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2,862 Tutorials

How to artistically blur photos using zoom

We also show you how to get good shots at twilight

Photographers work very hard to capture the perfect shot. Whether it's adding special effects to images, such as artistic blur, or taking dramatic shots during 'magic hour' – the brief window in time when the sun is low in the sky and casting a warm glow on your subject.

However, if you've got a Digital SLR you can put into practice a few tweaks to ensure you can capture similar shots, with very little effort.

We'll start with zoom blur.

What is Zoom Blur?

While zoom blur can be done with an image editor, it doesn't need to be. You can get awesome results by doing it with your camera when you take the photo. To take a zoom blur shot, you need to use a digital SLR with a zoom lens - or any camera that allows you to change the focal length of the lens while the picture is being exposed. Alas, most point-and-shoot cameras use an electronic control for the zoom setting that locks while the exposure is taking place.

Mastering the Zoom Blur technique

If you have a camera capable of playing along, give it a try. The basic idea: You'll shoot the scene with a somewhat slow shutter speed so you have time to change the focal length during the exposure. Since the exposure will include a range of focal lengths, the resulting photo will be a blur that ranges from wide angle to telephoto.

Set your camera to Aperture or Shutter Priority mode and dial in about 1/4 second. There's no one perfect shutter speed, but keep in mind that you'll need enough time during the exposure to move the zoom, but not so much time that the photo is jittery from being held during the shot.

Line up your shot, then point the camera at your subject and start zooming with a firm, steady, and consistent motion. Don't zoom too fast, or you will make the camera jerk around - and don't do it too slow, either, or you'll reach the end of your zoom range before you finish the exposure.

Just after you start zooming, gently press the shutter release. Just as in golf, be sure that you follow through the zoom motion during and even after the shutter releases. That way, you won't stop moving the zoom in the middle of the exposure, and the overall effect will look smooth and natural. And just as in golf, you will need to practice this a few times to get the shot right.

That's all there is to it. You can experiment with different settings - I've found that brightly coloured subjects and a simple backgrounds tend to work best - and vary the zoom range and shutter speed to see how they affect the result.

If you have a tripod, you can try mounting the camera for support so you don't introduce hand jitters into the shot, and you can use longer shutter speeds without worry.

Zoom Blur alternative

I think that using a digital SLR and zooming with a real lens is the most fun way to try this photo style, but you can always add the effect afterwards using a photo editor as well - which is a good alternative if you have a point-and-shoot. To give it a try, check out the Radial Blur tool. In Photoshop Elements, for example, you can choose Filter, Blur, Radial Blur. In the Radial Blur dialog box, you can change the mode from Spin to Zoom.

NEXT PAGE: Take photos at Twilight

  1. Blur photos artistically
  2. Take photos at Twilight

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