Can You Feel It? What You Need to Know About Photographing Motion
Photography, the art of still images, is fascinated by motion. We use image stabilizers, tripods, and learn to avoid motion in any possible way. But then we realize that motion is indeed fascinating and we do our best to catch it in our compositions. Actually, photography has everything to do with motion, time, and the moment. So if your portfolio has just motionless pictures, it’s time for a change. Because light itself is a movement and you cannot be a great photographer without understanding that your compositions are about movements. Here are some easy steps to master motion in photography.
Photographing Moving Subjects
Moving subjects are amazing opportunities to practice the art of photographing the world around us. They are easy to find too. Running water, cars, bicycles, people walking or running in parks, carousels, and animals are just a few of the many examples out there. Photographers have two approaches toward moving subjects: keep the subject in focus although it is moving and allow a blurred subject to express motion.
- Keep a Moving Subject in Focus – If you don’t want to have a blurred subject although it is moving, you need to use a fast shutter speed. It needs to be so fast, that your camera doesn’t record the movement. It also helps to put some distance between you and the subject. Also, don’t use zooming. Wide lenses are the best for this aim. Another technique is panning. Panning means you follow the subject with your camera while you take the picture. This technique works for subjects like people and cars, but it doesn’t work for running water, snow or rain, and any other unpredictable subjects. Keeping moving subjects in focus is the territory of sport photography. The usual settings for sports are fast shutter speeds, low ISO, and wide aperture. You can always find inspiration and knowledge in the work of famous sport photographers like Neil Leifer and Oliver Scarff.
- Blur a Moving Subjects – This can happen by itself when you photograph a moving subject. Still, you have to control and own it. Use a lower shutter speed and a tripod. This way you’ll avoid blurring the entire image. You need a still background and one or many moving subjects. Wide lenses are also recommended. This technique is used to photograph rivers, waves, and waterfalls. It is also used when the reaction in the background is more powerful than the subjects (in racing for example). The apogee of this technique is photographing moving lights. Urban night scenes are preferred for this. Use a tripod and set the camera to a very low shutter speed (for example, 1-2 minutes or even more). You’ll register the flow of lights while the rest of the scene will remain sharp and clear.
Recording Movement with Still Subjects
You can photograph movement even if your subjects are still. Intentional movements of the camera while taking pictures is a common practice among photographers. By inducing motion, they build a mood, an atmosphere. For example, when taking pictures of a storm, moving the camera can simulate wind. But not only dark and fearful scenes can benefit from intentional move of the camera. You can use it to express joy, excitement, love, and many other feelings. It all depends on your composition, light setting, and subject.
As you see, motion is a vast subject. It can appear natural or it can be induced. Even so, motion in still pictures add a new dimension, making the compositions richer and more interesting. Photographing movement requires a lot of practice and a very solid knowledge of how camera works. You need to be fast and precise. Some subjects may wait for you (the ocean doesn’t leave anywhere), but others may disappear in a second (a jumping athlete).