WEEK 30: Motion Blur

The first challenge that I wrote for this group was, “Freeze Motion”. In that challenge, we used a very fast shutter speed to freeze a moving object. In this week’s challenge, we’ll do the exact opposite: Use a slow shutter speed to blur a moving object.

Most of the time, our pictures tend to freeze time in the exact instant the photo was taken. This tends to stop all movement, resulting in a more static, motionless image. However, if we intentionally slow down the shutter, then moving objects will tend to blur, and your photo will better convey a sense of motion. As always, let’s dive into some examples:

A Crowd in Motion – Eric Spiegel

This shot was taken in a busy crowd of people. Because the photographer used a slow shutter speed (perhaps a second or two?), the people who are moving appear as ghost-like blurs, while the people who were standing still appear quite sharp. I really like this effect, as it nicely conveys the busy, chaotic feel of the room. I particularly like the contrast between the people moving and those standing still.

This technique is one of the simplest ways to create motion blur: Keep the camera steady, ideally on a tripod, and let the subject(s) move around in the frame. Let’s investigate some other options:


Driving – Eric Minbiole

In this shot, rather than keeping the camera still and letting the subjects move, we do the opposite: We move the camera through a stationary background. In this shot, I simply held the camera (safely) out the window, while someone else was driving. While we weren’t moving particularly fast, the slower shutter speed (1/13 second in this case) gives a very strong sense of motion. This photo wouldn’t have nearly the same impact if it were a “normal” shot of a car driving down the road; the motion blur is what makes it interesting.


Panning Bicycle – Eric Minbiole

In the first example with the crowd of people, we had a moving subject and a stationary camera. In the second example with the car, we had a stationary subject shot by a moving camera. In this third example, we have movement in both the subject and the camera. In particular, the camera followed the movement of the bicycle as closely as possible. Doing so keeps the bicycle in reasonably crisp focus, but blurs the background. This is a great effect, as it keeps your subject in focus while still conveying the sense of motion.


Bokeh Explosion – Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero

Of course, you can get very creative with motion blurring. In the shot above, both the camera and the subject were stationary. However, the photographer changed the lens’s zoom ring while taking the picture. Doing so made the lights appear to move inward (or outward?), giving the image a great sense of motion, creating a wonderfully interesting effect. Had this simply been a picture of some lights, it might not have made for a terribly exciting photo. However, the added element of motion makes for a very interesting, memorable image.


Star Trail – Alex Chen

Star Trails are one of my favorite types of photos. The idea is simple: You keep the camera still, and watch as the stars slowly rotate above you. (Of course, the stars are staying still, and the Earth is rotating beneath them, but you get the point.) The effect can be absolutely breathtaking, as with the sample above.

Note that Star Trail photos are often done using multiple, shorter shots blended together, rather than a single, long exposure. However, the overall effect is the same: The long (overall) exposure makes the stars appear to move across the sky. Again, the motion makes the photo much more interesting then if the stars had simply appeared as stationary dots.

The Challenge

For this week’s challenge, I want everybody to take a picture that includes some sort of motion blur. In particular, use a slow enough shutter speed so as to blur any movement in the photo. How you create the motion is completely up to you: Keep the camera still and move the subject; move the camera and keep the subject still; move both; or adjust the zoom and/or focus of the camera to get a zooming effect.

Creative, out-of-the-box ideas are always allowed and encouraged. Get your camera, be creative, and have fun!

Tips and Suggestions

For this challenge, you’ll need to control your shutter speed: A slower (longer) shutter speed will blur the movement more, and a faster (shorter) speed will reduce the motion blur. You’ll likely want to experiment to find the right balance. To help with this adjustment, you may want to use Shutter Priority mode (“S” on Nikon, “Tv” on Canon) so you can easily adjust the timing.

If you’re keeping the camera stationary and letting your subject move (which is the easiest approach), then you’ll likely want to use a stable tripod. Doing so will give you the best results.

As always, you should feel free to ask the group if you’d like suggestions or assistance– we’re all here to help.

The friendly community guidelines are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to our active community on our Facebook GroupFlickr Group or 500PX group (or all three). Tag the photo:  #10thanniversaryphotochallenge #2018photochallenge #photochallenge #tempusaura
  • The shot should be a new shot you took this week, for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2018 Trevor Carpenter Photo Challenge is fun and easy.


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About Eric Minbiole

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been absolutely fascinated with anything technical– electronics, computers, cameras, gadgets, etc. Growing up, I loved taking things apart to see what was inside. While I couldn’t always put things back together, I loved trying to figure out how things work. Because of my love for all things technical, I pursued a degree in Electrical Engineering, and currently work as a Software Engineer. I’ve been fascinated with photography ever since borrowing my parents 110 film camera when I was young. It’s been a great hobby ever since: I love experimenting with photos, and trying new things. I especially love technical and/or trick photography. (“Gimmicks!”, as my wife jokingly calls them 😉 ) While I’m comfortable with the technical side of how to shoot, I struggle more with the artistic side of what to shoot in the first place. This is one reason I quite enjoy this group: There are fun, interesting ideas each week. I joined PhotoChallenge as a participant in 2014, and am amazed at how much this group has helped me learn. Each week, I look forward to the fun, creative challenges that Steve, Trevor, Gary, and Jeremy put together. Most importantly, the weekly challenges give me the motivation to get out there and take photos each week. (Otherwise, I suspect my camera might be gathering dust on the shelf.) As well, interacting with the fantastic members of the group– discussing suggestions, techniques, what works, what doesn’t– has been an invaluable help. I am absolutely thrilled to join the PhotoChallenge team– I’ve learned so much from the group, and hope that I can give back a little bit. If you’d like to see some of my photos, please check out my flickr page.