DSLR Tips Workshop: How to blur action shots for the impression of speed

When it comes to taking photos of sports or other fast-moving subjects, you’d imagine that freezing the action is your best bet – and certainly that’s the case for some situations. But in others you’ll end up with a lifeless shot which looks static and lacks any feeling of speed or excitement.

If you’re photographing any kind of race with cars, bikes, horses or greyhounds zooming past, then you can often get a far more dramatic effect by blurring some aspect of the image. This will show the subject really was moving quickly and will give a far greater impression of motion.

In the car race above, I’ve used the camera’s automatic settings on the left and the result has frozen the action – it almost looks as if the car is parked on the track. On the right though I’ve deliberately blurred the background and the result is far preferable. In my video workshop below, we’ll explain how to achieve this effect, and at the bottom of the page you’ll find a reminder of the steps you’ll need to take.

Checklist: How to blur action shots

1: Switch your camera to Shutter Priority mode by turning the mode dial to ‘S’ or on Canon models, ‘Tv’.

2: Choose a slower shutter speed which will blur the action. 1/60 is a good starting point.

3: Follow the subject through the viewfinder as you take the picture. Make sure you keep moving the camera as you press the button.

4: If the background isn’t sufficiently blurred, choose a slower shutter, such as 1/30 or 1/15. If the action is too blurred, choose a faster shutter like 1/125.

5: After taking your photo, remember to set the mode dial back to Auto or Program (P) mode.

Watch Out!

1: If your camera or lens has anti-shake facilities, they might get confused by the panning motion. Some models have a special setting for panning. Other, newer models, can automatically detect panning. Check your manual, but if yours has neither, it’s best to switch the anti-shake off while taking these kind of photos.




Topic Filter: Commercial / Landscape / Portrait / Stock / What's Hot

Related Tutorials


Martin Lawrence

After many years as a keen amateur photographer, I decided to start a small landscape photography business called Lakescenes which I ran alongside my main job as an IT Manager. As business increased, I found myself working long, but rewarding, hours just to keep up […]

Read More

Rob Sheppard

Rob Sheppard is a naturalist, nature photographer and videographer who says his favorite location is the one he is in at any time. He is the author/photographer of over 40 books, as well as a well-known speaker and workshop leader, and a Fellow with the […]

Read More

Gary Hart

Gary Hart has photographed California’s natural beauty for over 30 years. Gary’s photos and writing have appeared in many publications, most recently Outdoor Photographer and Sierra Heritage magazines. You’ll also find his images in greeting cards, postcards, calendars, and many galleries and private collections throughout the world.

Read More

Jaroslav Wieczorkiewicz

Originally from Poland, based in London UK, Jaroslav has background in Fine Arts, degree in Architecture, and wide array of experience. Being an Architect taught him how to be resourceful and to solve complex problems with simple, yet innovative solutions. Constant passion for graphic & […]

Read More

What's Hot

Tips from a Pro: The Right Lens Makes All the Difference

Use a wide-angle lens to add some humor to your images. Superwide-angle lenses practically force you to create wacky images, simply by letting you cram so many elements into the picture. It can be a blast to use them to distort perspective. But there are […]

Read More

7 Most Common Image Editing Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

As with the old film darkroom, taking a picture is only part of the process – you also need to know how to edit images to get the most from them in the ‘digital darkroom.’ Here are some of the more common errors to watch […]

Read More

7 Pro Tips for Better Portraits

We asked portraits pros to share their best tactics for framing up a subject. Many decisions go into shooting a single portrait. Often, as we chat with our subjects, we’re not even aware that we’re making choices about framing, subject distance and position, color palette, […]

Read More