There's good motion blur and bad motion blur. The bad kind occurs when you want a crisp, sharp image but the light conditions demand a slower shutter speed and movement of the subject or the camera, sometimes both, leaves you with a blurry image. Good motion blur is easy to achieve technically and fun to experiment with at any time.
Motion blur is achieved by shooting the subject with a relatively slow shutter speed. Set your camera to Shutter Priority [S], focus on the subject and use the command dial to change to a shutter speed setting of 1/30th of a second or less. The slower the shutter speed, the more blur your image will have. Experiment with this, setting the shutter at slower and slower speeds until you find the perfect amount of blur for your subject.
Subject Motion Blur
To achieve subject motion blur, hold the camera still as you would when taking a normal picture but use a slow shutter speed, capturing the movement of the subject as you snap the shutter.
Camera Motion Blur
As the name suggests, camera blur is achieved by moving the camera while pressing the shutter with a slow shutter speed setting. Even a static subject will be blurred using this technique. The amount of blur will depend on the shutter speed setting and the amount of camera movement.
Experiment with slower and slower shutter speeds in both cases to achieve the effect that you are after. In this assignment choose an appropriate subject matter and experiment with painting motion onto the camera sensor. For instance, shooting a forest in a violent wind storm at a slow shutter speed will capture pleasant swashes of green and brown and, in the autumn, red and yellow. Traffic, hurrying pedestrians, running animals and flying birds are all suitable subject matter.
Perfect Timing: Many attempts were required to take this photo of a fire dancer at Vancouver's Pacific National Exhibition [PNE]. Subject motion blur here was captured with a fisheye lens at ƒ2.8 [wide open] using a shutter speed of 1/20th of a second. Being at the back of a crowd of onlookers, I had to hold the camera high above their heads to get a clear shot of the performer. Doing so enabled me to captivate the attention of the performer, imparting a slight, top-down perspective to the shot as well.
This shot of the Tour de Gastown cycling race was achieved using both subject and camera motion blur. The background was a bit ugly and distracting so I panned the camera in the opposite direction of the movement to blur out the background while at the same time over-emphasizing speed of the racers.
This shot of crows in California used just enough subject motion blur to capture the movement of wing tips while leaving the naked tree branches sharp against a bleached out winter sky. Though I don't have the exact shutter speed available it was probably between 1/60th and 1/30th of a second. A slower shutter speed would have ruined the shot by capturing camera shake that blurred the entire image.
Subject motion blur was used at dusk, also at Vancouver's Pacific National Exhibition [PNE], to capture the swirling motion of a Playland ride. Again, the ultra wide angle was used but this time, due to the relatively bright sky, the aperture was stopped down to ƒ16, reducing the light enough to expose the scene for a full second.
All photographs were taken by Brian Grover.