In many cases, blurry photos are a bad thing: photos are supposed to be in focus and sharp to be considered good. I usually follow this “rule” but I’ve been trying to be more creative recently and I’ve decided to create intentional blur in my photos. And I found out that the result could be awesome, fun, and creative (as is often the case when you break an artistic “rule” on purpose!).
Camera shake: when your shutter speed is too slow to handheld your camera, you get camera shake. It can be “bad” when it’s distracting from the subject of your picture, but it can also be a fun technique when done on purpose. I took this very abstract image, for example, with a 3 seconds exposure and while spinning my camera in front of Christmas lights.
Cynthia Haynes is a photographer I discovered recently who is known for her long exposure / intentionally blurry pictures, and she has some pretty inspiring shots!
Bokeh: this type of blur is created by using a very big aperture (very small f/number, like f/1.8 for example) and it’s usually in the backgound of something sharp, but you can also create bokeh “by itself”, on purpose. Last week we had some spectacular sunsets, and I obviously had to snap some pix after work. I started with the classic, in focus, shot.
Not bad, but not very original either, right? Then I decided to manually un-focus and create bokeh with the sun reflection on the river. You can’t see the landscape any more, but you get an abstract picture where light and colors are the most important things.
Here’s a more classic example of bokeh, that I created by focusing on the puddle right in front of me with a very big aperture, so that the background (and a bit of the foreground too, since the depth of field is very small) is out of focus.
Movement blur: this happens when your camera is steady (because your shutter speed is fast enough for you to handheld it or because it’s on a strong support like a tripod, a table, etc.) but that your subject moves faster than your shutter speed. This is the technique you use to photograph fireworks, for example, that’s how you create those gorgeous “flowers”.
You can also use this technique to show movement and gives a sense of speed. That’s what I did (without even knowing, I was just starting to take pictures and had absolutely no idea what I was doing! LOL) while photographing the Tour de France in our little town in 2005. I got on the first floor of a building, right above the road, and since the day was cloudy and dark, my camera (in auto mode) selected a shutter speed too slow for those speedy athletes.
If I had do take that picture again, knowing what I know now, I’d definitely try to use a technique called panning where you follow your moving subject with the camera. That way, your subject will look sharp and the environment around it will become blurry, kinda the opposite of the image above. It’s a perfect technique for races of all sorts because of how much it materializes speed.
I hope you’ll enjoy playing with intentional blur and find these tips helpful! Don’t hesitate to comment with your questions or post in the forums!
About the author Chloé is in charge of PR and communication for her small town by day, is a digiscrapper “by night” and a photographer whenever the light is beautiful. She lives with her man and fur-babies in a small town of Alsace (in the northeast of France), where she loves to read, watch good TV shows (TWD being her absolute favorite), and just hang out with her friends — no matter if they are close by, online, or away in her Swiss hometown