Home Photography Ideas: Motion Blur Portrait
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Motion blur is one of the most exciting visual effects available to photographers. This magical combination of crisp and soft detail never fails to impress – and, as any landscape photographer knows, it does wonders for photographing moving water or clouds.
This is not something normally associated with portraits, however, where the goal is usually to freeze the action. However, sometimes a little motion blur can be put to good use in your photos of people.
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The basic technique here is very simple. We need our subject to remain perfectly still while the surrounding objects are in motion. If we use a shutter speed that is slightly longer than normal, the movement is recorded as a blur. A patterned umbrella works perfectly; gently twirled, it creates beautiful circular streaks of color.
This can be a bit of a balancing act, because the longer the exposure, the harder it is for our subject to stay completely still.
For a close-up, a shutter speed of around 1/10 of a second is about as slow as it gets. At shutter speeds like this motion is blurry, but in addition to subject movement there is also a risk of camera shake. A tripod is useful, but we can also improve our success rate by using the continuous drive mode at high speed.
We’ll walk you through how to set up your camera and also give you some more ideas on how you can enhance your portraits with beautiful blurry movements.
Blur a moving background
01 Slow down
Mount your camera on a tripod and set it to shutter priority mode. Reduce the shutter speed to about 1/10 of a second, then lower the ISO as low as possible – ISO100 is probably the lowest, but if you have a LOW setting, use it.
02 Improve your success rate
This technique can be random. You’re bound to end up with a few smooth shots, but you can increase your chances of getting a perfectly sharp one by using the high-speed continuous drive mode and taking burst shots.
03 Ask the subject
Place your subject in the shade or back to the sun and have them lean against something solid to help them stay still. If you have one, use a reflector to bounce the light off the face.
04 Play statues
With everything in place, it’s all about you to stay as still as possible while spinning the umbrella around. Take bursts of photos, then examine your photos and zoom in closely to make sure the eyes are in sharp focus. While a portrait lens is usually the best choice for portraits, a standard zoom can be useful for framing your subject while holding up a reflector.
4 ideas for portraits in motion blur
01 Include passers-by
Ask the subject to remain as still as possible while someone walks in the background, which can create an atmosphere of isolation or loneliness. It is easier for your subject to stay still if they are sitting or leaning against something.
02 A ghostly head
Rather than moving other parts of the scene, why not have your subject move part of their body while keeping the rest still. Whipping your head side to side creates a rather unsettling ghostly portrayal. Black and white helps to simplify the image.
03 Move the limbs
Have your subject move their hands, limbs, or other body parts as you shoot. The movement creates an interesting mix of crisp and soft details. It can also work well for action or sports photography giving a sense of speed and action.
04 Blur the clouds
If the subject is smaller in the frame, you can often get by with a longer exposure time. Here, a 30-second exposure results in motion blur in the clouds and water. We used a 10-speed ND filter to make the extra long shutter speed possible.
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