Photographing a Purposeful Blur

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license. | Source

Photographers spend all of the time looking for suitable subjects, setting the controls to capture the best image, freezing all movement, angling for new perspectives, in short making sure than nothing goes wrong with the photo that they are about to record.

However, some images may appear as if something went wrong because they are a little blurred. This can sometimes be done on purpose. There are some occasions where the image may benefit from some blur. If the subject expresses an emotion or a state of mind like confusion or has a very rich and powerful color but the subject itself is not that powerful like a orange bouncing ball or the subject is full of color but the image as a whole does not seem to stand out, then perhaps blurring the shot intentionally may be more of a solution.

The images recorded this way may carry an air of impressionist art which is the actual purpose of this theme.

Of special interest are subjects that have an inherent strong color tone but by themselves are rather unimpressive. A field of green and tan tall grasses may not make a good photographic subject but if the image of this field is allowed to blur by the motion of the wind, they resulting product is an impressionist work of art. A flock of birds flying high in the sky all in unison and formation may not be an impressive photographic subject, but allowing a little blur in the recording stage creates a shape of "moving" lines and shapes which is sure to capture an audience's imagination.

A photograph of a fast speed bike if taken properly freezes the action and you will be able to see the entire subject quite clearly and very crisply, but if you want to represent a sense of "speed" in the scene, then allowing for a little blur will show most of the scene clearly but will trail some streaks of color. Images that include people depending on the foreground elements and the overall scene can be made to show an emotion when a little purposeful blur is added.

The amount of blur will determine how much of an impressionist piece the image turns out to be. Too much blur and the subject is lost within the scene, too little and it just seems to be a bad photograph. by adding just the right amount of blur the image becomes an in between sample; part subject part emotion.

You can use this technique to add an atmosphere of fun to the entire image where a static shot will just not be an attention grabber such as a shot of dogs running and frolicking amongst themselves. A stoic frozen shot can be just boring and uninteresting, but allow for a little blur and the interaction readily becomes apparent.

Place a toy in a moving platform such as a spinning wheel like the ones found at kid's parks, spin the wheel while you focus and capture the image of the toy, note that with this particular scene you will need to pan the subject; follow the subject/toy while you record the image. A static subject can be made more of a good shot with some intentional blurring as well as out of focus too. A string of light bulbs colored or just plain white ones seem to grow as if by magic when the image is slightly thrown out of focus and given some blur at the same time.

Picture a young woman with a bright and colorful umbrella. By having the young lady be still while at the same time twirling the umbrella behind her gives the scene an interesting appeal.

Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0
Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0 | Source

Practice this technique on various subjects, try using different shutter speeds for each subject; for example if your camera settings recommends a speed of 125 then try one at 60.

This technique is not for everyone, any blur if the scene does not warrant it can turn a good image into a bad one. If you are interested in pursuing this style, make sure that you research the various techniques that are currently in use and browse through various samples.

It is always a good idea to capture one clear and crisp image and one slightly blurred, if one doesn't work then perhaps the other one will.

Avail yourself of some impressionist readings and sample images too to gather a basic understanding of what this art styles composes. Also worth noting is that this technique works on static and fluid subjects but it's better suited for subjects on the move or you will have to be the originator of the movement.

This technique is also very similar to using a shallow dept of field, shifting the focus while recording an image and others, so it should be used judiciously and only when you can record an image that will appear better blurred than static.

Found it interesting?

See results without voting

© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez

More by this Author


Comments 13 comments

Robin Anderson profile image

Robin Anderson 5 years ago from United States

As always -- love the photos. Excellent examples!


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 5 years ago from North Carolina

That is a wonderful technique. Is there any way to do this with a standard digital camera? Love this!


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Robin Anderson: Thank you


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Tammyswallow: Thank you, most cameras will allow you to set the shutter speed manually, if your does then it is possible


svandijk profile image

svandijk 5 years ago from Queenstown, New Zealand

Good topic. I use slower shutter speeds myself to create more dynamic photos with moving subjects, rather than freezing the image with higher shutter speeds. Also with static objects can you create nice effects with slower shutter speeds while moving, twisting or turning the camera.


fordie profile image

fordie 5 years ago from China

Great examples. I especially like the animal ones. They look so alive


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

svandijk: Thank you, as you say photography has grown through the efforts of those willing to "break the rules" and purposely blurring is breaking the rules


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

fordie: thank you


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I love the mouse photo! Great examples as always. Blurring done well can be an amazing effect.


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

randomcreative; Thank you


psychicdog.net profile image

psychicdog.net 5 years ago

that first dog's face is a classic! cheers LG


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

psychicdog.net: Thank you


Normapadro 4 years ago

Hi. I like the little dog in the car. He's so cute.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working