How to take rolling shots:
Many people do not realize that there is a lot of technical knowledge and skill that goes behind taking photographs, let alone rolling shots of moving vehicles. Here I will attempt to explain exactly how to take rolling shots for your next shoot! The very first thing you need to do is make sure you are familiar with how to manually operate your camera settings, if you do not, click here to see my post about manual settings. Once you are comfortable with this, it will become easier to understand what I am about to explain.
Type of Lens
For rolling shots, I highly recommend using a wide angle lens! It will be very difficult to do it with anything higher than a 35mm. I would also recommend to get a zoom lens such as 15-35mm for example. A zoom lens will allow more versatility in your shots where as a prime lens keeps you limited. (A prime lens is a lens that is stuck at a certain focal length such as 35mm, 85mm, etc.)
First and foremost, make sure the vehicle you are shooting is driving at a relatively high speed! The speed of the vehicle will help get that motion blur naturally, now there's no need to go 100mph! Always obey traffic laws, but I recommend anywhere from 40-70mph. So make sure to find a long winding road or highway that allows for you to do this safely. If your environment does not allow you to go those speeds you can still execute a rolling shot at 15-30mph, but you will need the shutter speed to be a lot lower at 1/10-1/25 in order to capture that motion blur.
Many people love rolling shots for the movement and action it captures, the vehicle being in complete focus while the background is a blur creating this effect that allows the viewer to realize the car is in motion. When I first started attempting to take rolling shots I thought my aperture should be all the way open at f/1.8 (lowest aperture) because in still photos that is what caused the bokeh (blur) in the background, but as we all should know with a lower aperture, the higher the shutter speed must be to counter the extra light you are allowing into your camera with it being wide open. So my "rolling shots" just looked like stills in the middle of the road or overexposed. It wasn't until I had a conversation with a photographer friend of mine that I realized my mistake. It was not the aperture that caused the motion blur in the image, it was the shutter speed that will determine the amount of motion blur in my image.
So knowing that each setting effects the other, you must increase the aperture to anywhere from f/7-f/11depending on your needs. That number can go lower or higher if necessary depending on lighting, but f/7-f/11 seems to be the sweet spot for me on most occasions. With the aperture being in that range, now I must counter that with lowering the shutter speed to anywhere from 1/10-1/60, once again depending on lighting. (Side note: it is recommended to have the shutter speed at the same rate as the speed of the vehicle you are shooting is going. So if your subject is going 50mph, then your shutter speed should 1/50.) I personally say go as low as you can on your shutter speed as long as you can keep it steady, which can be hard when hanging out of a window of a moving car going 50mph. I typically shoot mine anywhere from 1/15-1/40 depending on speed of my subject, lighting, and the quality of the road. Always remember though, if you change your shutter speed lower, then you might need to higher your aperture and vice versa as they are inversely related when it comes to lighting. If you are trying to take rollers at night time or in a tunnel then you may need to use a lower aperture. Each shoot is different so make sure to play with your settings and find out what's best for each situation.
When it comes to your ISO you should ALWAYS keep it at 100 to make sure there is little to no noise in the image. If you are shooting rollers in a place where there is low lighting such as in a tunnel or even at night time then it would be necessary to raise that ISO. You can also lower your aperture as well so that way there's not a lot of noise in your image.
Make Sure To Take a LOT of Photos
When you are taking rolling shots I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend putting your camera into continuous shooting mode and just letting the shutter go crazy. The reason being is because the shutter speed on your camera will be low and you'll be hanging out a window/trunk/door so there will be a lot of times where you may hit a bump in the road and your pictures will come out blurry and you won't even know it. If you do not have at least 500+ photos after your shoot then you probably didn't take enough. Always better to be safe than sorry!
Now this step is a little bit extra, but it is just as important as the photo itself! Now if you do not have editing experience that is fine, but if you want to take photography seriously, it is necessary because your editing style is usually what separates you from the rest. So make sure to make those images pop!
I put some example images below, I show the raw image and edited version, along with the settings used to help you visually see what I've been talking about throughout this post.
Go ahead and look at these two example images I put up. Both of these have been edited to stand out more so your images will not look like these in raw form! Taking the photo is just half of the battle!
In conclusion, there is a lot more that goes into take rolling shots than most people believe, but that does not mean it is hard to learn! I tried to keep this post as simple to understand as possible, but I know there was some terminology not everyone may understand or some questions you may have for specific circumstances, so please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions! You can contact me through my contact form on this website, email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or dm me on Instagram! (@stevenk_media)