Monday, 24 October 2016

Adding a Sense of Motion Improves your Photos

You may want to sharply focus on subjects in the foreground, you may want to blur certain elements in the image or you may want to freeze everything depending on the purpose of the photo.

Freeze Action
Blur Subject

Blur Background

You may just want to convey movement but there are other purposes like conveying mood. For example: the wildness of wind in the trees, crashing waves or roaring waterfalls; the excitement of a football match or a bicycle race; the bustling of a street scene, the happiness of a toddler or dog running, or the serenity of leaves falling.

So how do we do this?

 Most people know that to capture fast moving objects we need to use a fast shutter speed but there are other tricks to learn:
·      Shutter speed
·      Panning
·      Zooming
·      Timing
·      Location/Perspective
·      Composition
·      Focus
·      Crono-Photography
·      Practice

Shutter Speed 

Freezing the action captures the motion in a single moment. A super fast shutter speed like 1/1600th will freeze the action and works well in sunlight but it could darken the photo in low light. 1/250th will also freeze the action. You can also increase the ISO to let in more light but that could also cause noise.
Freezing the entire field is good for capturing more than one subject like a bird flying in front of a waterfall.

Blur the subject and keep the background sharp instantly communicates that the subject is moving quickly. To do this you need a slow shutter speed and a very steady hand but better still use a tripod. This technique is often used at night to capture headlights moving through the image. It is also used to make water look like it is moving. But it can also be used for moving people and animals. A slow shutter speed will let more light in so the photo may be overexposed. You need to adjust the speed and check the ISO is a low number.


This is where you use a slow shutter speed and move the camera at the same speed, as the moving object to keep it in focus but the background will be blurry to create the feeling of speed. It also removes any background distractions and makes the subject stand out.
Wherever possible use a wide aperture to give a narrow depth of field, which also helps to make, the subject stand out from the blurry background.
Start with 1/30th speed and then try to get slower.
It is easier on a flat surface and standing parallel to the action where you can judge where the subject is going to be.
Try to position yourself where there aren’t too many background distractions. Single colours or a plain background is best.
Track the subject smoothly. A monopod could help. Continue to pan after you have taken the shot.
Use automatic focus tracking.
Experiment with shutter speeds. You need to think about:
·      How fast is the subject moving
·      The distance between camera and the subject
·      How much motion do you want to convey
This is not easy to do. You will get a lot of duds but with practice you will get some keepers.

Blur everything

Sometimes it is effective to blur the whole image to show chaotic motion. This is usually used for an artistic look. Capturing motion is part technique and part art.


You can add the sense of motion by zooming during exposure. Focus and lock, use of the back button is beat. Press shutter button and physically rotate the zoom lens. Try two different ways: Pause and zoom quickly or zoom slowly and pause at the end. This technique is good for night shots and lights.


When taking shots of a field sport find a “sweet spot”, the perfect distance away for your lens. You can’t get all of the action all over the field. Be patient and get what comes into your sweet spot.
It is best to get players coming towards you so that you can see their faces and capture expressions. Bring the viewer in close. Use a zoom lens 70-200mm. Memorable sports shots show faces with expressions of joy or agony.
Use a different perspective. Getting low down adds drama. It makes athletes look bigger and more heroic. It also gives a better sense of setting and action.


Timing is everything. Anticipate the action. You can use ‘burst’ or ‘continuous’ shooting but don’t rely on it and use it all the time. You will have hundreds of photos to sort through for a good one. Don’t waste time by ‘chimping’ that is checking all the time in the LCD screen you may miss the best shot of all. Focus on getting the shot.


Use composition rules to help create a sense of motion in photos. Have more active space than dead space. Try to have the moving object moving into the scene not out of it. (Remember rules can be broken for effect.
Don’t forget to use different angles, especially down low for moving objects to look bigger and more powerful.
Backgrounds can be blurred to avoid distracting objects in the background especially spectators.
To make the focal point stand out use a slow shutter speed to blur a moving object behind the subject. Focus on the subject.


Perfect settings, timing, composition won’t count for anything if you mess up the focus.  Manual focus is too slow for fast moving objects. Automatic focus, using the shutter button is also cumbersome as the camera wants to lock onto other objects like spectators or advertisements so consider using the back button for focusing. It gives you more control and frees up the shutter button to do its other jobs.
Back button focusing. Cameras have a dizzying array of automatic focal points, which are good, but you don’t have time to fiddle with them with fast moving subjects. By using a separate button you can do a lot more with your photographs. If your camera has an AF-ON button use it. If not read your manual, which will tell you how to use one of your other buttons.
By using the back button you no longer have to hunt for the right auto focus point or wait for the camera to focus on the right place. Trying to keep the moving subject in focus with the shutter button is difficult. It easier to focus with the back button whether it is: people, animals, cars, or a petal in the wind.
Use the centre focus point to focus on the subject then release your thumb and recompose, it’s faster than autofocus and you can take the shot when you want. Or you can hold the back button down to continually adjust the focus and press the shutter to snap photos when you want.
Focus Modes- Manual, Single shot and Continuous. Using the back button does all three just by moving your thumb.
Manual.  Take your thumb off the back button and focus by rotating the lens. (Make sure your lens is set to MF)
Single. (AF-S Nikon/ One Shot Canon) Press your thumb on the back button until your camera is in focus, and then lift your thumb up to keep the focus locked until you press the button again.
Continuous.  Hold your thumb on the back button as long as you want, forcing your camera to continually adjust until you take the picture. You must be using Continuous focus mode for this to work (AF-C Nikon/ Al Servo Canon)
Another focus trick is to Pre Focus on a spot where you know the subject will be.

Crono- Photography

A different way to add a sense of motion to your image is to use your ‘burst’ or ‘continuous’ feature on your camera to take a sequence of shots of the moving subject and then stitch them together with a post-processing program.


Adding motion to your photos can be fun but frustrating. It takes a lot of practice, practice, and practice. Approach it with an experimental attitude. Mix up your shots if you are at an event. Shoot some with a fast shutter speed to freeze the action. Shoot some with a blurry background. Shoot some with a blurry subject. Shoot some from a different perspective. Try to catch expressions up close. Your whole shot may be blurry but this can add to the shot sometimes.