4 Fun Ways To Show Motion In Your Photos

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How about learning something different this time, such as ways to show motion in photography?

Photography places great importance on stillness. It’s one of the concepts most relentlessly drilled into the minds of burgeoning photographers. We’re all shown photos of fantastically sharp images and told that is what we should strive for.

When it comes to building fundamental skills, I don’t find fault with such an approach — it’s vital to know how to capture a sharp photo.

But stillness and sharpness aren’t everything. There are times when a shot that dynamically conveys motion is all you want, and you can achieve that by not keeping your camera still.

Here are four ways to portray motion by moving your camera.

Panning

This is a technique often seen in sports photography and is accomplished by using your camera to horizontally “scan” a subject as it moves across the frame. The goal is to get a blurred background while keeping the moving subject in sharp focus.

A few tips for successful panning:

  • Set your shutter speed between 1/30 and 1/60 sec.
  • Make sure you aren't too close to the subject.
  • Make sure that you position yourself so there are no obstructions between you and the subject.
  • Set your AF mode to continuous focus.
  • Be sure to stay with your subject’s movement and track as smoothly as possible.
  • Press the shutter button completely while panning the camera along with your moving subject and continue tracking even after the shot is completed. Following through in this manner will help ensure the motion blur in the shot is smooth from start to finish.
man riding green and black road bike during daytime
Photo by Mattia Cioni

Camera Spinning

It’s as easy as it sounds. Take a photo as you whirl around (hold your camera tightly).

An alternate method is to hang your camera around your neck, set the self-timer, and spin around while holding an object out in front of you. The result will be similar to the panning technique, showing an in-focus subject and a blurry (spinning) background.

ways to show motion
Photo by Jack B

Camera Tossing

Before embarking on this maneuver, be sure to do some serious risk-reward assessment. Then, if you decide to go through with it, spend some time practicing your catching skills.

Like camera spinning, camera tossing is painfully one of the self-explanatory ways to show motion. You set the self-timer and toss your camera in the air.

Your results will be unpredictable but will also probably be fascinating. You can up the visual impact by using a fisheye lens.

This isn’t for everyone but if you’ve got a reckless streak in you, give it a try.

person catching camera lens
Photo by Jakob Owens

Zooming While Shooting

Back to safe ways of moving your camera to capture motion — try zooming in or out while taking a photo. This will give your image a 3D look.

Here are a few tips for zooming:

  • You will need a relatively slow shutter speed so it’s important to keep the camera itself as still as possible.
  • Shooting around city lights at night can create some really amazing results.
  • This effect works best with a zoom lens but if you don’t have one you can still get the effect by manually moving your camera toward or away from the subject during exposure.
  • To get well-defined motion lines in your image, be sure to make your lens zooming motion as smooth and uniform (same speed throughout) as you can.
ways to show motion: zoom burst
Photo by michal dziekonski

Final Thoughts On Ways To Show Motion

A motionless camera and a static image don’t necessarily define good photography. There are numerous ways to create a dynamic photo that conveys motion in a palpable manner. The ideas above are just a few of those ways. Give them a try and have fun in the process.

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About Author

Jason Little is a photographer, author and stock shooter. You can see Jason’s photography on his Website or his Instagram feed.

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