Motion Blur Photography – How To Add Motion Blur In Photos & Photoshop

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Motion Blur Photography

How To Add Motion Blur In Photos and Photoshop

In this tutorial we’ll take a look at motion blur and how to add that cool blurry movement effect to your photos both in camera and in photoshop. As cool as it looks, adding it to your photos is actually pretty darn simple. By the end of this photography tutorial, you’ll have one more creative photography technique in your tool belt, and you’ll be well on your way to improving your photography.

What is motion blur?

Motion blur is the blurred appearance of moving objects in photography or video caused by a combination of movement and slow shutter speed. The longer the exposure and the faster the movement, the more motion blur will occur.

How To Add Motion Blur To A Photo

Adding motion blur to a photo is easy, and can produce amazing effects. Adding motion blur to your photos requires 2 things:

  1. Some kind of motion to capture (Obviously)
  2. Manual control of your shutter speed – This effect requires a slow shutter speed. The longer you set the exposure, the more motion blur you’ll add.

Add Motion Blurring To A Photo: Step 1

Start by setting your shutter speed low – Around 1/100th of a second or less is usually required. The longer the shutter speed, the more blur you’ll introduce.
Be aware that your subject needs to stay in order to remain sharp. For example, the runner in this photo is more or less stationary from the waist up, but because her legs were moving while the photo was taken, they are being affected by motion blur.
Notice how the parts of her body moving the most (her feet) are the most blurry:
runner motion blur photo example - legs are blurred while upper body is in focus
Quick Tip: Using a more telephoto lens or a lens with a lower aperture will enhance the blur effect. more blurry your background to begin with, the more creamy the motion blur will be.

Add Motion Blurring To A Photo: Step 2

Once you have your shutter speed set slow, it’s time to start testing to dial in the right amount of blur. If possible, get your subject to do a few test runs for you. As they move passed you, simply follow them with your camera and take your shot.
In order to keep your subject from being blurred, pan your camera WITH them so that they remain motionless relative to your camera. This will keep them in focus while blurring out the background:
jon grogan f9lF0bn0UnQ unsplash
If you want to add motion blur to the moving object instead of the background, simply keep your camera stationary.
A stationary camera will make the background sharp while adding blur to the moving subject:
motion blur photo example mega caesaria BN4dyxGk uI unsplash
It can take a couple attempts to get the motion blur looking the way you want. Continue to tweak your camera’s shutter speed until you’re happy with the amount of motion blur.
Quick tip: I recommend shooting on burst mode so you have 4-5 images per attempt to choose from.
If you want to add more motion blur, either decrease your shutter speed or increase the speed of the motion itself.
If you want to decrease motion blur, do the exact opposite – Increase your shutter speed or slow down the motion.

How To Add Motion Blur In Photoshop

This motion blur photoshop tutorial by Aaron @ Phlearn covers how to add motion blur to backgrounds in photoshop.

Adding motion blur in photoshop is actually super easy. If you have a photo with movement but no motion blur, simply open up photoshop and follow a few simply steps to add a motion blur:
Step 1: Isolate your subject from the background and create 3 layers.
(Subject – Background – Duplicate Background)
Step 2: Apply a blur to your middle background layer
(Using the motion blur will usually work best, but any blur will enhance the effect)
Quick tip: Another trick I sometimes apply is simply stretching the background layer a little wider using the transform tool (Command T on a mac)
Step 3: Blend in your blurred background opacity with your clean background to find a happy medium.


Creative Motion Blur Photography Techniques:

Motion blur can be used in photography to create some amazing effects. The most common ways to use motion blur are light trails in night time photography, blurring waterfalls or moving water in landscape photos, and adding motion blur to the background of car photos to exaggerate the sense of movement and speed.

Below I’ve put together some different creative examples of motion blur, as well as my rough estimate of the camera settings being used:

Movement Blur Of A Dancer:

motion blur tutorial

Motion Blur Of A Dancer:

This photo of a dancer in flight is a classic use of motion blur to exaggerate movement.

Motion blur camera settings estimate: 85mm lens at around f2.8, with a VERY slow shutter speed to get this much blur. Probably around 1 to 2 seconds.

With this shot I’m guessing the photographer is using a second curtain flash… Which sounds complicated but basically means instead of the flash firing at the beginning of the exposure, it fires at the end. You set this in your cameras settings (Not all cameras allow it) The effect of this allows for motion blur behind the subject while freezing the subject in focus at the end of the movement. Without it, the dancers face would not be so sharp and in focus.


motion blur photography tutorial

Motion blurring timelapse effect:

I love the timelapse effect of this motion blur photo. The effect was achieved by having the subject remain still while the other guests in the photo moved behind him. It is important they move BEHIND and not in front or else they would cover him in their blur.

Motion blur camera settings estimate: 35mm lens at f8 or higher (Notice how there is very little depth of field) with shutter seed around 1-2 seconds. I’m assuming the high F stop was chosen in order to darken things down enough to use such a slow shutter speed.


motion blur photography example by ian stauffer 426i7c6jhVk unsplash


Motion blur waterfall landscape photography

Adding motion blur to nature and landscape photos is a quick and easy way to add a dreamy quality to your images… And can be pretty fun to experiment with!

Motion blur camera settings estimate: 16mm lens at f2.8, with a shutter speed around 2-3 seconds. The longer the exposure, the more creamy and dreamy the waterfall will become. It’s also important to note that the BACKGROUND is in focus in this photo, not the foreground. This adds to the blurry dreamy effect of the waterfall.

city at night with light trails from cars photography tutorial

Motion Blur Light Trails

This shot by Lerone Pieters is one of my all time fav examples of light trails created by motion blur. Most light trails happen at night – I LOVE that this shot takes place around dusk, which makes the photo so much more interesting.

Motion blur camera settings estimate:

My guess is that a lot of the blur was added in photoshop, and that this photo is a composite of several exposures on a tripod. To recreate this photo, I would guess you’d need a 16mm at f4. Take one photo at a higher shutter speed to get everything well exposued as well as crispy and in focus, and then take another photo to capture the motion blur – Probably around 5-7 seconds or higher to get this much blur with slow moving city traffic. Then combine them in Photoshop and enhance the effect as you need to.

motion trails light trails from parking lot neon light

Motion blur perspective photo

This is another very creative use of motion blur by Sebastian Handley. Instead of capturing a moving subject, it looks like he captured this photo while moving AWAY from the city – My guess would be on an electric skateboard or sitting on the back of a car.

Motion blur camera settings estimate: 24mm lens around f4-f8, with a VERY long exposure time… Probably 10 seconds or higher. Take your photo as you are moving away from the background, and continue to move in a straight line backwards until the end of the exposure.


That’s pretty much all there is to using motion blur in photography.

It looks amazing, but it’s actually pretty simple!

Now you know how to create motion blur photos and add motion blur to your photography in camera and in photoshop. Time to go out and practice it for yourself!

Have a question? Leave it in the comments below. Have a photo you’d like to share? Tag us @signatureeditsco so we can check it out.

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