Camera Motion: Using it to Your Advantage: Digital Photography Tip of the Week

As I have mentioned several times before, I have been a member of my local camera club for about 8 years. Camera clubs typically look for technically perfect shots with absolutely sharp, critical focus. However, when you start to look around at fine art photography, you will find that those same attributes aren’t necessarily as important.

One method you can use to add a little creative flair to your image is to incorporate camera movement into your photographs. The key to making this technique work is to have enough movement that the effect is obvious. Too little and the photo will simply look like an accident.

Longer shutter speeds are necessary in order to have enough time to create the movement. To achieve these longer shutter speeds, you may have to lower your ISO and shoot at a smaller aperture, which will in turn let less light into through lens, causing the shutter to stay open longer.

Below are a few examples of camera motion.

motion1.jpg motion2.jpg

The first image does not show enough camera movement to make the process work, it really looks more like accidental camera shake, not the intended camera motion. The second image however does show the intended camera motion. In this case, I moved the camera in a slight arc to achieve this look. The various colours begun to form a pattern and merge together to form an abstract image as the image begins to become unrecognizable. Exposure time was about 1/4 second.

Another form of camera motion is panning. Panning is the process of moving your camera horizontally but keeping it vertically still, or the reverse. This is useful in capturing a moving subject. Again, you want to use a long enough shutter speed that will convey motion. The big trick with panning is to follow the subject at the same speed of it’s motion so that the subject is stationary in your viewfinder and continue the panning motion during the photograph as well. If the camera moves vertically on a horizontal pan (or horizontally on a vertical pan) the effect will not be as good. This photo of a van is an example of how panning can add motion to an otherwise static image.


Note: To use this technique you will need to turn off your Image Stabilization or Vibration Reduction feature on your camera if it is so equipped, or in the event of panning, either turn the feature off or set it to a panning mode.

Photography is a static medium, but it does not have to feel static. By utilizing such techniques as panning and moving the camera, you can create interesting photographs that convey motion, add emphasis or obscure reality. This type of photography does not interest everyone, but it can be fun to do.

If you are in the Southern Ontario or Western New York area on November 18, the Niagara Frontier Regional Camera Clubs (to which I also belong) will be hosting a one day seminar featuring Rick Sammon, author of many books and magazine articles. Full details can be viewed at the NFRCC site:
Next week I will talk about about the Orton Process and how you can mimic that in Photoshop. Until then, happy shooting.

The digital photography tip of the week is written by the PCIN Assistant Editor, Chris Empey. Chris is a long time photographer and is currently the President of the Niagara Falls Camera Club. You can see more of his photography at his Photo of the Day website.
If you have a tip to send Chris, or a question about digital photography he can address in the newsletter, send it to

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