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Blurring Motion with Long Shutter Speeds

A great way to convey a sense of movement in a photo is to blur it with a long shutter speed. Luckily, it’s a technique you can master easily with some practice.

Our choice of shutter speed is the deciding factor in how motion is portrayed in a photograph. We can freeze fast-moving objects and fleeting moments in time by using a fast shutter speed, but sometimes intentionally letting an object blur as it moves is just as good a way of conveying movement and can give a real impression of speed.

© Alan Winslow

Since any object that moves while the shutter is open will blur, all we need to do to get this effect is use a long enough shutter speed. Take care though – if you accidentally move the camera as well, then the whole scene will blur (something called camera shake), which is not the look we are going for!

The easiest way to take control over shutter speed is to use shutter priority mode. This lets you choose a speed manually and have the camera pick an aperture for you, so you’ll always get a correctly exposed picture.

How Slow Can You Go?

The length of the shutter speed you need for motion blur really depends on how fast your subject is moving. Remember the golden rule: as long as it moves when the shutter is open, it will blur. So, for fast-moving subjects – such as a cyclist moving quickly through the frame – a shutter speed of 1/60 sec will work great (and should be possible to use without getting camera shake). But this won’t blur a person walking (try 1/20 sec), or the ripples on the surface of water (try one sec or longer, with a tripod).

  • Learn photography with Fujifilm, Using Manual Exposure Mode
  • Learn photography with Fujifilm, Using Manual Exposure Mode

Here are some shutter speeds to use as a starting point, though it’s vital to experiment in order to get the best results!

Subject Minimum Shutter Speed to Try
Cars and motorbikes 1/125 sec
Cyclists and runners 1/60 sec
People walking 1/20 sec
Swaying crops/plants/trees 1/15 sec
Waterfalls 1/4 sec
Flowing water 1 sec
Traffic 4 secs
Clouds in the sky 30 secs

Remember, you’ll need to keep the camera steady when using longer exposures to stop everything blurring due to camera shake. If your lens has Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), switch this on as it will help eliminate camera shake down to shutter speeds as long as 1/15 sec. Any longer than this and you’ll need to use a tripod – and you should turn off the OIS system.

Shooting with long exposures at night is really good fun, and you can use a variety of long shutter speeds to get different effects. Try shooting some colourful traffic trails, using a long exposure to blur the lights of cars as they pass by. The length of the trails depends on how long the shutter is open for, and this is something you can play with until you get an effect you like.

B Is For…?

Using shutter priority mode, your camera will time shutter speeds as long as 30 secs for you, but you can also go longer than this using the B setting (which stands for ‘bulb’ – an old term from the days of film photography). In this mode, the shutter will remain open for as long as the shutter release button is held down. You’ll need to do this with your camera on a tripod, and it’s best to use a remote release or the FUJIFILM Camera Remote app on your smartphone, rather than risk wobbling the camera by touching it.

Learn photography with Fujifilm, Blurring Motion with Long Shutter Speeds

With the B setting, it’s possible to use exposures as long as 60 minutes, though you’ll have to set the aperture yourself – the camera can’t do this for you automatically. Start with a middle value – like F8 – and adjust it if the results look too bright or too dark.

The same concept can be applied to fairground rides, firework displays, and even star trails in the night sky.

Learn photography with Fujifilm, Blurring Motion with Long Shutter Speeds

Your Next Steps

  • CHALLENGE Pick a moving subject and photograph it using slower shutter speeds to blur its motion. Don’t forget you might need to support your camera on a tripod. Post your results to social media with the hashtag #MyFujifilmLegacy. You can also submit your work here for a chance to be featured on our social media channels.
  • LEARN Download our booklet Discover FUJIFILM X Series.