Special Effects: Blur in Photos
Have you ever wondered why some photos really attract your attention, and others don’t?
And what is it that makes you focus on a specific element in a photo?
Today I want to analyse some photos to demonstrate a very powerful visual technique - blur.
Don’t worry, there won’t be any super technical terms. I want you to understand what it’s about and then be able to apply it to your own photos.
This is a blueprint - it’s just a way to inspire you and to encourage you to play around with your camera (which is why I won’t go into every detail here).
You don’t have to get it perfect straight away.
As long as you’ve heard of shutter speed, aperture and ISO before it’s all good. If not, just google, there are 2 million posts on that out there already.
I picked some photos from spring this year which I haven’t shared before - a little reminder that summer isn’t quite over yet. Don’t forget to enjoy the last sunshine, winter will be long enough.
There are 3 types of blur according to my definition. You will very likely find other people who say other things - but that’s what I think anyway.
For now we’ll look at 2 of those techniques. (The third one is a bit more complicated, and requires some extra time.)
Background Blur - shallow depth-of-field
Aperture: F 1.8
Shutter speed: 1/640 s
See how the flowers in the background are blurry? That’s because my aperture is really wide open (small F-number=wide aperture), which causes a shallow depth-of-field.
The point of focus is on the flowers in the front, that’s why they’re sharp.
Everything else (in front + behind) is out of focus, and therefore blurry. That’s basically what depth-of-field means.
Subject Blur - slow shutter speed + moving subject
Aperture: F 1.8
Shutter speed: 1/800 s (could be a lot slower)
Okay, honestly this isn’t really the best example I could give you.
This type of blur relates to the shutter speed, and can be achieved by using a slow shutter speed (e.g. 1/60 s, 1/30 s, or even slower - depends on how much light there is around you). My shutter speed in this photo isn’t slow at all, though. It’s actually faster than in the photos before, so that’s not the best example to demonstrate subject blur.
The photo is blurry anyway, because the wind makes the branch of the tree move.
(Don’t get confused. If you do leave a comment, or email me and I’ll explain further.)
So usually you get a photo where the subject is blurry when the subject is moving, and your shutter speed isn’t fast enough.
Let’s think of a dancer. In order to freeze things up your shutter speed needs to be fast enough. If it’s not the person dancing will simply end up blurry - because the camera took a while to capture the dancer, and so the dancer had enough time to move around while the shutter of the camera was open.
Your camera will capture everything that happens while the shutter is open. So if the shutter is open for a long time (1/30s e.g., and everything slower than that), it will capture all the movement that happens during that time.
This type of blur emphasizes movement (like I said, a dancer is a good example). It leaves the mind with uncertainty about the parts that aren’t sharp - and therefore gives it a chance to fill in all the ‘missing parts’ itself. Exciting.
Now go ahead and give those techniques a go (after you've looked at a few more nice & blossoming spring flowers, and wished it was spring all over again). It will make your photos look more interesting, and you can really play around with it, achieving different effects.
As I said before - please leave a comment if you need a bit more help on that or have any questions.
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