Tag Archives: blurred movement


Movement uses art elements to direct a viewer’s eye along a path through the artwork, and/or to show movement, action and direction. Also, giving some elements the ability to be moved or move on their own, via internal or external power.

In a still picture such as a painting, photograph, or print where nothing is actually moving, various strategies can be used to give the viewer a sense of movement and speed, or to move the viewer’s eye through the work. These include lines, diagonals and unbalanced elements; blurring; placement; direction; and motion lines and after images.

  • Lines pointing in one direction and spirals can create movement; diagonals, tilted elements, and things out of balance or unsupported will all give the feeling that movement is or is about to occur.

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 12.07.22 PM

  • Fast-moving objects can be made to appear blurred, a little at the trailing edge or all over, depending on the speed and direction of motion (linear or rotational). Or, the subject may be relatively frozen in an instant while the background around it is blurred – in photography this is done by panning the camera to follow the subject while the exposure is made.

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 12.23.51 PM

  • Placement can help show or frame motion. A moving subject placed in the first third of an image will have room to run. A moving subject placed in the last third may look like it’s about ready to hit the edge of the image: this placement is used if distance already traveled is of interest and could be emphasized to advantage. A moving subject that has already partially or mostly left the frame can show extreme speed, and/or the moment left in the wake of its passage.

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 12.31.31 PM


  • Direction can influence the perception of speed. Objects moving from left to right may have a sense of moving faster to those whose language is read from left to right (e.g. English). Likewise, objects moving down or at a downward slant can seem speedier than those moving up, as in nature it is more work and usually slower to climb.

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 12.30.47 PMScreen Shot 2014-07-16 at 12.31.05 PM


  • Motion lines and afterimages can also be used to indicate motion – these techniques are common in graphic narrative works. Motion lines trail from near the back of the moving element in the direction of the path it has just traveled: the longer the lines, the more the motion and speed are emphasized. Afterimages are the remembered or left-behind glimpses of something as it moves. A subject can be depicted in several places within the same picture, showing moments along the path of its passage as well as the passage of time. The afterimages can fade as they get further away from the present subject, and may only be the outlines of the front half of the subject in various poses it has gone through in moving: they can also get farther apart as they go back in time, and closer together as they approach the current instant. Afterimages can be used in conjunction with motion lines or on their own.

Giacomo Balla

Giacomo Balla

Videos and animations can show actual movement. Jewelry, ceramics and other three-dimensional work can have parts that are meant to be opened or otherwise moved, creating a physical engagement between the viewer and the work, and giving the viewer something to explore and discover. Artwork that moves by itself in part or in whole, powered by natural forces (wind, tide, light, etc.) or self-propelled, and in which the motion itself is used as an artistic element, is called kinetic art (see many great examples here). Other works that change and move over time, growing, eroding or decaying, are more ephemeral in nature.

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 12.39.27 PM


Blurred Movement

Experiment with various ways of illustrating motion by using slow shutter speeds.

Goals to consider: Use blurred motion with a clear purpose and with a clear result. In other words, try to get a shot in which the blur really expresses motion.

Tips: Set your camera at f/ 16 and 1/115 to start. Once you get going, experiment with shutter speeds as low as 1/18. You’ll find the assignment easiest on a gray, overcast day, since you don’t want too much light. Alternatively, you might use a neutral density filter, which cuts down the amount of light entering the camera.

You may shoot in one of three ways:

Aim your camera so your subject is moving into the frame. Begin following your subject’s movement and then release the shutter. Keep moving with the subject as the shutter opens and closes. This will produce a blurred background with your subject more or less “frozen.”

Mount your camera on a tripod or find some other way to hold it very steady. Aim so your subjects moving into the frame and release the shutter. This will produce a steady background with your subject moving across the frame as a blur.

Attach a zoom lens to your camera, then mount it on a tripod or find some other way to hold it steady. Focus on the subject with the zoom at its maximum focal-length (i.e. 200 in a 75-200 zoom). Pull back on the zoom lens and immediately release the shutter. This produces a pattern of lines radiating out from your subject. Note that you’ll have to find something to focus on, or guess the distance, before your subject moves through the frame. Possible subjects include runners; almost any sports activity; motorcycles, bicycles and other vehicles; a person or a group of people jumping, twirling, swinging, dancing, etc. Your subject should contrast with the background (light on dark, dark on light). If it already blends in, the blur will make it blend even more.