What Is Motion Blur in Photography and How to Capture It

Have you ever wondered how you can add a sense of motion to a still photo? Motion blur is your answer.

You can create a sense of movement and bring your images to life using motion blur.

Join us as we uncover what it is, how to capture it, and when to use it.

What is Motion Blur in Photography?

Motion blur is the streaking effect recorded when your subject, or your camera, moves during an exposure. Not to be confused with camera shake, motion blur is a photographic technique used to portray a sense of movement or speed.

Colorful, spinning amusement park rides photographed with motion bur
Motion blur has been used here to capture these amusement park rides. Photo by Jason Chen

Camera shake, on the other hand, is the unintentional blurring of an image when a photographer accidentally moves the camera while taking a photograph.

How to Capture Motion Blur

Capturing motion blur is a relatively easy technique to master once you have the basics down.

The following steps will help you on your way to motion blur mastery.

1. Decrease Your Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is the most critical factor to consider when capturing motion blur. A shutter is the curtain in front of the camera sensor that opens to let light in when you take a shot. A fast shutter speed will freeze motion, while a slower shutter speed will cause your subject to blur.

A diagram showing how camera shutter speed affect the subject of a photo
The more you increase your shutter speed (left to right), the more motion blur you will get.

Which Shutter Speed Will Blur Motion?

There is no perfect answer to this question. It all depends on the speed of your subject. The slower your subject is moving, the slower your shutter speed will need to be.

You can use this table as a rough guide.

Subject Shutter Speed (s)
A person walking 1/60 or slower
A moving car 1/125 depending on its speed
Light trails and light painting 10 seconds and longer
Waterfalls 1/6 down to 30 seconds
The movements of a group of dancers onstage are emphasized with motion blur

Bear in mind that as you decrease your shutter speed, more light will reach your camera’s sensor. This can result in overexposed photos (too much light has reached the sensor). Your picture will look washed out and will lose detail. To compensate for this you will need to adjust either the aperture, ISO, or use filters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *