7 ways to capture blur or blurry illusions in photos

Most of the time, we try to avoid blurring the photo. But sometimes, you can add some blur to make it special. I have listed seven ways to add blur to a photo or the illusion of blur. It can help you find inspiration for your photography.

A lot of photographic work requires a sharp and well-focused photo. We use sophisticated autofocus systems to help focus, such as the latest AF-AI Sony a7R DRAW mirrorless camera (read my review of this camera) and autofocus tracking is as responsive as Canon EOS R6 Mark II yes (read my review of this camera as well). Coupled with the excellent stabilization systems that work up to eight stops, it seems impossible to take a picture that is out of focus or blurred.

Of course, these systems will help capture sharp images regardless of ISO, aperture or shutter speed limits used. It also depends on the movement of the subject itself as the stabilization is only intended to reduce camera shake. If an image is not sharp enough, we usually throw it away. It is considered a failed photo.

Sometimes an image doesn’t have to be perfectly sharp, especially when it’s a memory, such as a photo from a vacation or another memorable moment. Some photographers intentionally use some kind of blur. Intentional camera movement is a prime example, which seems to have become more common over time. A few years ago, it was just a niche, but now more and more people are experimenting with some sort of blur.

I have listed some creative ways to use blur, lack of sharpness or the illusion of blur. It can help you find inspiration.

1. Shallow depth of field

Shallow depth of field is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of blur in an image. This is also the easiest way to reduce sharpness in an image. Only a small portion of the frame will be sharp. The amount is determined by a combination of aperture, distance to subject, and focal length.

The quality of the out-of-focus area is called the bokeh effect. This can be used to your advantage. Sports highlights in the out of focus area work well, but shooting in low light can also produce great results.

2. Rotate

If you track a moving subject with your camera while taking a photo with a relatively slow shutter speed, motion blur will appear while the subject is relatively sharp. This is known as panning, which is often used for motor sports or with animals running or flying.

When done right, it gives a strong sense of movement. Sometimes, the subject is also blurred due to motion, but that is not the problem. This can be a pretty tricky photography technique and takes a lot of practice to figure out what focal length and shutter speed works best in a situation.

3. Long exposure

While long shutter speeds are used in a variety of ways to add blur to photos, long exposure should be added to this list as a unique way to capture motion blur. Typically, neutral density filters are used to capture the right amount of motion blur in water or clouds.

Long exposures don’t have to be too long. When capturing movement of vehicles or people, you must find the right exposure time. In fact, this also applies to clouds and water in landscape photography.

4. Move the camera intentionally

With a long exposure and a fixed camera, it is possible to capture the movement of the subject. With intentional camera movement, aka ICM photography, you move the camera with a longer shutter speed while the subject is fixed.

In this particular situation, you can do motion blur for non-moving objects. Vertical motion is often used with trees. However, you can also combine a moving camera with a moving subject. It’s like panning, but instead of trying to keep the subject sharp, the intentional movement of the camera will also add intentional motion blur to the subject.

5. Double exposure

With double exposure, many of the previously mentioned techniques can be combined. A stationary subject can be captured multiple times in a single frame. Or you can use motion blur in conjunction with normal shooting. It is also possible to combine an out-of-focus image with an in-focus image. The possibilities are endless, and your own imagination is the only limit.

Although the camera itself can double exposure, not all cameras have this built-in. This technique can also be used in a program like Photoshop or Related Photos. I prefer to do this in the field with my camera. It’s more like photo editing if done in post.

6. Through-Object Shooting

Blur can also be achieved by shooting through objects. I used Perspex tubes and prisms for my wedding photography. It is also possible to use other objects in your vicinity. Shoot through glass, leaves and flowers, or even through a group of people. As long as you find a way to keep the subjects in the foreground out of focus, you can maintain your attention on the subject itself.

I’ve seen all sorts of tutorials on the internet that give good ideas for through-object shooting. A rubber band allows you to fix everything around the lens, creating a nice dark effect. Try shooting through a clear plastic bag, which will create great texture at the edges of the frame.

7. Flashback

Using reflections in photos is always a good way to make a photo more interesting. I also wrote a post about seven ways to add reflections to photos on Fstoppers. Unless you have a pristine reflective surface, some blurring will be visible in the reflection.

The texture of the surface where the reflection occurs will usually add some sort of blur. In addition, the movement of the water can change the way the reflection is seen. With water, you can control the blur effect by disturbing the surface of the water yourself, adding some kind of movement to it.

Maybe there are other ways too

Here are seven ways I use my photography to add some kind of blur to photos. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with in-camera movement a lot and I find it hard to get good results, but I find it a fun way to represent landscapes in a very special way.

Maybe you can think of another way that will create some kind of blur in the image. If you do, please let me know in the comments below. I hope this article and your comments will provide some inspiration.


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