The Subtle Art Of Motion Blur

There’s a trend that’s been booming in the photography industry lately – the slightly-blurry movement vibe. 

Why Do We Like It?

There are branches of photography that stand strong in tradition, perfection and discipline. 

The artistic blur breaks the mould of what is ‘correct’ and ‘allowed’ – and simply focuses on authenticity and storytelling. There’s something about that subtle blur that eludes to a story. It speaks of the wildness, freedom, messiness and intrinsic imperfection of life. It feels artistic and honest. 

Needless to say, I’m a fan. 

When Should You Use It?

I like allow movement and motion blur in the more candid, natural moments during a shoot. This effect tends to work best with movement – perhaps during a hug, running, hair flick or head shake. 

Windy days are always fun to play around with motion blur – think wild hair in the wind!

It probably goes without saying that your clients most likely won’t be stoked with an album full of blur – so use this effect sparingly for more storytelling purposes. 

How Do You Achieve it?

The most important consideration here is your shutter speed. It will provide the time for the blur to occur. 

Play around with your settings to suit your lighting conditions, environment and subject (a fast lunatic doggo will require a faster shutter than a human in gentle motion). 

Here are my general recommendations (but again, play around to see what suits you):

  • Drop your shutter speed down to around 1/50 to 1/60. Increase it for a faster subject or decrease it for a slower one. 
  • Keep your f stop relatively low (depending on what your lighting conditions allows) – I generally aim for around f1.4-1.8 for one subject – increase towards f2.0 or f2.4 if you have two subjects.
  • Use your ISO to respond to the light at the time – I start at 100 and move up towards 300 if it’s dark. Try to avoid going over ISO 1000 so your photos won’t get too grainy. 

A Few More Tips

  • If you want your subject to be the moving part of the image, hold the camera very still (keeping your arms close to your body) or use a tripod. 
  • If you want the background to blur and the subject to be relatively sharp, move WITH your subject instead. This will take some practices and attempts but looks pretty cool when you get it. 
  • Everyone has different editing styles but personally, I enjoy adding more warm tones and faded blacks into my blurred photos for a more nostalgic feeling. 

So there you have it! Give this trick a whirl at your next shoot and see what you think!