What is motion blur?
Motion blur is a long exposure photography technique that lets you convey the feeling of movement or action in a still image. “It gives us the ability to see things in a way that we can’t on our own,” says photographer Chris Sidla.
Whereas some action shots freeze a moving subject with fast shutter speeds, motion blur uses slow shutter speeds for long exposure photos that blur the point of movement.
Whether you want to create a sense of speed with taillights streaking down a highway at night or capture the abstract look of people crossing a busy intersection, motion blur lets you see a scene in a way that lets you express a new perspective on reality.
Tell a story with a bit of blur.
There’s no single correct application for motion blur. Rather, “it’s a storytelling technique,” as photographer Chris Low says. “You can use it to elicit emotion or some kind of connection. My experience with motion blur has been mainly with sports photography.” Automotive photography, busy city scenes, and conceptual shoots are other popular examples of motion blur.
Sidla uses motion blur in landscape photography, particularly when he photographs waterfalls or the ocean. “It helps smooth out the water as it goes over the cliff, or waves on a beach,” says Sidla. “I have a lot of friends who shoot star trails, which allows you to capture the rotation of the universe around us.”
In most cases, motion blur doesn’t blur the entire frame — either the subject or the background will be in focus while the other is blurry. No matter what kind of look you want, rest assured it doesn’t take a lot of special gear or complex techniques to master motion blur. You just need a camera, a bit of know-how, and time for trial and error.