What Settings Should Be Used for Motion Blur?

I used motion blur here to show how the little boy in blue might feel.

I used motion blur here to show how the little boy in blue might feel.

The Easy Answer
Motion blur is achieved when you keep the shutter open for long enough that your subject has moved. The longer your shutter is open, the more motion blur you will achieve. So long as you have achieved the correct exposure (by balancing aperture, shutter speed and ISO) it’s that simple. For more practice in the thinking behind achieving this, go to Eleanor’s Visualiser, and if you are unsure about how to use your camera’s manual settings go to my posts https://dancetog.wordpress.com/2016/01/04/settings/ and https://dancetog.wordpress.com/2016/01/20/level-one-step-two/.

The Complex Answer
There are no ‘ideal settings’ for motion blur or for anything else in photography. The time of day, amount and type of light, the story you want to tell, the lens you are using an even the camera body itself all have a bearing on the settings you choose. I wrote a summary post at http://atomic-temporary-34270865.wpcomstaging.com/2014/05/21/shutter-speed-busses/ some time ago.

You’ll need lots of practice playing with motion blur and your other camera settings to bed in what you’ve learned, but there will come a time when, as you look through your lens your fingers will move automatically to fit the image in your head. To make sure the concepts stick, see if you can work out what sort of settings might be appropriate for the following scenarios.

1. You are in France where it is illegal to photograph anyone without their prior written consent – but you need a shot of the busy area around L’Arc de Triomphe
2. You are on the roof of the Millennium Dome at dusk and want a shot of the sunset with the buildings of the London skyline as sharp silhouettes.
3. You are at the skateboard area under the Royal Festival Hall on London’s South Bank and want to show how fast the skateboarders are going. You still want viewers to recognise them as people.
4. It is a typical English midsummer day and you want to show the waves of the sea as a white fuzzy mist.
5. You are at the Winter Olympics and want to catch the expression of a champion skier as he touches the ground after a jump.


Next Wednesday I will write about panning.


Every Wednesday I post something that will help my students. Each blog post is the synthesis of my experience as a pro-phtoographer and years of teaching photography to adults, children and teenagers. To attend a group course find me at City Academy or for flexible one-to-one tuition and portfolio building contact me directly.

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