3 types of movement in photography

3 types of movement in photography

When we talk about movement in our images, we could be referring to any number of phenomena, storytelling, or design elements.

For this creativity exercise, we’re going to discuss three fundamental ways to approach movement in the frame, and you can tackle whichever challenges or appeals to you most.

1. Suspended movement

Perhaps the most obvious type of movement in photography, suspended movement illustrates one of the camera’s most remarkable attributes: the ability to freeze a literal split second, to capture details imperceptible to the human eye. It’s the mid-action pause: hair flying, arms flailing, dust kicking, waves crashing. Get your subjects running, jumping, twirling, tossing, shaking, skipping, leaping. Great implied movement suggests the seconds that will follow the suspended moment, giving a viewer a strong sense of what would happen if the scene “unpaused.”

Action-Shot-of-Child-Sliding-on-Water-Slide-on-Summer-Day-by-Lauren-Sanderson

Lauren Sanderson


Suspended-Movement-Photo-with-Baby-Dropping-Bowl-in-Midair-by-Erica-Caligiuri

Erica Caligiuri


Black-and-White-Documentary-Photo-of-Children-Playing-in-Summer-and-Suspended-Movement-with-Jumping-Child-by-Renata-Plaice

Renata Plaice


Suspended-Movement-of-Child-being-Thrown-Up-in-Air-in-the-Ocean-by-Playful-Father-by-Anita-Perminova

Anita Perminova


Suspended-Movement-with-Child-Jumping-in-Creative-Black-and-White-Portrait-with-Beautiful-Light-by-Katie-Bindels

Katie Bindels


Beautiful-Portrait-of-Little-Girl-Running-in-Fancy-Gown-by-Noelle-Joy

Noelle Joy


curtain blowing softly in wind showing suspended movement by photographer Jamie Bates

Jamie Bates


Suspended-Movement-of-Child-Swinging-on-Monkey-Bars-in-Beautiful-Light-by-Photographer-Hannah-Fenstermacher

Hannah Fenstermacher


Girl-Standing-on-Beach-with-Wind-Blowing-through-her-Hair-by-Photographer-Gina-Yeo

Gina Yeo


Creative-Overhead-Pic-of-Child-Throwing-Leaves-Up-in-the-Air-by-Cassandra-Casley

Cassandra Casley

2. Motion blur

Often associated with poor technique or inadequate lighting conditions, motion blur can be a striking representation of dynamic energy when incorporated deliberately. Remember that motion blur, usually produced at very slow shutter speeds, can come from either side of the camera: when, between the time the shutter opens and the time the shutter closes, either a) you move or b) an element within your frame moves. That means you might seek out opportunities in which you can capture a subject’s movement amidst the stillness of the setting (a tripod can be helpful!), or you might introduce movement to a motionless setting (as by panning ). And remember, motion is not confined to living subjects; it happens all around us in ways we may not always recognize: clouds move through the sky, shadows and light move across the floor, leaves rustle, curtains billow in the breeze ….

Motion-Blur-Created-by-Fresh-Pasta-Moving-through-Pasta-Maker-by-Rose-Hewartson

Rose Hewartson


Motion-Blur-and-Panning-on-Playground-Spinning-Round-and-Round-by-Eve-Tuft

Eve Tuft


Ghostly-Motion-Blur-in-Spooky-Halloween-Black-and-White-Photo-by-Carolina-Guerrero

Carolina Guerrero


Motion-Blur-in-a-Busy-Playful-Scene-with-lots-of-Outdoor-Activity-by-Brenda-Lea-Photography

Brenda Lea


Motion-Blur-in-Chinatown-Subway-Station-Documentary-Photo-by-Nicole-Sanchez

Nicole Sanchez


Creative-Motion-Blur-of-Child-Riding-Bike-through-Neighborhood-by-Clickin-Moms-Member-enjoyingnow

enjoyingnow


Abstract-Photo-of-Dancer-in-White-and-Creative-Motion-Blur-by-Clickin-Moms-Member-eveeve

eveeve


Suspended-Raindrop-Splashing-in-Fine-Art-Still-Life-by-Merja-Varkemaa-Schneider

Merja Varkemaa Schneider


Motion-Blur-in-Landscape-Photograph-with-Moving-Clouds-and-Water-by-Addie-Sheahin

Addie Sheahin


Motion-Blur-Movement-and-Activity-in-an-Authentic-Home-Scene-by-Erica-Caligiuri

Erica Caligiuri


Motion-Blur-and-Panning-with-Mustang-Automobile-in-Black-and-White-by-Kate-Winslow

Kate Winslow


Motion-Blur-Shown-as-Child-Runs-through-Dark-Hallway-by-Kristin-White

Kristin White


Radial-Motion-Blur-Created-by-Lens-Movement-and-Child-Running-by-Sarah-Hodges

Sarah Hodges

3. Visual flow

What is “flow” in art? Visual flow takes the viewer’s eye on a graceful, often gently meandering, visual journey through your photographic composition. Flow is dynamic, continuous, and unforced; take a look at Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” Munch’s “The Scream,” Hokusai’s “Great Wave” for textbook examples of visual flow, and you’ll find your eye cannot resist the movement they compel. Lines, especially curved or undulating lines, are of particular value in creating visual flow as they draw the eye across or throughout the frame. Repeating elements can establish rhythm and build momentum to carry the eye from one point to the next. And progressive gradations – of color, of size, of light, of shape – are especially powerful in gently coaxing the eye through a photograph; motion blur itself often appears as a gradation of tone, color, and transparency in the frame. Any time the eye is naturally and predictably encouraged to move, to be carried from one area to the frame to another, you have visual flow. These are the kinds of image that make you experience great movement — even when nothing is actually moving.

Visual-Flow-in-Serene-Environmental-Landscape-Scene-by-Photographer-Jenny-Brake

Jenny Brake


portrait of woman with movement in her hair and downward visual flow by Jamie Bates

Jamie Bates


Visual-Flow-in-Winter-Scene-with-Leading-Lines-and-Beautiful-Shapes-by-Kathy-Roberts

Kathy Roberts


Motion-Blur-of-Ocean-Waves-Using-Slow-Shutter-Speed-by-Clickin-Moms-Member-lroyrose

lroyrose


Suspended-Movement-of-Child-in-Red-Dress-Jumping-Against-Backdrop-of-Big-City-by-Rebecca-Hunnicutt-Farren

Rebecca Hunnicutt Farren


Blue-Sky-and-Clouds-Showcasing-Visual-Flow-by-Dakota-Kerr

Dakota Kerr


Wide-Angle-Environmental-Portrait-with-Repeition-and-Visual-Movement-Against-Red-Wall-by-Chanel-French

Chanel French


Suspended-Movement-Shown-by-People-Playfully-Jumping-off-Cliff-into-Ocean-Created-by-Footprints-on-the-Beach-by-Clickin-Moms-Member-Anastasiia

Anastasiia


Compositional-Visual-Flow-with-Light-and-Foliage-by-Laura-Snyder

Laura Snyder

How will you incorporate movement in your photos? Can you incorporate one, two, or even all three of these types in one frame? What happens if you approach the same subject or scene with both a very fast shutter speed (to capture suspended movement) and then, in the next frame, a very slow shutter speed (to capture motion blur). Should all photographs have visual flow? Do yours? Think, too, about how you gravitate towards incorporating movement in your normal shooting (try something new!), as well as the types of movement you are drawn to the in work of others.

Movement-Form-and-Shape-Shown-in-Photo-of-Pottery-Wheel-by-Clickin-Moms-Member-Maez

Maez


Movement-and-Color-in-Water-Splashing-by-Vanessa-Ryan

Vanessa Ryan


Motion-Blur-in-Black-and-White-Portrait-of-Child-Laughing-and-Hair-Blowing-by-Anne-Dale

Anne Dale

What’s the best way to improve your photography? Shoot thoughtfully and frequently! Try new things and embrace creative and technical challenges. Every month, Sarah Wilkerson posts a new tutorial and challenges our members to join in a new Creativity Exercise on the Clickin Moms photography forum. At the conclusion of the exercise, we select Editors’ Choice images from among the exercise submissions and share them here with you on the blog. Congratulations to the ladies whose photographs included in the exercise above were selected as this month’s Editors’ Choices, and thank you to everyone who participated in the exercise!

2016-Editors-Choice-award-for-the-CMblog

And be sure to participate in the next exercise! Become a Clickin Moms member (if you aren’t one already!), and join us over on the forum where Sarah has posted “5 Steps to Adding Depth and Complexity to your Photos” We’d love to see your work!

Sign up for your membership subscription today!

About the Author:

Sarah Wilkerson is the CEO of Click & Company and also provides mentoring services, teaches advanced Click Photo School courses on composition & creativity, and authors the “Why It Works” series in CLICK magazine. She specializes in low light photography, everyday documentary, and tilt-shift work. A former attorney and Duke graduate, Sarah resides in northern Virginia with her Army JAG husband, four children, and three dogs. Visit Sarah Wilkerson online.
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