photoshop creative

Capture motion blur in your photos

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Tips from Digital Photographer, by Mark White
March 8, 2016

A slow shutter speed will show movement in your shots for an image with impact


When shooting action on the go, a fast shutter speed is often used to freeze the scene and ensure a crisp, clear image. However, sometimes these shots can make the subject look static and a little dull. Adding in motion blur is a creative way to show movement in your shot. It’s an effect that works really well for demonstrating the speed and direction of your subject.

The secret to capturing this type of photo is to use a slow shutter speed, but there are other elements to think about too, such as the direction of the motion in the scene. The best motion blur will be captured if the subject is moving towards one side of the frame. Subjects moving towards or away from the camera will usually not produce as much blur, regardless of their speed.

Think about your composition to ensure you get the most creative results. You could try including more than one subject in the frame. Getting each person or object to move at different speeds, or perhaps getting one of the subjects to stay completely static, works really well to show a bit of contrast within the shot. It’s also good to think about the foreground and background of the frame. Placing something or someone static in the foreground will ensure that they remain clear in the image with a blurred background, creating a dynamic scene.

Subjects for motion blur photography are easy to find, or create yourself. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow the subject is moving, just adjust the shutter speed to make sure you capture them in the frame.

Choose your subject


Movement can be photographed almost anywhere. Slow subjects such as clouds moving across the sky or people walking down the street can work just as well as faster-moving subjects like cyclists, a dog chasing a ball or rides at a fairground.

Use a tripod


As you are using a slow shutter speed it is essential to secure your camera on a tripod to keep it steady. Even the slightest movement of the camera will cause blur in all directions, not just the one you are intending to capture.

Use the self-timer


Even though you are using a tripod, simply pressing the shutter can cause the camera to shake. If you can predict when your subject with move across the frame, set up the self-timer to take the photo for you. This will eliminate the risk of unwanted blur.


Select the shutter speed


Select shutter priority mode so your camera will set the aperture for you. Consider how fast your subject is and dial in your shutter speed – the slower the subject the slower the shutter speed but 1/5sec is a good starting point for street scenes.


Prevent overexposure


Working with slow shutter speeds can sometimes overexpose your shot, due to too much light getting through the lens. Try using manual mode and increasing the f-number for a narrow aperture, or use an ND filter to block out some light.