Behind The Shot: Using Slow-Motion Video Techniques To Create A Still Frame With Movement

Behind The Shot: Using Slow-Motion Video Techniques To Create A Still Frame With Movement

Posted by Alpha Universe on 2024-02-6

As a creative with over 20 years of experience in the industry, Sony Artisan Garrette Baird (@the_garrette) is always looking for new photographic challenges. He and his wife, Sony Artisan Amber Baird, are renowned for their wedding film company, Eyenamics. Garrette loves this work, but after so many years he has found it to be less creatively fulfilling. He says artists, need an outlet that somehow fulfills a creative part of our soul. Sony’s Creative Space event in November was just the outlet he needed to try something new with his Sony Alpha 1 and a G Master standard zoom.

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Sony Alpha 1

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master II

Photo by Garrette Baird. Sony Alpha 1. Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master II.

Creative Space is a free event held in New York City that allows our community of visual creators to gather in-person, learn from one another, meet new people, and immerse themselves in the world of Sony imaging tech. In addition to the screenings, workshops, talks, and photowalks, there are tons of shooting opportunities. “I love going to the creative space events, it’s like a playground or a Disney World for creatives,” Baird says. “So you don't really have to do a whole lot to get some really cool images and it's just a plethora of imagery waiting to happen. Just to be able to be a part of that is always a privilege.”

He also says that it can be a little overwhelming – the sheer number of amazing photo opportunities make it difficult to focus in. He explains that he loves the way the shoots are set up, and his goal is typically to walk away with at least one image that is fully his. This can be a challenge with so many photographers photographing the same subject, but that’s where the fun and creativity come into play.

A Still Image Interpretation Of Slow-Motion Video

Walking into Creative Space, Baird was immediately drawn to the dancers. “They were just bursting with emotion and the long flowing gowns had great movement. I kind of knew I wanted to do some long exposure stuff and their setup was really conducive for that.”

For this shoot, he brought his tripod and a flash in addition to his Sony Alpha 1 and the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master II. He set his camera to rear curtain sync and began playing with the shutter speed. When he first approached the scene, he took in the graceful movements and the sweeping gowns and his videographer brain immediately thought of 120 fps slow motion video. “It would be absolutely gorgeous, but I really just didn't want to do video, I wanted to make an image. I wanted to challenge myself to express the beauty and emotion through a single shot. So I had to think through my still image interpretation of slow motion video.”

While shooting, Baird wasn’t totally sure what the final image was going to look like. He said that is part of the joy of shoots like this one, the ability to just play around and “collect puzzle pieces” in ways you wouldn’t at a client shoot. He ultimately ended up with about 10 images he was proud of.

When he got home, he pulled them into Lightroom. There he did basic adjustments and then took the images into Photoshop. “Then I just played around. I would add another picture and the first couple didn't work, but it kind of put me in the right direction of where I wanted to go and just slowly the cogs would start coming together.”

Photo by Garrette Baird. Sony Alpha 1. Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master II.

Although the shot of the dancers in the white dresses looks like a composite of three images, it’s actually about five images. Baird added more to showcase more of the movement and flowy nature. This is how he brought slow motion video techniques into a still frame.

He used similar techniques in this image of an athlete. This was another photo station at Creative Space where he was again drawn to the motion. Unlike the dancers, this is a single frame in which Baird used a 1/5-sec. exposure. The other athlete in the background just happened to stay quite still. In the post-production for this shot, Baird used Adobe’s AI generative fill to hide some of the set dressings.

Photo by Garrette Baird. Sony Alpha 1. Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master II.

Finding Creative Playgrounds

In his Instagram posts of these shots, Baird opens up about his ADHD and how it can be challenging to focus in on one thing. This goes back to his desire to create new kinds of images. “With my ADHD, if I know how something is done, I know all the technical specs and exactly how to get it, and I know what the results are going to be, I don't want to do it because there's not that sense of opening a gift on Christmas and seeing something amazing.”

This shutter drag technique has been Baird’s creative playground in a variety of scenarios. Beyond the shoots at Creative Space, he does what he calls, “The Lazy Man's Street Photography,’' where he rides in a cab in New York, looking out the window and captures what he sees and finds interesting out the window. The movement of the car allows him to create that motion blur in a way that would be challenging in traditional street photography. “It’s great fun, sometimes I don’t even know what I’m going to get until I go home. And that childhood play of not knowing what’s going to happen is part of being a photographer or being an artist.”

Baird goes on to say that he thinks this is one of the most important aspects of a long creative career. “You can watch a bazillion YouTube videos on how to do a thing. Then you can replicate what you've been told but when you play you’re experimenting and you're coming up with new ideas that are yours. They’re not from somebody else telling you how to do something in a very structured way. Then what you’ve created, to me, feels like an achievement. Sure, there is a lot of junk when I do that street photography where I'm in the car. I miss a lot and there's a lot that I don't match up the speed just right, but then you hit that one image that really just works and that is so cool. It may not mean a lot to somebody else, but to me it's a victory in some ways.”

Baird sees his ADHD as an asset in many ways, particularly when he’s shooting wedding videos. Though they can be fairly calculated, there’s always the chance for something unexpected to happen. Baird explains that because of his ADHD, he’s always thinking ahead and anticipating what’s going to happen. “And in our documentary style of weddings, we don’t have the couples pose very much, I think in a video it comes across inauthentic. So being able to anticipate those key moments and capture them allows us to show warm real genuine moments.” 

See more of Garrette Baird's work on Instagram @the_garrette.