them pretty close to the housing for these kind of images. Slow your shutter down. I like to start with 1/15 and adjust up or down from there. We are going to be letting in a lot of light with that slow shutter so use a low ISO like 100 or 200. For the aperture, you will need to stop down so you don’t let in too much light. I would probably start around f/11 - f/18 and adjust depending on the subject. With the small aperture you will need a fair amount of light. I like using manual strobes and starting at around 3/4 power. You can take test shots without moving the camera to dial in the exposer. First curtain or second curtain sync work for these shots, but I think it’s easier to time the flash going off with the first curtain. I find it best to pre-focus on the subject and lock off the focus. You can use focus lock, switch the lens to manual or use back button focus, just don’t change the distance from the subject after you focus.
Now it’s time for the spin! Decide if this is going to be a vertical or horizontal image. You can spin clockwise or counter clockwise, whatever is more comfortable for you. For a horizontal clockwise spinning image, start with your right hand at about the 1 o’clock position and in one fluid motion, spin the camera to the right, press the shutter when your right hand gets to the 3 o’clock position and continue until your right hand ends up at around the 7 o’clock position. Just make sure this all happens with one fluid motion. For a vertical clockwise spinning image, start with your right hand at about the 10 o’clock position and in one fluid motion, spin the camera to the right, press the shutter when your right hand gets to the 12 o’clock position and continue until your right hand ends up at around the 7 o’clock position. Expect a lot of missed shots before you get a keeper.
Post ProductionThese are my general setting in Lightroom for Motion Spin shots.
- Fine tune the exposure in the basic tab.
- Add clarity, this really intensifies the look of the spin. You can use the Radial filter to add it only to the spin area.
- Try adding a little dehaze. Too much really changes the saturation.
- Try adding a little vibrance.
- Remove any unwanted particles using the healing brush.
- Add some sharpening with a mask in the detail tab.