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Creating a sense of movement in photography can bring drama, vibrance and energy to your work but it’s quite a tricky thing to capture without it looking forced or contrived. Photos that contain elements of motion can immediately draw in your audience and make them feel connected to the people and places in the image.
The concept of movement is a central principle of the classical view of art; alongside balance, harmony and proportion. A feeling of movement can be portrayed in many different ways and in the hands of a skillful sculpture, for example, even a solid marble statue can appear to be fluidly in motion!
Photography developed out of the classical art forms, particularly painting, as a natural evolution of the creative possibilities that grew out of the new technologies of the 20th century. Just as the masters of Renaissance painting managed to portray motion in their work, so too can a photographer in the modern world!
However, a photographer who knows how to use their camera can create even more gripping images that capture the essence of movement in their work in ways that even the finest painter would struggle to replicate!
How Can You Go About Creating Motion In A Static Image And Why Is It Important?
When you are able to incorporate the illusion of motion in your photography the finished results can often be more pleasing to the eye while delivering a powerful impact through the innate narrative structure of the composition. It’s not always easy to give your audience the impression that the subjects and composition is in motion although when you do manage to achieve this the image comes alive and grips the viewer in a deeper way.
Use Patterns And Repeating Lines.
One of the best ways to create a sense of movement in your work is to try to keep your viewer’s eyes moving as they look at the image. The most reliable way to achieve this incredible effect is to use repeating patterns and lines within the scene to guide your viewer’s eyes throughout the photo. There are multiple ways that you can do this, with Leading Lines being one of the most popular, but you can also use any features that encourage your audience’s gaze to move from one object to another.
It’s a natural subconscious tendency for your eyes to follow patterns, shapes and other repeating shapes within an image. This makes using repeating patterns an incredibly useful tool for photographers which can be used to create the feeling of motion within a static image. You can use waves, ripples, cobblestones, clouds or any other element that repeats in a pattern.
Make Use Of The Sunlight.
One of the central elements of photography is the light itself; and so when the sun gives you the opportunity to use it to create a sense of motion in your work you should take full advantage of it. For instance, a simple streak of light or unexpected sunburst can instantly draw in your viewers while giving your image a feeling of being in motion.
When you use light to create the impression of motion in your work you can massively enhance the emotive impact of the image while accentuating certain elements of the photo. For example, you can use streaks of sunlight as a leading line to direct your audience’s gaze at the subject of the photo.
You can use streaks of sunshine in any genre of photography, however, it often has the greatest impact in portraiture and landscapes. Nonetheless, as long as you don’t overuse the effect it’s a brilliant technique to use throughout your work when the opportunity arises.
Choose The Right Lenses.
The type of lens that you use can have a huge effect on the outcome of the image, just as you might expect. If you use a wide angle lens for example, the subjects of your photos will look closer in proportion to the background. You can use this type of intentional distortion to give your viewer the impression that the subject is actually moving towards them.
You can also use your lens to create a blurred effect which will lead the viewer’s eyes towards the subject. By drawing your audience into the image in this way you can immediately create the impression of motion within a static image.
Imply Motion In Your Work.
There’s many ways that you can imply movement within your photography, particularly when you’re working with human subjects. To create the impression of motion in your work you can pose your subjects so that they look as if they are moving; for example, you can ask your subject to walk and then take the shot as they do so. It’s a natural tendency for the human mind to fill in the gaps in an image and so if you take a shot of someone in mid-walk then your audience will instantly understand that they are moving!
Depending on the experience of your model you can ask them to create a sense of motion but if they are less experienced then you can simply ask them to repeat a particular movement so you can take the photo. For more inspiration on the ways that you can portray motion in portraiture you can study the world of high fashion editorial photography where it’s a frequently used technique that is done to help the highly stylized images to feel more natural.
Take Advantage Of Actual Motion.
When there is real motion in your viewfinder there are several ways that you can take advantage of this to bring a genuine sense of motion in your work. One way that you can capture real motion in your work is to use a fast shutter speed so that you can clearly portray a subject in motion. This should leave you with a crystal clear shot that freeze frames your subject in motion. This is a great technique if you are taking a picture of a fast moving subject, such as a bird in flight.
Alternatively, you can use a slow shutter speed setting on your camera so that you can capture your subject in motion over the course of a few moments. One of the most popular ways to use slow shutter speed photography is with lights or the sky at night however you can also use the technique with any subject. When you use a slow shutter speed you can create a blur in your images which will instantly communicate to your viewers that there is motion in the shot.
When you use these techniques you will instantly create a strong connection with your audience and allow them to feel as though there is motion in the static image you’ve presented them with.
Tips For Using Panning In Your Photography To Create Motion.
In photography you can use panning to give your viewers the impression of movement in your work. When you pan the camera this means that you swivel the camera on a static horizontal axis to follow a moving subject. The effect of panning your camera is similar to when you turn your head from left to right, or right to left.
- When shooting your subject try to keep them parallel to you as you take the photo. It’s easier to take a panning shot of your subject as they move from left to right, or right to left, in front of your field of vision. Alternatively, if your subject is moving directly towards you then you can also create a similar effect.
- Using a tripod will help you to keep your camera stable and horizontal as you pan the camera to follow your subject.
- When you are shooting panning photos, always be careful to stay aware of your surroundings so you don’t trip or fall – particularly if you are moving while you take the photo.
- Learning to anticipate the movements of your subjects will help you to capture them in motion. Choosing the right moment will make all the difference to the feeling of your photo but it can be difficult to get it right. One way to do this is to use bursts of photos so you can go back later in the editing suite and select the perfect shot from the selection you have.
- Slowing down your shutter speed is a guaranteed way to capture motion in your photography. You can do this from a fixed position but you can also use a slower shutter speed while you pan the camera.
- When you are shooting panning shots you should use a low ISO setting, generally below 400, so that you can get the clearest image possible.
- If you’re working with a fast moving subject then you can use the Autofocus to make sure that you keep your subject in clear focus. When you try to work with manual focus settings it can be hard to ensure that you keep your subject in focus, so, unlike in most other situations, you might be better off using the Autofocus while you are panning.
Top Tips For Long Exposures.
Using a long exposure is one of the easiest ways to capture motion in your photography but if you haven’t had a lot of practise it can be tricky to get right.
- You can emphasize the motion of your subjects but focusing on them while allowing the background to stay blurred. You can do this by using a shallow depth of field by setting a large aperture on your camera.
- When you’re working with longer exposures you can use moving clouds or a swaying tree branch to indicate motion in your work. Not only can this be used to incredible stylistic effect but it can really bring your photos to life.
- While shooting at lower shutter speeds you should keep your ISO setting low because the longer the exposure the more potential noise will show up in the image.
Creating Motion In A Static Image Is A Powerful Way To Engage Your Audience.
It’s a difficult thing to get right but once you get used to incorporating a sense of motion in your work you’ll find your photos coming to life! There are many ways that you can portray movement in your photography, including using a slow shutter speed and long exposures, posing your subjects in mid-walk, jump or run or by using natural elements in the frame such as streaks of sunlight.
When you start to practise creating motion in your photos you need to be ready to experiment and have some fun! There will be a lot of trial and error involved however if you stick with it you’ll soon be able to conjure up a genuine sense of fluidity and motion in your images. These extra details in your work will bring your photos to life and leave your audience with a far more impactful experience when they look at your photography.
How do you create motion in your photography?