Action Blur On Purpose – 31+ Days To Better Photography

Yesterday’s Topic: Get Close, Go Wide

Today’s topic is one of the easier concepts to understand but one of the hardest to get just right.  Thanks to digital photography though, there is plenty of room to play and practice with this one.

Panning blur is simply lowering your shutter speed to the point where things blur as you pan the camera, move it from left to right, up to down, any direction to any other direction. The kicker though is you will keep pace with a moving object and be able to keep it relatively in focus, thus accentuating the feel of movement. In practice it looks something like this. Program Mode, 300mm, ISO 100, f/40, 1/8 second, Partial Metering Mode and -1/3 stop Exposure Bias

By the way, hippos are dang fast.

The trick is to get the shutter speed not too slow so more becomes blurred than you want. And then track the object as it moves and fire while still moving. Don’t take the snap and stop otherwise your odds of a good shot plummet.

Here’s another example of street scene. Shutter Priority Mode, 28mm, ISO 100, f/3.5, 1/800 second, Evaluative Metering

Hey look! A car! In the street! Boring!  Time to jazz it up a bit. Shutter Priority Mode, 40mm, ISO 100, f/20, 1/13 second, Evaluative Metering

Zowie! A moving car!

Can you see how it is helpful to give a bit of blur to the background while tracking the subject?

Some tricks:

  • Practice! Or just be lucky (or a really good hunter)
  • Experiment with shutter speed. Start at 1/10 and work around from there.
  • You may need to use a neutral density filter if shooting in daylight and the scene is too bright.
  • Drop your ISO to as low as it will go. 100 or 50 if you have it.
  • Realize that objects tend to seem like they are moving faster as they are closer to you and you need to adjust for that.
  • Shoot when objects are closer to you to exaggerate the speed.
  • Bring your library card.
  • If you can, focus on eyes as people/animals/lizards move. An entire picture can be blurry, but if the eye is crystal clear, it sells.

I’d love to see your results on this one. Please give it a whirl with anything at all and post a link in the comments section, if you will.

Keep shooting, we have many more days left!

Want to try this technique for yourself?  Here’s how.

Next Up: Shooting Photos At Night

31+ Days To Better Photography is a series written by professional photographer Peter West Carey on The Carey Adventures.Com. The series is designed to unravel the mysteries of photography so you can take better pictures. Subscribe here to receive all the updates and bonus material. Your comments are always welcome.

11 Replies to “Action Blur On Purpose – 31+ Days To Better Photography”

  1. Julianne Kelly

    thank you for the tips on the moon!! The full super moon was a great success. I am excited about the workshop on Sat.
    Julie

    Reply
  2. Pete

    Following this topic (31 days…) with interest! 😀 I’m glad there are many more days to go (what day are we up to out of the 3?) – it’ll be a shame when it finishes. 🙁

    Reply
  3. George Maciver

    Had my first go with panning blur this morning after getting back from a coastal walk. My first efforts are a bit OTT and make the cars look like they’re in a formula 1 race, but hey, it was fun. I’ll cut back the exposure time next time.

    http://www.skribblerz.net/forums/uploads/monthly_04_2011/post-1-0-39649500-1302007951.jpg

    http://www.skribblerz.net/forums/uploads/monthly_04_2011/post-1-0-99942900-1302007958.jpg

    http://www.skribblerz.net/forums/uploads/monthly_04_2011/post-1-0-32427900-1302007944.jpg

    Reply
  4. maria

    I’m going to try this out – i like it when you include the information (history).

    Question – i would like to take a picture of 2 people but i want to blur the other person in the back – how do i do that? should i keep it in ‘manual’ or ‘program mode’? what about the exposure triangle? thank you.

    Reply
    • Peter West Carey Post author

      Maria,
      If you mean when the people are standing still, then use the lowest number aperture (in Aperture priority mode)you can. And the further apart the people stand from each other (and you from them) the more blurred the non-focused person will be.

      Reply
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