How to liven up your portraits with motion blur


Motion blur

Blurred motion is one of the most exciting visual effects we photographers have at our disposal. That magic combination of sharp and soft detail never fails to impress, and as any landscape photographer knows, works wonders shooting moving water or clouds.

But it’s not something normally associated with portraits, where the aim is usually to freeze the action. However, sometimes a bit of motion blur can be used to great effect in your people shots. The basic technique here is very simple.

We need our subject to stay perfectly still while objects around them are in motion. If we use a slightly longer shutter speed than normal, then the motion is recorded as blur. A patterned umbrella works perfectly. Gently twirled, it creates beautiful circular streaks of colour.

However, this can be a bit of a balancing act, as the longer the exposure, the harder it is for our subject to stay still. For a close-up, a shutter speed somewhere around 1/10 sec is about as slow as we can get away with. At shutter speeds like this the motion comes out as blur, but as well as subject movement there’s also a danger of camera shake. A tripod helps, but we can also improve our hit rate by using the High-speed Continuous drive mode.

We’ll explain how to set up your camera, then over the page you’ll find a few other ways in which you can lift your portraits with beautiful blurred motion.


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