How to Use Exposure to Capture Blur in Your Photography

Getting the right exposure in your photographs can be quite tricky. Depending on your priority, you will have to correctly manipulate the exposure triangle. You might decide to use a high ISO setting if you want a grainy film effect. For wide landscape shots, you might need a high F-Stop to get every detail, or if you want to freeze some action, you will have to go for a high shutter speed. Getting the right effect and exposure in your photograph does not only mean having to focus on one exposure element, you have to know how to balance out all 3 depending on your lighting condition.

If you want to capture motion blur in your photography, it's a combination of getting the right shutter speed and mixing it up with the proper aperture and ISO setting. Here are some ways to make sure that you get the best dramatic effect for capturing objects in motion.

Set Your Tripod

If you want to capture motion, having your tripod in place should be your first rule. If you're attempting to capture motion, the last thing you would want is to capture your camera shake as well. The first key to a successful motion photograph is to make sure that your camera is secure. If you're planning a swish pan motion photograph, simply loosen your tripod's head to enable movement from left to right. If you don't have a tripod, make sure your camera is on a stable and secure surface.

Focus Your Blur

This means that you should know which subjects you want to keep in focus, and which you want to blur. If you're taking a photograph of a waterfall, do you want to capture the effect of running water while keeping everything else in sharp focus? Or if you're at a subway station, maybe you want the waiting passengers to look focused while blurring the passing subway. First, decide on which aspects you want to blur, and then set your camera accordingly.

Slow Your Shutter

Capturing motion requires a slow shutter. Your shutter speed will depend on the movement you want to capture, and your lighting condition. If you're taking a photograph of breakwaters by moonlight, that will require several minutes of exposure. If you want to capture a ferris wheel in motion during daytime, you might need a full second or longer. For sports photography, where the subject is in focus but the background is not in motion, 1/30 may be good enough depending on the lighting condition.

Take Several Shots

Capturing motion is rarely perfect on your first shot. Unless you're an experienced sports photographer, you will need several shots of different exposure settings to get that perfect motion blur. Play around with your aperture, and bracket your shots accordingly. Also, try taking photographs a speed higher and a speed lower than recommended. This will not only ensure that you go home with a satisfying motion blur photograph, but this will also give you the experience you need for a better photo session the next time around.  


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