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Motion Blur

by Brooke Tasovac (follow)
Blog (395)      Tutorials (61)     
Image by Robert S. Donovan

Motion is captured in photos by drawing attention to the speed at which a subject or object is moving, in relation to the other things around it. A streaky look is created when a subject is moving, but other things in the same frame are still.

For example, a high-speed train will appear very rapid when next to people standing stationary on the platform. Even subjects moving at a low speed can appear fast when photographed next to subjects that are moving at a slower pace, such as one person walking slightly quicker than another person.

The amount of motion blur that can be captured in a photo will depend on:
The length of time the camera shutter is open
How fast the motion is
The amount of available ambient light

When the camera is left open for longer than 1/20 of a second, motion will usually appear blurry because several movements have been captured as one long exposure, rather than as an instantaneous shot.

Motion blur is often most used in sports photography, night photography and landscape photography for an abstract effect. There are lots of different subjects you can photograph when experimenting with motion blur, including:

1) Vehicles: Cars, boats, trains, bikes, scooters, planes and jet skis.

Image by DJ Cockburn

2) Rides: Ferris wheels, merry-go-rounds, rollercoasters, waterslides or even the swings at the local park.

Image by Brooke Tasovac

3) Water: Sprinklers, hoses, liquid being splashed or poured into a glass.

Image by Cindy Sue Wou

4) Animals: Dogs, horses, rabbits, birds and other fast moving animals are best.

Image by Jens Cramer

5) Wind: This could involve shooting something as simple as blades of grass moving in the breeze or someone’s hair being tousled when standing in front of a fan.

Image by Eric Wustenhagen

6) Human movement: People spinning, running, skipping, jumping, dancing or even just twirling a ribbon can all look interesting when blurred. Young children are great to photograph as they are always on the move. People moving at night can appear ghost-like in photos because of the extra blur that occurs in low light.

Image taken by Alan Carter

Start out by choosing a slow shutter speed and then a suitable aperture. Often a tripod is necessary to keep your camera still so that the focus isn’t thrown off your subject (which can happen when holding the camera in your hands). If you’re not achieving any blur, you will need to lower your shutter speed and/or narrow your aperture by a few stops, to let less light in.

If you find it hard to figure out which shutter speed and aperture settings work best together, try using your camera in TV Mode to start with, and switch to manual after seeing the different results you can get with various shutter speeds.

It can also be fun to play with two types of motion in one scene, such as two people doing different movements in the same frame, or a car moving alongside a tram. You can even try slow synch flash if you like, which is more complicated. It involves setting your flash to fire to suit the shutter speed so that there is enough light to get the subject in focus, while blurring the background behind them.

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