Try a Little Motion Blur

Life is constantly in motion. Why are we always trying to make it look frozen solid?  I dare you to go ahead and break that photographic convention. Try a little motion blur. Do so only by making sure you follow a few other fundamental rules; such as placement of the subject across an intersection point of the grid of thirds, or a balance of heavy mass with an equally weighty negative space.  Produce an artistic render of a moment where there is inherent motion involved. See if you can portray the movement to capture the poetry of the moment.

Try this:

On your manual exposure settings, set your shutter speed to a slower setting than is recommended and that you have trained yourself to use.  Go slow and pretend you are using experimental film. You aren’t after a crisp, realistic vision. You are after a tone; a feeling; a mood; a palpable movement that can almost be touched. Perhaps you will move the camera along with the subject while taking the image.  By staying with the subject as your shutter opens, you will be able to capture motion blur. This is an effect imagists often add  to a photo with Photoshop filters during post-processing. On the image below, I did not add any blur filters: the motion blur was created in camera as a result of following my subject while shooting it.  I was quite pleased with the results.


“Poetry of Flight”| An Osprey takes Flight at Lees Ferry, AZ | 1/30 sec; f/22; ISO-500;135mm

And / Or Try this:

With your external flash unit on the hotshoe, go to the camera menu controls, and adjust the in-camera flash setting to use the 2nd Curtain Syc; aka Slow Sync.

Standard use of a flash sets up this way:

  1. Press shutter button;
  2. camera curtain opens;
  3. Flash fires;
  4. Frame is open for some period of time (as determined by your shutter speed);
  5. Curtain closes the frame, ending the exposure.

But with the Slow Synch, it goes like this:

  1. Press shutter button;
  2. Pre-flash light fires so camera will measure and adjust the flash intensity;
  3. Curtain  opens;
  4. Frame is open for some period of time (as determined by your shutter speed);
  5. Flash fires)
  6. Curtain closes the frame and ends the exposure.

The second image was taken indoors at an amusement arena, where the subject was a frenetic gaggle of boys swinging on a ropes coarse over a pit of foam squares. The scene was filled boundless energy.  I have to be honest  to admit to you that took this while not being aware of my flash going off at all.  The batteries were draining and eventually stopped working on the external unit though I kept on shooting. In any case, you get the idea:


Crazy Swingers at Gravity Park| 0.8 sec; F/9; ISO-250;56mm

Even though you may have to take several shots to wind up with something interesting, you’re going to make an image that could be more impactful than simply using a fast shutter speed to freeze the action, with everything in crisp focus. Though images with motion blur are less conventional, they are unique exposures that will never be reproduced in the exact way again.

Do you want your images to look like everyone else’s? My answer is sometimes yes, and sometimes no. On some occasions, a unique moment will be made to feel even more special when it is given a unique treatment.  Motion blur can be one of the ways to achieve it.

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