How to take blurry photos (on purpose)

Jan 24, 2024

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

How to take blurry photos (on purpose)

Jan 24, 2024

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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We spent the first few years learning how to take pin-sharp images with our cameras. Then, I seemed to want to break all the rules and spent the next few years deliberately making blurry photos. I’m not alone in this, and deliberate camera movement (DCM) is most definitely a thing. And it can look fantastic.

This video from Mango Street explains how you can create beautiful artistic effects with just a little motion blur and planning.

There are several different ways to introduce motion blur in your shots. Here are a few that are talked about in the video:

Camera Panning

One engaging way to capture motion blur, especially in urban environments, is through panning. It’s used a lot in motorsports photography, where following a fast-moving subject is essential to getting the shot.

The concept is simple – stand in place and pivot your camera along with the moving subject. Use a shutter speed of around 1/30th of a second and an aperture of f/16. Position yourself so that your subject moves parallel to your lens. With a bit of practice, you’ll highlight your subject sharply while the surroundings turn into a mesmerizing blur.

Subject in Motion, Camera Still

This can be a great way to evoke the energy of a place, whether it be a busy city street, fast-moving crowds of people, or the swish of a flamenco dancer’s dress.

Begin with a shutter speed of 1/160th of a second and adjust according to your desired blur effect. This method works well with AI Servo or continuous focus mode. For added creativity, encourage your subjects to stay in one place while moving their limbs or clothing, injecting a dynamic feel into your photos.

Still Subject, moving background

I love this effect, it can have a huge impact and almost suggests the concept of being lost in time. Get your subject to stand perfectly still while a train moves past behind or a busy crowd rushes by. Use a shutter speed of around 1/80th of a second and slow it down further for more pronounced motion blur. Remember to maintain stability by holding the camera as still as possible, capturing both your subject and the dynamic surroundings with clarity.

Time-lapse-like Effects

For a more dramatic touch, explore longer shutter speeds and use a tripod. Longer, multi-second exposures can yield stunning results. This technique is perfect for creating scenes reminiscent of a still frame from a movie.

For examples of these, check out the video. It should get your creative juices flowing again.

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Alex Baker

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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One response to “How to take blurry photos (on purpose)”

  1. Jane Rothchild Avatar
    Jane Rothchild

    The majority of this video was an advertisement for learning online. Sad.