Photography

Motion Blur Tutorial


Using a fast shutter speed will freeze motion in its tracks, and using a slow shutter speed with moving objects will spread the image over time. This creates a sense of motion. There are many methods to achieve this motion blur, such as panning on a moving object, shooting from a moving platform (train, car etc), using the zoom feature while the shutter is open, moving the camera on a still subject, or keeping the camera fixed while the subject is moving. Here we will focus on the latter....Keeping the camera still while using a slow shutter speed will generate a blurring of the moving objects giving a sense of speed. Slowing the shutter even further may exaggerate this and tend towards the abstract. Blur is nice, but keep in mind the basics of composition for all the objects that are not in motion, such as buildings, street signs with the Rule of Thirds in mind. Remember, you are trying to convey a storey and not just execute a technique. Imagine the lights as a river and compose the flow as if it were a landscape photograph. Look for low angles, and perhaps use a wide angle lens to exaggerate the motion as the subjects pass through the frame.I have found that traffic is a great place to start and especially in an Urban environment. Shooting just after sunset provides just the right balance between ambient light and the ability to catch the oncoming or receding lights. When it gets darker, lights become highly saturated and non-moving objects a bit more difficult to expose properly.If you have time, check out the traffic patterns before it gets dark and take a couple of test shots to check your composition. Also, try to get as close to the traffic as possible by looking for traffic islands or other vantage points. This will save some frustration later once you want to execute your shot. Look for some other vantage points as well, so you can quickly relocate if you are not satisfied with your first results.The Set UpYou will need to have a camera that allows control over Aperture and Shutter speeds, or even better a DSLR that you can set to Manual. A good sturdy tripod will help to avoid any unintentional camera movement when the shutter is open to keep the non-moving objects crisp. You can also weight down the tripod with you camera bag hanging it from the center hook to further stabilize it. Using a remote shutter release helps as you will not even have to touch the camera, but if you don’t have one, use a self timer on your camera after you have composed and see the shot emerging.Some DSLRs allow a “Live View” from the back LCD display. This allows you to have a bigger view, but more importantly, locks up the mirror for less shake when you trigger the shutter. If you have a lens hood, use it to avoid unwanted light intrusion.The Camera SettingsHow slow is too slow? It depends on the light and the speed of the subjects. Try a shutter speed of between 3 and 10 seconds and start with an aperture settings of f8 to f16. If you like the blur but it is too dark, open your aperture and take another shot. If the exposure is right, but not much blur, slow down the shutter and compensate with a smaller aperture. I always shoot in RAW, so I can make some adjustments later with my post processing software. Keep your ISO settings low (100) to avoid noise. Also look at the scene and try to judge the temperature of the light. Is it mostly incandescent, neon, sodium vapor and try a few test shots to adjust your White Balance. Often it can be a mix, so some experimentation might be in order.Using a fast shutter speed will freeze motion in its tracks, and using a slow shutter speed with moving objects will spread the image over time. This creates a sense of motion. There are many methods to achieve this motion blur, such as panning on a moving object, shooting from a moving platform (train, car etc), using the zoom feature while the shutter is open, moving the camera on a still subject, or keeping the camera fixed while the subject is moving.

Here we will focus on the latter….Keeping the camera still while using a slow shutter speed will generate a blurring of the moving objects giving a sense of speed. Slowing the shutter even further may exaggerate this and tend towards the abstract. Blur is nice, but keep in mind the basics of composition for all the objects that are not in motion, such as buildings, street signs with the Rule of Thirds in mind. Remember, you are trying to convey a story and not just execute a technique. Imagine the lights as a river and compose the flow as if it were a landscape photograph. Look for low angles, and perhaps use a wide-angle lens to exaggerate the motion as the subjects pass through the frame.

I have found that traffic is a great place to start and especially in an Urban environment. Shooting just after sunset provides just the right balance between ambient light and the ability to catch the oncoming or receding lights. When it gets darker, lights become highly saturated and non-moving objects a bit more difficult to expose properly.If you have time, check out the traffic patterns before it gets dark and take a couple of test shots to check your composition. Also, try to get as close to the traffic as possible by looking for traffic islands or other vantage points. This will save some frustration later once you want to execute your shot. Look for some other vantage points as well, so you can quickly relocate if you are not satisfied with your first results.

The Set Up: You will need to have a camera that allows control over Aperture and Shutter speeds, or even better a DSLR that you can set to Manual. A good sturdy tripod will help to avoid any unintentional camera movement when the shutter is open to keep the non-moving objects crisp. You can also weight down the tripod with you camera bag hanging it from the center hook to further stabilize it. Using a remote shutter release helps as you will not even have to touch the camera, but if you don’t have one, use a self timer on your camera after you have composed and see the shot emerging.Some DSLRs allow a €œLive View€ from the back LCD display. This allows you to have a bigger view, but more importantly, locks up the mirror for less shake when you trigger the shutter. If you have a lens hood, use it to avoid unwanted light intrusion.

The Camera Settings: How slow is too slow? It depends on the light and the speed of the subjects. Try a shutter speed of between 3 and 10 seconds and start with an aperture settings of f8 to f16. If you like the blur but it is too dark, open your aperture and take another shot. If the exposure is right, but not much blur, slow down the shutter and compensate with a smaller aperture. I always shoot in RAW, so I can make some adjustments later with my post processing software. Keep your ISO settings low (100) to avoid noise. Also look at the scene and try to judge the temperature of the light. Is it mostly incandescent, neon, sodium vapor and try a few test shots to adjust your White Balance. Often it can be a mix, so some experimentation might be in order.

Click on the Image to jump to our Photo Website other examples of this technique and for more Free Tutorials and cool Images for purchase or just to have a look around!

About these ads

8 responses

  1. i love these effect !!! great image !!

    August 24, 2012 at 3:45 am

  2. Oh thank you, the only question i have: how long was the exposure ?

    thank you !!

    August 25, 2012 at 9:35 am

  3. Only 2 seconds ? wow !! how fast were the cars. i like it and i want to go in next week to make a similar :)

    August 25, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    • All depends on the speed of the traffic – good luck and watch out for crazy drivers and the No-Tripod Cops!

      August 25, 2012 at 1:38 pm

  4. Great post Erik, I used to do this a lot in the film days, must have another crack

    August 27, 2012 at 12:55 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,995 other followers