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Motion blur

Created date

March 26th, 2015
harness racing
harness racing

In photography, “motion blur” is caused by two things: camera shake and movement by the subject being photographed—a car, a person moving, a horse running. 

When you move the camera during an exposure, the resulting camera shake causes motion blur and is generally something you don’t want. It’s easy to avoid. Concentrate on holding the camera steady. A viewfinder camera braced against your forehead gives good support. If you don’t have a viewfinder, press your elbows to your side and raise the camera close to your chest when looking at the LCD screen. This creates a secure anchor and a greater chance of capturing a sharp photo. 

In low-light situations, steady the camera by bracing it against a pole, a fence, or on a tabletop. However, camera movement, when done intentionally, can produce very creative pictures. But that takes a lot of practice and luck.

When using flash, particularly with red-eye prevention turned on, the tendency is to press the shutter button and immediately assume the photo is taken, and then move the camera. The result is camera motion blur. Be patient. Try to hold the camera steady until the main flash goes off. 

Motion blur also occurs when movement by the subject is faster than the camera shutter. On “auto mode” in bright sunlight, your camera uses a sufficiently fast shutter speed that stops most movement. If you set the shutter speed manually, 1/60 second and higher will generally give you a sharp picture. By the way, flash, when it is the main source of light, stops most subject action and is thus helpful in preventing motion blur.

Experimenting with blur

However, some objects (a car, a motor boat, or a horse) may move faster than the shutter speed you have set. By moving or tracking with the subject in the direction of its movement, you can get a sharp photo. This is called “panning.” The background will blur, but the subject will be sharp. Conversely, if you hold the camera still, the background will be sharp and the subject will blur. Sometimes, a blurred subject will produce a very eye-catching photo. 

When using your zoom lens at its greatest magnification, you are at greater risk of camera shake. Rule of thumb: The more magnified the framing of your photo, the greater the chances of motion blur. A tripod or other firm foundation can help prevent that.  

To take sharp pictures, take control. Steady the camera, use a firm foundation, and be patient when using flash.