in Design

Motion Capture Techniques in Photography

Photography is a great tool to capture and immortalize priceless moments of our lives. Motion photography is an approach used to help us remember that certain scenes possess underlying dynamics. While some pictures are deliberately taken as static scenes, others can benefit significantly from highlighting movement.

This approach is development of still photography, putting it closer to motion pictures. It brings a storytelling element and makes photos more interesting to view. To use the technique, one needs to know basics of capturing motion in photos. Mastering the skill can help you produce more impressive pictures.

Why Do You Need to Capture Motion?

The primary reason to use the motion capture technique in photography is that such pictures convey dynamics and look like a part a bigger story. Instead of just reporting a moment, you can make a viewer reflect upon events preceding and following what they see right now.

Another reason to consider is that the technique allows setting the mood due to conveying something more than just a subject of the picture. 30+ million of backgrounds are available to help you with this task.

Using blur to showcase movement is an effective attention focusing tool. When the background is blurred, contemplating the main subject is the only option you leave to your potential viewers.

Frozen Motion

Sports photographers often take advantage of a frozen motion technique to emphasize an event’s dynamics. Using a burst mode and high shutter speed, they make an object ‘freeze’ in the air. Capturing a climax moment is key in this case as it makes our mind generate possible before and after scenarios.

Amateur photographers can take advantage of frozen motion pictures too.

Experimenting with running water and other types of movement we face in our everyday life can be highly rewarding and reveal what a human eye usually cannot capture. A combination of this tool with a macro photography mode will push the limits further.

Blurred Subject, Background in Focus

Blurring the main subject is typically used when you want to emphasize swift movement. Applying a low shutter speed to a moving object is how you can get a blurred object against a crisp background. This approach requires using a tripod to ensure your camera remains steady in the process. Otherwise, the background will be blurry too, transforming the entire picture into a vague mess.

Blurred Background, Subject in Focus

To obtain this effect, you have to set a low shutter speed just like in the previous case, but pan the camera tracking the object in the process. While more difficult to implement perfectly, this technique allows showcasing movement from the subject’s perspective. The blurred background helps viewers assume this alternative point of reference.

Demonstrating what we, as outside observers, typically miss, this type of picture can deliver uncommon and amusing experiences. Each such photo provokes a small shift in our mind and adds a bit of surrealism.

This effect requires using a tripod too. The purpose is different though: the gear has to enable the operator rotate their camera smoothly in a strictly horizontal direction to avoid blurring the entire picture. This skill requires practice.

Action Sequencing

This is another interesting action capture method. Basically, it involves taking a series of frozen motion snapshots and combining them within one photo. This means you will have to acquire certain post-processing skills.

Again, a tripod is mandatory here because the pictures taken should match perfectly and have exactly the same settings, reference point and angle of view.

To summarize, options photographers can use to capture motion are numerous. Your choice will depend on your skills and what you would like to highlight with this effect.

Anyways, certain practice is needed to implement this advanced technique. Feel free to experiment with shutter speeds, lighting conditions and different techniques described above to eventually come up with your special method. See also how to capture motion in photography.


Bogdan is the founder of Top Design Magazine. You can find him in Bucharest-Romania so next time you want to drink a beer there and talk about web and stuff, give him a message.