Last week I did a post on 8 Creative Ways to Improve your Photography and when looking into an idea for this weeks photography blog I found that the most interesting and possibly one of the most difficult techniques explained was the Motion Blur. It can be very hit or miss but I have listed some tips to keep in mind when attempting a motion blur shot.
Motion Blur is primarily about capturing a scene in which an object is frozen still, whilst everything around it is blurred in motion. From a wildlife perspective, you might have seen images, such as this one below, of animals frozen in mid stride or flight whilst the background behind them is heavily blurred.
I have put together the below tips to take into consideration when trying one of the above pictures:
Be ready to take the shot:
Wildlife photography is all about being prepared for the moment and this is even more prevalent when it comes to motion blur photography because you only get one chance to grab the shot. When specifically looking to capture motion blur shots, make sure your camera settings are where you want them, your stabilisation is ready and waiting and that you are conscious of which direction the animals are going to be moving in. Remember to keep an eye on what’s going to be in the background of your photo, the background can often make or break a picture. It also helps to get yourself in a comfortable, yet flexible position to track the animal.
Keeping this in mind will ensure that you’ll never miss that perfect shot or three…
Correct camera settings – Shutter Priority:
So, in the previous tip I mentioned that you need to have your camera on the correct settings and you are probably wandering, ‘well, tell us what they are!’. Motion blur is primarily about your shutter speed so with this in mind I would suggest using your camera on shutter priority. By using this mode on your camera, you are in control of how long your shutter is open for. In late afternoon or early morning light, I typically set my camera to 1/60s. This slightly slower shutter speed allows for the shutter to be open long enough to capture the moving image, but is also short enough to make sure that an excess of light doesn’t get in.
There are two ways of motion blur and both require a significantly stable position for your camera. The first type is when you keep you camera still and your subject is moving and creating its own motion blur and the other technique is by tracking or panning with the subject, creating a blurred background and a crisp subject.
A Bean bag, Wimberley head or Tripod is critical to achieve a shot which makes the subject matter sharp in either of these techniques. The first type is fairly straight forward so not much explanation is need other than making sure your camera is stable. The secret for the latter technique is that once you are in position and the animal you are photographing is moving, begin tracking it through your viewfinder and then click your shutter open.
In looking through your viewfinder, pick a spot on the animal (eye, shoulder, head, etc) and keep a navigation point on this spot. Alternatively you can also shoot a sequence of rapid photographs whilst tracking the animal, but always remember to begin tracking the animal before you open the shutter and keep following it until after the shutter has closed.
Try to keep hold the camera tight. This will avoid some unwanted blur. A great tip this is to use the viewfinder instead of the LCD. By doing this your pivot will be far more accurate because the camera is following your eyes, not your arms.
S-AF or Servo Focus:
Set the Focus to S-AF or Servo. On this mode, the camera will continue to focus regardless of whether your finger is on the button. This helps in tracking the fast moving objects because it saves the time spent focusing before a shot. It was built specifically for this reason, so why not use it if you have it.
A Lower ISO:
Lowering your ISO impacts the sensitivity of your digital camera’s image sensor. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive it is to light, whilst the lower the ISO the less sensitive it will be. By choosing a low number, 200 or 400, you will be able to have your shutter speed open for longer without letting in too much light. This in turn allows for more of the background to unfold in the image.
Set the ISO to the lowest possible setting. If you cannot prepare for a test shot then set it somewhere between 200 and 400.
You can use the above settings and twist your cameras lens to achieve a different type of motion blur. In the below photograph, I left the shutter open whilst driving at night. The people in the front did not move, however landscape was moving as we drove forward thus causing a motion blur effect. This ‘inverted’ approached to motion blur photography is one the easiest ways to achieve success with this style of photography. This type of shot also works well if you have an stationary object (such as a hamerkop) with movement all around it (running water).
Practice, practice and practice. This is the key to success.
– Remember that in photography, whether it is stills or motion blur, the subject matter and end result need to please you as the photographer. This is particularly important in Motion Blur. Not everyone will like it, but if you do, then you are succeeding in your aim. Love your work and people will too.
– You may notice, once you have taken an image with a low shutter speed using any of the techniques, some small spots or irregularities on the picture, this is purely from your sensor being dirty. It may occur due to constant changing of lenses. All one needs to do it send your camera to get the sensor cleaned!
Do you have any other tips or techniques that you would add to this post? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below…
Written by Kate Neill