Weekend Project: Use the Harris Shutter Effect for Colorful Photos

Looking for a photo project to play around with this weekend? Try exploring a technique known as the Harris Shutter. Invented in the days of film photography by Robert Harris of Kodak, it involves capturing three sequential exposures of a scene through red, green, and blue filters, and then stacking the images into a single frame. This causes all the static elements within the scene to appear as they ordinarily would in a color photo, while all the moving elements in the shot show up in one of the three RGB colors.

Here’s a small collection of photographs shot or created using this technique:

We say “shot or created” because it can be achieved through a number of different ways, both analog and digital, and both in-camera and through digital “trickery”.

If you have a set of RGB filters and a camera that can shoot multiple-exposure shots, all you need to do is fix your camera to a certain location and then shoot one image through each of the filters.

Want to create the effect digitally without having to worry about real-life filters? That technique still involves shooting three (standard full-color) photos in sequence, but you can then use Photoshop to apply “digital filters” with blending modes, use color balance to “boost” the colors”, or isolate the RGB channels — three common ways of doing the effect digitally (check out those tutorials for more information on each).

The effect is a neat one to use on any scene with some movement within a mostly static scene. Examples include a busy street, a waterfall, a landscape with moving clouds, and a carnival.

Have fun, and feel free to leave a comment with a link to what you end up creating!

Image credits: Harris Shutter Experiment by Hello, I am Bruce, Harris Shutter Water Drop by Fields of View, (Harris shutter effect) cannon fire by Thiophene_Guy, (Harris shutter effect) Fort Pitt Bridge by Thiophene_Guy, (Harris shutter effect) Grizzly Classic hurdler by Thiophene_Guy, (Harris shutter effect) Strolling in the park. by Thiophene_Guy, (Harris shutter effect) The Octopus in action by Thiophene_Guy, (Harris shutter effect) Tamagawa Taiko drumming by Thiophene_Guy, and That 70’s Show by jah~

  • kaja12

    ugly ….

  • russianbox

    I used to take photos using the Harris Shutter before Hello, I am Bruce, Fields of View, Thiophene_Guy, Thiophene_Guy, Thiophene_Guy, Thiophene_Guy, Thiophene_Guy, Thiophene_Guy, and jah~

  • HB

    This is one of those things that was, in the film era, stretching the boundaries of what was possible and was therefore pretty cool. In the digital era if there’s not already an app to do it, anyone with a copy of Photoshop Elements can do it, and so therefore it’s not cool.

  • autumnbringer

    Only if your only motivation for doing something photographically is for some sense of exclusivity and not for the process/product itself.

  • Matthew Wagg

    Awesome, especially if caught in camera. Next project coming up :) Thanks guys.

  • Beppe Bolchi

    This technique is the one used when colour film was not already invented. All colour pictures before 1935 were made this way. Now this technique can be creatively re-discovered to enahance the movement. It’s not just question of having an app, but more related to having an eye and something to say…

  • Kent Macfarlane

    This idea was invented before Kodak was even around, by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii and also done by Auguste-Jean-Baptiste Tauleigne.