Photography Zoom Blur Effect Using Your Camera for Motion

Peggy Farren 2013-08-28

by Joe Fitzpatrick

When does a stationary object appear to be in motion? When you zoom the lens during the exposure. This neon sign captured my attention but needed something extra. Zooming the lens during the exposure created the streaks of light that give the illusion of motion.

  • Because you will need to use a long exposure, a tripod is a must.
  • Mount your camera on the tripod and turn off image stabilization.
  • A shutter speed of 1/4 sec. or longer works best.
  • Use a low ISO, 100 or 200, and then adjust your aperture for correct exposure.
  • In daylight you will likely need a neutral density filter to get a long enough exposure.
  • Zoom in, frame your subject and adjust the focus.
  • Use One Shot (Canon) or AF-S (Nikon) focus mode so the focus doesn't change during the exposure.
  • Next zoom back out. Practice zooming in and out until you can do it smoothly.
  • When you are ready to take the photo, press the shutter and zoom.

Time the zoom so there is a bit of a pause at the beginning or end of the zoom while the shutter is open. Zooming in will create a different effect than zooming out. Try them both.

Bright objects against a dark background seem to work best. It takes lots of trial and error to get the effect just right. Have fun and experiment!

Photo info: Canon 7D, Sigma 17-50 f/2.8, .5 sec @ f/16, ISO 100

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