What is Motion Blur?

Motion blur is the streak-like effect that occurs when shooting a still image or video, because your subjects are moving rapidly through the frame, or the camera exposure is particularly long (i.e. time-lapse photography). This effect can be found in human eyes as well. If your eye moves past an object (or vice versa), the image will have a motion blur, unless you're tracking the object at the same speed, which is called "smooth pursuit". 

The motion blur effect can be used to give a photo more personality or accentuate a subject's movements, and it's not difficult to achieve. Below, we've outlined the basics of motion blur in photography, video, and 3D media.

Motion Blur in Photography

Photos are never literal — they can represent a mood, an action, a long stretch of time, or anything else the photographer wishes to evoke. With motion blur, a photographer is choosing to showcase the movements within their frame. If the camera's subject is moving fast or there's a longer exposure, you'll see more motion blur as a result. This blur effect usually occurs along the direction of the subject's movement, but if the camera is moving and the subject is still, then the background may become blurred in the same fashion. 

By selecting a longer shutter speed (in Manual/Shutter Priority mode) or keeping your camera secure while the subject moves, you can fine-tune the amount of motion blur until it's visually appealing (and not just a blurry mess). 

Motion Blur in Video

Likewise, motion blur is readily apparent when shooting video. Most of the time, though, we don't even notice the effect because our eyes work the same way as a camera lens. To us, rapid movement through a still frame is supposed to look blurry. When we track a moving subject by panning the camera, however, the focal point looks sharper and the background blurs. 

In some cases, motion blur can actually detract from the visual information and obscure what's happening. For example, TV sports cameramen deal with motion blur by using extremely fast exposures (often around 1/1000 of a second), allowing you to clearly see each athlete on the field. This also improves visual clarity when showing slow-motion replays. 

Motion Blur in 3D Animation/Games

Finally, digital animation and video games often simulate a motion blur effect to make the visuals seem less static. This is most obvious when quickly panning the camera around a 3D game world, or when CGI characters move rapidly in an animated scene. If digital designers didn't use any motion blur, the 3D visuals would seem choppier and less natural. 

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