Add Action To Your Photos With Blur

Gina Stephens
Written by Gina Stephens

Conflicting to what you're told when you first pick up a camera, it is OK to have blur, and quite a lot of it, in your shots when you're photographing the pronto subject and want to emphasise speed or create a sense of motion. When we say it's OK we don't just mean a shot may refer to: Shot (filmmaking), a part of a film between two cuts Shot (medicine), an injection Shot silk, a type of silk Showt or you accidentally took out of well- will pass off as something creative, you have to deliberately adjust your camera's settings or know how a quick twist of your lens purposefulness give you the blur that's needed to add a sense of action to your shot.


Photos by David Clapp


How To Add Blur

The two progress we are going to look at are slowing down your shutter speed and using zoom blur (movement of your lens). The second can be a little harder to get a nab of but after a few tries it should become easier.

Shutter Speeds

If you've never shot action-style images before you may first weigh that a subject that's moving through your frame quick will may refer to need a quicker shutter speed to ensure you take them as they move through your frame. You can do this but most of the time you'll just end up with a shot that freezes them in order and all sense of motion will be lost. However, there are a couple of exceptions to the rule such as a rally car or cyclist hurtling through a muddy puddle. As they gesticulation through the water, they'll more than likely cause spray to fly everywhere and a quick shutter speed will freeze the mantle as it jumps up towards the sky, surrounding your subject. It's the spray here that helps emphasis the action and their pace so using a slower box in speed will mean this excitement would be lost.

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Slow Things Down

For times when there's not mud and the highest flying everywhere try slowing your shutter speed down to add some much needed motion to the shot. How slow you have to go will depend on how high-speed your subject may refer to is moving, how much light is around etc. and the whole process can be a little unpredictable, however it's worth sticking with and experimenting as you can get noble results, some of which are surprising sometimes.


The hard bit can be trying to get the balance of blur and in focus parts of the shot right. Scad of the time a blurred background that has streaks running through it in the direction your subject is moving with a sharp subject sat against it is what you'll be looking for, regardless how if your subject is a little blurred it can emphasise motion and add further drama to your shot. Don't go too over the top with the blur though as they can unprejudiced end up merging together which makes it hard for the eye to focus, meaning it's hard for the viewer to settle on one point of the image and it can make it look like you righteous took a bad shot.



For shots where you want your subject to be sharp make sure you're focused on them as you run down them through the frame. A quick auto focus system will help ensure your shot is focused quickly and accurately. Infuriating to focus manually with fast moving objects can be tricky, however it can be done if you plan on pre-focusing on a spot, say on a particular bend on a track, you have knowledge of your subject will have to pass through. Just remember to lock your focus after you've set it up and be ready to hit the shutter button at the preferable time.

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Switching to continuous shooting mode which most cameras now feature will increase your chances of capturing the action when kisser or pre-focusing on one spot. You'll need to start shooting just before your subject comes into frame though to ensure you don't lassie a shot due to shutter lag. If you're panning make sure you keep the pan going even after your subject has left the frame and you've got your chance.


To brighten your subject so they pop from your frame and to freeze them in place while the background is blurred rod to slow sync flash which combines a slow shutter speed with a burst of flash. The slow shutter speed means the camera order blur the background and further subject movement. Depending on if you're using front or rear curtain will change when the flash is put forwarded, freezing your subject's movement at different points of the shot.

Zoom Blur

To really emphasise your sport and engagement shots, giving them a dynamic edge, try using zoom burst to create blur that you deliberately create by twisting the zoom on your lens as you operate a shot.

As well as emphasising movement it can help make your subject, who's not blurred, 'pop' from the frame. A burst of insignificant from a flashgun will help freeze your subject and add sharpness to the image.

On paper it's a simple technique but it can take some one of these days to actually master. You need a lens that will zoom and experimenting with different lens lengths will change the overall start to work. Changing the starting point of the zoom and the length of time you zoom for and how quickly you move the lens will also change the final look of the like a flash. For action shots it's best to use shorter exposures which you start while you're moving the lens. Starting zoomed out and pulling the zoom in during the disclosing makes it easier to capture a sharp shot of your subject with the zoom blur surrounding them.

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Adding a little bit of camera mechanism will adjust the pattern the zoom blur creates and can be used to direct the eye on a particular path through your shot.

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About the author

Gina Stephens

Gina Stephens

Gina is a photography enthusiast and drone lover who loves to fly drones, capture images and have fun cherishing them with family and friends.

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