Speeding BMW 6-Series

How to Capture Motion in Your Photos

I really love how cameras can transform motion into art, sometimes abstract and interesting. Yes, we all get frustrated when the pictures don’t come out as we expected. “This is not what I saw!.” “This shot doesn’t even come close to the atmosphere and the feeling when I took it.” Yes, I know. It can be hard to reproduce a certain moment, but you know what? Let’s admit that cameras can also capture what our eyes can’t. They can freeze motion in a fraction of a second so we can see things that otherwise we would ignore.

Can we show motion in photography? Well, sort of. Remember, we are talking about still photographs, therefore the motion can only be implied. Today I want to introduce you to a few ways to show movement. Shutter priority mode is your friend. You can either use very fast or very slow shutter speeds. In fact this is about the only time I use shutter priority as I use aperture priority about 80% of the time.

Using fast shutter speeds

This allows you to freeze the movement. It’s pretty easy. All you have to do is to use a very high speed. I used 1/2000 sec in the photo below to freeze the wave. This definitely suggests motion and you can almost hear the sound of the powerful wave and feel the water drops. You can’t always use a very fast speed because the light may now allow it, but I would recommend at least 1/500. You can learn how to make the most of shutter priority mode here.

Big ocean wave

Using slow shutter speeds

You can suggest motion by creating blur. There are many variations and I listed a few of them below.

Keeping camera steady and using a slow shutter speed

It was a beautiful night in Paris and I spotted a large group of roller skaters zooming by. A shutter speed of 1/4 of a second allowed me to blur the movement of the roller skaters while keeping the background somewhat in focus.

Roller Skaters in Paris


Another option is to use a very popular method called panning. This one is a little more tricky and it’s basically a trial and error method. I usually like to set the shutter speed around 1/30 sec. and the focus to AI Servo on my Canon camera. I focus on the moving object and move the camera in a horizontal plane with the object as I press the shutter button. This is how I took the cover photo of the BMW above. If you’ve tried this method before, you probably know that it takes a lot of shots until you get the picture just right. You can learn more about panning here.

Moving camera as you take the shot

I took the picture below by accident. I changed the mode on my camera to Manual without even realizing it and the settings were 1/5 sec at f/22. Very slow shutter speed again. I really liked the blurred crocuses. I liked the colors and the fact that you can’t really tell what they are. Next time you realize you have the wrong setting on the camera, don’t rush to delete the picture. You may have just taken a cool, interesting picture without even realizing it. You can see another a similar photo is one of my older blog posts.

Crocuses in motion

Showing motion in still photography can be challenging but you can definitely do it you with just a little patience and creativity. These are only a few ideas. I would love to see some of your motion shots. Why not share them with the Balcony?

For more photography tips and ideas, check out my latest photography book, Picture (Im)perfect Photographynow available at Amazon.


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