Basic Motion Tips for Photographers

July 17

5 min. to read

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A few ways to effectively show motion in your images.

Still, photography has always been thought of as capturing a moment in time. Seemingly freezing anything that was moving into a static image. As such, many people try very hard to ensure that their photographs are perfectly sharp with no motion blur at all.

But, in reality, the world we capture is dynamic and our photographs should reflect the energetic nature of our subjects.

Ask most photographers how to show motion in an image and they would tell you to slow the shutter speed and allow the moving object to blur. That’s certainly an effective method. But, if you capture a perfectly sharp high jumper at the peak of their jump, you still get that energetic feeling of movement.

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The motion blur or the dynamic placement of a sharp object, are simply tools that photographers use to help tell their story. The method to use is strictly up to you. After all, it’s your story and you can tell it any way you want.

Let’s look at a few ways to effectively show motion in your images.

The Motion Blur

When you think about motion blur in photography, we need to look at it from two perspectives. Obviously, the subject that we are photographing may be moving but there can also be the movement of the camera itself.

First, let’s assume our camera is on a rock-steady tripod ensuring no camera movement at all. The degree to which moving objects in our view are rendered perfectly sharp is dependent upon the shutter speed. The longer the shutter is open, the more motion blur may be recorded.

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This is a perfect scenario for photographing rivers and waterfalls. With a steady camera and a long shutter speed, objects that don’t move, like rocks and tree trunks, are sharp. But the water that is in constant motion is blurred.

How much motion blur you want in the water is a matter of personal taste. Like spice added to a recipe, some like just a little while others like a lot. There is no one correct shutter speed. 

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Another way to add motion blur is to move the camera. You can move the camera to follow a moving subject like a runner, a bicyclist, or car.

This is called panning. The point is that you want to keep the subject as sharp as possible while blurring the background.

Post Capture Processing

Once you capture an image, it’s important that you then process the image to look it’s best. I like to use Lightroom to import and organize my images. I even handle white balance and tone adjustments.

But when I’m done there, I like to open Skylum’s Luminar program. Luminar offers a robust set of tools to enhance your image and their latest version includes an artificial intelligence driven filter. The results are remarkable.

Like our spice analogy above, how much you process an image is all personal taste. In the case of the Greek Sunset over the rocky beach, just a little punch was needed. In that case, I added some saturation to the colors and enhanced the details on the rocks. 

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As a photographer, you are a story teller and each of the photographic techniques and the Luminar software are simply tools that you should keep in mind when creating images. So, practice capturing dynamic motion shots.

But don’t forget. Unlike Halsman, you have awesome tools like Luminar at your disposal to help you create the vibrant and energetic look of motion in your photography.

Written by

Rob Hull

Pro Photographer

Rob Hull is a Certified Professional Photographer and holds both a Master of Photography and a Photographic Craftsman degrees from the ProfessionalPhotographers of America. He began teaching photography 1998 at Southern Methodist University and has most recently formed an educational partnership with industry icon Tony Corbell. Together Rob and Tony offer photography workshops and classes under the Corbell Photographic Workshops brand. Aspiring photographers can learn about photography with Rob’s book “How to Take Great Photographs” which is published under the Amherst Media label. For the more advanced photographers, Rob has developed the Canon Advanced Shooter and CPP Lighthouse programs.

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