How To Do the Harris Shutter Effect

The Harris Shutter was invented by Robert Harris of Kodak for making color photographs with the different primary color layers exposed in separate time intervals in succession. The term Harris shutter is also applied to the technique or effect. In this short article we’ll look at how to do the Harris Shutter Effect with a digital camera.



To achieve this effect you need to take three different photos of a moving subject. Waterfalls, vehicles, clouds, people, anything that moves can work. Put the camera on a tripod and take three exposures with exactly the same settings, the interval between the photos depends on the speed of your subject. For a closeup shot of a fast moving subway train you can take the three photos in burst mode, for waterfalls or clouds you can wait from 1 to 30 seconds or even more.


Once you have the photos use your favorite photo-editing software such as Gimp or Adobe Photoshop to get only one of the three RGB channels from each exposure.  Take the red channel from the first photo, the green channel from the second photo and the blue channel from the third photo. Then combine the three photos into a single RGB color shot.

With GIMP use “color>components>decompose” to create an individual grayscale photo for each RGB channel from an image. Then use “color>components>compose” and choose the three files to use to recompose a new RGB image.


In the result the non-moving parts of the photo will look normal but the moving objects will show in rainbow colors combining red, blue and green to show their movement.

Now it’s up to you to choose a subject that will look really cool using this effect.

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3 Comments on "How To Do the Harris Shutter Effect"

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Andy Dickinson

But how do you get this effect using Photoshop?

Roger Mallory

I used to blog a bit a few years back. Here is an article on doing the Harris Effect with Photoshop:

Beppe Bolchi

I’m sorry to tell you that this effect was discovered and used since early XIX century. Look at Digichromatography and other related techniques.

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