Tips For Motion Photography



Motion photography represents an intriguing area of photography, sizzling with dynamism and vitality. Have you ever marveled at pictures portraying the rush of a bustling city street, the vibrant flutter of a bird taking flight, or the graceful arc of a diver plunging into the water? These fascinating images are the work of motion photography.

But what exactly is motion photography? Simply put, it’s a style of photography that encapsulates the feeling of movement within a still image. It captures the passing of time, offering a tantalizing glimpse into fleeting moments. From sports photography to wildlife photography, street photography to abstract artistic impressions, motion photography finds utility in various fields.

If you want to elevate your photography skills, understanding and mastering motion photography could be the boost your portfolio needs. Not only does it add a new dimension to your body of work, but it also offers you the tools to portray the world round you in a unique, thrillingly vibrant way. To capture the flow of life in a single still frame, now that’s the magic of motion photography!

So, are you ready to explore the endless possibilities of motion photography, sharpen your skills, and unlock new potentials? Then strap in, because we’re about to dive headfirst into the captivating flow of this dynamic technique.

Tip 1: Understand Shutter Speed

Shutter Speed can be considered as the pulse of your camera. It determines how long your camera’s sensor is exposed to light and is a crucial factor in capturing motion in photography. While high shutter speeds can freeze action into a still image, slow shutter speeds allow movement to register as a blur.

Visualize a hummingbird hovering over a flower. If you employ a fast shutter speed, the hummingbird’s wings will appear as if suspended mid-flap. On the other hand, using a slow shutter speed will lend a blur to the wings, communicating their speedy fluttering.

Take, for instance, sports photography. Have you ever seen a photo of a basketball player mid-air, perfectly frozen in an incredible dunk? That’s an example of a fast shutter speed at play. Now picture, a bustling city intersection shot with a touch of vagueness – blurry cars exhibiting the hustling city’s restless nature. That’s the magic of allowing a slow shutter speed to capture the motion’s essence.

Remember, effective use of shutter speed, a crucial technical element, can be the bridge to capturing your artistic vision. Tag along with us as we dive deeper into this engaging field. From dancing droplets to accelerating automobiles, motion photography multiplies your opportunities for truly captivating shots, all hinging on your understanding of shutter speed. Be patient and progressive with your pratice, as each increment of speed can significantly alter the ethos of your image. After a bit of tinkering, you’ll realize it’s more a rhythm than a science. Indeed, your fingers will seemingly dance on the dials as you expertly navigate capturing the perfect motion in your frame.

Tip 2: Practice Panning

In the grand scheme of capturing motion in photographs, panning serves as a useful technique that can create a sense of movement and energy in your images. Panning is the method of moving your camera along with the subject in motion, resulting in an in-focus subject against a blurred background that represents speed and movement.

To perform panning, start by finding an ideal shutter speed. An approachable range is between 1/30 and 1/60 of a second, but real-world scenarios might demand flexibility and adaptation. Test these settings to find the one that works best for your situation, understanding that a slower shutter results in more motion blur.

Next, the actual panning motion: it’s all about smooth hand tracking. Lock your gaze and camera lens on the subject, moving your entire upper body, not just the arms, to follow the moving subject. Think of your waist as a pivot point. Start snapping as the subject comes into your frame and keep moving with the subject even after the shot. This follow through ensures a smoother panning motion.

Panning is particularly effective when shooting sports, racing, or even wildlife photography. A cyclist whipping past your vantage, a racing car zooming down the track, or swift gazelle galloping across the savannah—these situations scream “panning opportunity.”

Mastering panning requires a dose of patience and a sprinkle of grit. It might take multiple trials (and likely a few errors) to find that harmonious blend of speed, smooth tracking, and shutter setting. But that one crystal-clear subject against a beautifully streaked background will remind you why it’s worth the effort. So, keep calm and pan on.

Tip 3: Experiment with Long Exposures

Long exposure technique—sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? This approach to motion photography is like weaving dreams into your snapshots, capturing ethereal streams of motion that give fluidity to your composition.

Long exposure essentially involves leaving your camera’s shutter open for an extended period, allowing more light to hit the sensor. This creates a luscious streaking effect, turning elements like water or light into smooth, flowing ribbons—both mesmerizing and inspiring. The great news is you don’t need to be a master sorcerer to manipulate time in your photos; a basic understanding of a few simple tricks should do the magic.

However, you’ve likely heard the popular photography adage that states, “For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.” Okay, maybe that’s Newton’s third law, but it applies here too. In this case, long exposures can risk overexposure due to the prolonged shutter time. To counteract this, compensate with smaller apertures or neutral density filters to control light entry.

Camera stability is of utmost importance when trying out long exposure. Any unintended motion can introduce unpleasant blurriness. Imagine spending ages setting up that perfect shot of the city skyline at night, only to end up with what looks like a toddler’s crayon interpretation of a light show—a heartbreaking scenario. Tripods? Yes, please!

Car lights on a highway, star trails in the night sky, or the silky cascading water of a waterfall, these are classic subjects for long exposure. Experiment. See what beautiful streaks of motion you can introduce in your work.

Understanding and mastering long exposure raises your photography game to another level, giving you greater versatility in capturing the world in your unique style. In the next section, we’ll explore another handy tool in motion photography – the Burst Mode.

Tip 4: Use Burst Mode

Imagine trying to capture each moment of a high-speed car race or every flap of a hummingbird’s wings through single shots. It feels like quite a challenge, doesn’t it? Simply pressing the shutter of your camera for every fleeting moment isn’t just daunting – it’s impractical.

Well, burst mode, also known as continuous shooting mode, is your secret photography weapon waiting to be deployed for these exact situations. With burst mode, your camera takes multiple photos in quick succession with a single press of the shutter button.

This is how it works: when you hold down the shutter button in burst mode, your camera will capture several frames per second. For instance, if your camera has a burst rate of 10 frames per second (fps), it will take 10 photos in a single second. This allows you to capture all the intricate details of rapidly moving subjects. Later, you can sort through these images to select the best shot or even create a sequence of shots for a dynamic presentation of the subject’s motion.

Burst mode is perfect when photographing fast-moving subjects like sports, wildlife, or energetic children. The beauty of the ordinary world becomes extraordinary when you have a sequence of images that reveal what the naked eye might miss.

However, remember that using burst mode can fill up your memory card faster due to the larger amount of photos taken, so it’s also a good practice to keep a few spare cards on hand. Nonetheless, the ability to capture that perfect frame with all the action and emotion makes using burst mode a worthy technique in your motion photography toolkit.

Remember, the essence of photography is capturing moments. With burst mode, you’re simply capturing a lot more of these moments in the same amount of time. So go ahead, set your camera to burst mode and let the rapidfire ‘click…click…click’ of your shutter lead you to your next amazing action shot.

Tip 5: Strategic Positioning

The importance of strategic positioning in capturing motion can often be overlooked. But rest assured, this simple factor can make the difference between an ordinary photo and an extraordinary one. A judicious application of perspective and angles can drastically change the way motion is presented in your photography.

Consider the movement you’re capturing. Is it a downhill surge of cyclists or a playful dog chasing its tail? Your positioning in relation to such motion will determine whether you freeze the concentrated effort on the cyclist’s faces or capture the hypnotic circle created by the dog’s chase.

For panning or long exposure techniques, positioning is even more crucial. If you’re panning, you’ll want to place yourself somewhere with a good view of the subject’s path of motion so you can easily follow with your camera. This could mean being at the same level of your subject, such as on the pavement for a speedy car, or being above for a cyclist’s downhill rush.

When experimenting with long exposures, such as capturing the sweeping motion of stars or a bustling cityscape, choose a vantage point where you can see the full motion trail. Your position should allow you to take in the entire stretch of the lights or the complete skyline.

Of course, finding the best position often involves a bit of trial and error, and perhaps the occasional contortionist manoeuvre. Cue nostalgia for that time you tried to photograph squirrels from a tree branch.

Remember, the goal here is to leverage angles and perspectives to make your motion shots as dynamic and engaging as possible. With a bit of practice, you’ll find the perfect balance between camera placement and capture technique to create bedazzling motion images. This should give your audience a ‘we’re right in there’ feel that pulls them deeper into the whirl of your motion photography.

Tip 6: Utilize Continuous Focus

In the realm of motion photography, attaining sharp and clear photos of moving subjects can be a challenge. Aiming to tackle this issue head-on, let’s dive into the functionality of Continuous Focus, both a rescuer and an enhancer of capturing dynamic scenes.

Continuous Focus is a focus mode available on most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. Canon calls it AI Servo AF, Nikon refers to it as AF-C, but no matter the brand lingo, the function remains the same. This mode continually refocuses on a moving subject, enabling the photographer to keep that subject sharp as it moves across the frame.

Say you’re photographing a sprinting dog, a cyclist in a race, or a bird in flight – objects moving rapidly and unpredictably. Employing Continuous Focus allows your camera to perpetually adjust its focus to maintain sharpness on the fast-moving subject, providing you with sharper, more defined outcomes that a static focus approach might miss.

Here’s how you can utilize it: once your subject starts moving, half-press your shutter release button, which activates the focusing process. As long as you maintain the half-press, your camera will continuously update the focus, adjust to the subject’s movement, and maintain sharpness. Then, fully press down the shutter release button at the precise moment you wish to capture. It’s a simple, yet effective method to bring you one step closer to motion photography mastery.

Remember, mastering Continuous Focus alongside the other skills enhances your motion photography quality. Though it might seem complicated at first, with practice, you’d be surprised at how quickly you grasp its functionality and effectivity. A well-focused image makes motion photography not just dynamic, but also clear and impactful, hence elevating your overall skill and photo results.

Tip 7: Post-Processing Tips

The importance of photographing your motion subjects correctly cannot be overstated. However, there’s a whole realm of magic that you can create after your shots have been captured. This magic, often referred to as post-processing, simply refers to the editing process applied to your photos to enhance their overall appeal and story.

Among post-processing software, Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop sit comfortably at the top, known for their comprehensive suite of tools that give you unlimited possibilities for refining your pictures. While these tools in the hands of a novice can render an image cartoonish if not used wisely, the right touch can produce brilliant results.

To obtain sharper images, for instance, you can adjust the ‘Clarity’ and ‘Sharpening’ sliders in Lightroom. Don’t shy away from playing with colors—the ‘HSL’ (Hue, Saturation, Luminance) panel lets you refine specific color ranges in your photo, reimagining a scene to your taste.

In the world of motion photography, one of the challenges is adequately capturing light. If your image appears too dark or bright, you’re in luck—Brightness and Contrast controllers are here to save the day. What’s more, Lightroom’s ‘Graduated Filter’ tool is splendid for those skies you want to punch up without affecting your perfectly-lit subjects.

Post-processing isn’t about distorting reality but fine-tuning it. So have fun, experiment, and remember to always keep a copy of your original image. Just like in actual photography, the principle of “less is more” generally applies.

In conclusion, post-processing is the ace up your sleeve to make good photos great, adding a finishing touch to your motion captures. It’s a powerful skill, providing both control and creative freedom that can separate your work from the crowd. While it should never be used as a crutch for poor photography techniques, when used wisely, it acts as the final polish on a well-executed photograph. So, why not give it a spin and allow your motion photos to sparkle even brighter?


Rewinding back to where we began, the art of motion photography is about capturing a sense of speed and imparting a sense of dynamism to static images. Like any form of photography, it strikes a balance between technicality and creativity, melding these two aspects into a unified whole. From shutter speed, panning, long exposures to strategic positioning, continuous focus, burst mode usage, and mastering post-processing techniques—you have ventured into each of these intricacies of motion photography in this article.

While the information and tips presented here have aimed to equip you with greater technical understanding and practical guidance, remember that the real teacher is experience. Certainly, the ground rules remain, but true mastery comes from experimenting with all these techniques in a symphony of trial and error. You may face many “blurry” trials before you capture the “perfect motion,” much like a sculptor chipping away at a block of marble until the desired shape emerges.

And don’t forget the tango of post-processing. As we discussed, tools like Photoshop and Lightroom can enhance your motion captures with alterations to sharpness, color, and brightness, helping your artistic vision to come alive.

So, grab your gear, get out there, and shoot! Try varying your shutter speeds, chase moments with your panning technique, or freeze moments in time with burst mode. Experiment with long exposures and enjoy the dance of light trails unfurling themselves on your frame. Remember, the concrete jungle or the natural world, both are playgrounds for capturing motion.

In essence, motion photography isn’t merely about capturing movement—it’s just as much about capturing emotion and telling stories through dichotomies of speed and stillness. It’s a skill that demands patience, practice, and a keen eye, but once honed, it offers a unique way of seeing and capturing the world around you.

So, are you ready to bring those still subjects to life, capture the perfect wave, or make raindrops look like they’re frozen in time? This is your moment to embark on the exciting challenge that is motion photography. Practice, experiment, and most importantly, enjoy the process. As the saying goes, ‘Every picture tells a story,’ and with motion photography, your stories are bound to leap right off the frame!

The Creativv
American digital marketer and founder of with over a decade of experience in event, travel, portrait, product, and cityscape photography.