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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~