creativity exercise: creative motion blur

Picking up your camera, shooting, and challenging yourself is the best way to improve your photography.  The Creativity Exercises within the Clickin Moms photography forum are a great source for finding new ways to challenge yourself.  On the first Monday of every month the wonderful Sarah Wilkerson posts a new tutorial and challenges our members to shoot with the exercise in mind.  While the exercises are ongoing, at the end of each month we choose a few images as the ‘Editors’ Choice’ and share them here with you on the blog.  How fun is that?!  Today we are sharing May’s exercise with you below!

creativity exercise | creative motion blur

Photographers, especially beginning photographers, tend to select shutter speeds based on their ability to freeze the motion of the subject(s) within the frame. Breaking basic “rules” carefully and deliberately for artistic impact, however, can be a fantastic way to take your work beyond the norm … so this month, let’s utilize motion blur to establish aesthetic interest, create visual rhythm, tell a richer story, or contribute to a particular mood or atmosphere.

There are two primary approaches to motion blur:
1) Mobile Subject(s) blurred; background elements in focus
2) Mobile Subject(s) in focus; background elements blurred

1) Mobile Subject(s) blurred; background elements in focus

In this approach, the key is to keep your shutter speed fast enough to eliminate camera shake but slow enough to capture subject movement between the time the shutter opens and the time the shutter closes.

If you are handholding your camera, your shutter speed will often be somewhere in between 1/15sec and 1/60sec (higher if you are using a long focal length), or as slow as you feel that you can comfortably keep your camera motionless in your hands.

If you are using a tripod or otherwise stabilizing your camera, you can go as slow as you wish … even several seconds or more.

The optimum speed for your image depends entirely on the speed of your mobile subject and your artistic vision. First, establish your exposure for the scene, then experiment with different shutter speeds and chimp until you find your sweet spot for a given scenario. Make sure you set your focus on one of the unmoving elements in the scene.

Example: Urban Night Scene, with cars and pedestrians moving and buildings/lights/etc stable; Musician playing the piano, fingers moving across the keys, general piano setup stable; Couples engagement shoot in a crowd, with couple completely still in an embrace while the world moves on around them.

2) Mobile Subject(s) in focus; background elements blurred [PANNING]

In this approach, you’ll still want to keep your shutter speed slow enough to capture subject movement between the time the shutter opens and the time the shutter closes. However, instead of endeavoring to keep your camera is still as possible, you’ll be aiming to keep it steadily tracking your moving subject. This technique is called Panning.

Start with a significantly slower shutter speed than you would select if you needed to freeze the motion of your subject. You can either handhold or put your camera on a tripod with a panning head. Keep in mind that you still don’t want camera shake – you want smooth movement at the same velocity as your moving subject … so you probably won’t go quite as slow with your shutter speed as you would in approach #1. If at all possible, aim to position yourself so that your panning will maintain a constant distance between you and your subject – this will ensure that your subject won’t fall off your plane of focus as you pan.

Again, the optimum speed for your image depends entirely on the speed of your mobile subject and your artistic vision. In addition to pre-setting exposure for the scene, you may also find it helpful to switch your focus to manual and pre-set your focus plane as well. Then, experiment with different shutter speeds and chimp until you find your sweet spot for a given scenario.

Not sure where to start? As a jumping off point, set your camera to a shutter speed around 1/30 of a second, and close your aperture down by about two stops off what you’d normally choose for the subject to account for the fact that the distance between your lens and the subject may change during the progression.

Example:
Cyclist in a race, with focus steady on the cyclist as she moves, and the background a blur; passenger shooting from within the car, with focus stable on car interior as car moves, and streets/buildings blurred; child on a swing, with focus panning in an arc with the child’s swing path, and the playground a blur.

Editors’ Choice

creativity exercise: creative motion blur photo

Congratulations to the ladies below who’s photographs were selected as this month’s Editors’ Choices!

Elle Walker:

creativity exercise: creative motion blur photo

Holly Thompson:

creativity exercise: creative motion blur photo

DeAnna McCasland:

creativity exercise: creative motion blur photo

Catina Anderson:

creativity exercise: creative motion blur photo

Danika Dickson:

creativity exercise: creative motion blur photo

Thank you to everyone who participated in the exercise!  We love seeing all the beautiful imagery!

Do you want to participate in the next Creativity Exercise?  Visit the forum here where Sarah has challenged us with the theme “Beautiful Ugly“.  Don’t have a membership to Clickin Moms yet?  Head on over here to sign up now and use the exclusive CMblog discount code of CMBLOG20 to receive 20% off a trial, 6 month, or 1 year membership!  You can still participate in this Creative Motion Blur challenge by either visiting the forum here or sharing with us in the comments below.  We’d love to see your work!

Sign up for a 30 day FREE trial membership!

creativity exercise: creative motion blur photo

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15 Responses to “creativity exercise: creative motion blur”

  1. Margy
    Jun 07 2012 at 7:37 am #

    Congratulations! Fabulous examples.

  2. Melissa Everett
    Jun 07 2012 at 7:38 am #

    These are beautiful examples! I need to give this try. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Jun 07 2012 at 7:38 am #

    Congrats ladies!!

  4. Catina
    Jun 07 2012 at 7:55 am #

    Wow! How fun to be recognized. Thank you CM!

  5. Natalie @MamaTrack
    Jun 07 2012 at 10:25 am #

    These are all lovely. I tried my hand at some creative blur of a carousel today–hoping it turns out!

  6. Jun 07 2012 at 12:37 pm #

    What gorgeous images! I love how they all show something a little different. Thank you for including mine, I am so very honored!

  7. Jun 08 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    I'm bummed that I didn't get a motion blur photo up in May for that challenge! What a great topic with real potential. Thanks for this post.

  8. Cara
    Jul 03 2012 at 5:28 pm #

    Oh, my – what gorgeous pictures! I love the flag, and can relate all too well to the crawling baby and kids on the bed!

  9. angelamking
    Jul 14 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    these are fantastic tips! thanks so much for the great tutorial! :)

  10. kayla
    Jul 18 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    This is a great reminder, for me, to do something other than freezing motion!

  11. Jessica W
    Jul 20 2012 at 6:20 pm #

    Just used this post to get my panning shot for the scavenger hunt! Love it! It was a fun exercise.

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