Panning for blur: The Practicing Photographer

Published by | Thursday, January 30th, 2014
Panning for blur: The Practicing Photographer

Explore The Practicing Photographer at lynda.com.

Blur. We buy tripods and motion-stabilized lenses to avoid it, and we use Photoshop filters to try and fix it when it creeps into our shots.

But blur can also be a powerful tool for conveying a sense of motion in a static medium. A speeding car or motorcycle, a galloping horse or bounding dog, a cyclist on a track, a kid on a sled—subjects like these are natural candidates for some motion blur.

Blur is the subject of this week’s installment of The Practicing Photographer. Ben Long and his motorcycle are joined by lynda.com videographer Josh Figatner, and the two explore various techniques for capturing motion blur as Ben rides down a deserted highway.

As Ben and Josh demonstrate, one key to capturing motion blur in a setting like this is to snap the shutter while panning your camera across the subject as it’s racing by. Your goal should be to have some sharpness in the moving subject, but enough blur in both the subject and the background to convey a sense of motion.

Panning your camera for motion blur

If your camera shutter has a rapid-fire burst mode, you can try using it to increase your odds of getting a good shot. Some photographers, though, point out that there’s no substitute for your own intuition when it comes to shutter timing. When you automate the shutter with burst mode, there’s a chance the perfect moment will occur in between two of the shots your camera grabbed.

Another key to successful motion blur when panning is to find a “just-right” shutter speed setting that would win Goldilocks’ approval: not too slow that the entire subject is blurred, but not so fast that the scene appears frozen and unmoving. The ideal shutter speed depends on several factors, including your subject’s speed, how far you are from the subject, the lens you’re using, and your ISO and aperture settings. You’ll need to experiment, as Josh does in this week’s installment.

So head outside with a fast-moving subject—your kid on a sled or a bike, your dog in a park, or just the cars going by on a busy street—and try these motion-blur techniques for yourself.

To learn more about panning for blur, check out these other lynda.com courses:

• Chapter 4, “Motion,” in The Elements of Effective Photos with Natalie Fobes

• Chapter 3, “Going Back for Essential Shots,” in Shooting a Photo Essay: An Artist at Work with Paul Taggart

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