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Compositions Exuding a Sense of Motion

Photography involves capturing still images, but some of them look like their subjects may start moving any second. How do you capture this sense of motion in moving subjects? Let's introduce a few tips to do so here. (Report by: Tatsuya Tanaka)

Diagonal composition and visual guidance are effective methods

Make use of motion blur to effectively depict the sense of motion of a subject. Although the amount of blurring varies depending on the shutter speed and the speed of the subject’s movement, care is also required as the shape of the subject will become indistinct if there is too much blurring. You can either pan the camera to track the subject’s movement, or zoom in or out during exposure. Although this form of expression is the opposite of capturing a still subject and containing it within a photo (such as in landscape photographs), it is still important to fully bear in mind the composition when creating a motion blur effect using such techniques. This is because the overall sense of motion of the picture changes drastically depending on where the blurred subject is placed in the picture and which direction it is facing. By using composition techniques such as diagonal composition and visual guidance, you can express elements such as the sense of motion of the subject and its direction of movement.

Key Elements

  • The sense of motion of a moving subject can easily be emphasised using diagonal composition.
  • Visual guidance, in which a space is opened up to guide the viewer’s eye in a certain direction, can also be used.
  • The blur effect is highly effective if the subject’s motion is blurred with a low shutter speed.
  • Create a sense of motion with light trails by using long exposure to photograph car lights and stars.
  • Intentionally create a sense of motion by panning or zooming during exposure.

EOS 5D Mark II/ EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM/ FL: 64mm/ Manual exposure (f/8, 0.4 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

Imply motion by capturing the movements of a sea turtle with a diagonal composition

The pan shot of a sea turtle swimming from the top right to the bottom left side of the picture was captured using diagonal composition. The turtle is placed right of centre in the composition leaving the left side of the image open. By doing so, I am trying to guide the line of sight using the pattern on the water surface in order to convey the idea of the turtle swimming in the water. I also wanted to bring attention to the sense of motion created by the subtle blurring caused by the movements of both the water surface and the turtle.

Techniques to take photos with a sense of motion and dynamism

[1] Reproduce movement with a low shutter speed

I captured a full image of a seagull flying in the air with a pan shot. By using a low shutter speed to blur the wing tips, my final image managed to convey the dynamism of the flapping wings.

[2] Boldly capture changes over time with a long exposure

When you shoot the northern starry sky with a long exposure, the starlight turns into rotating star trails. The gradual movements of the stars over time convey a sense of motion. Placing the silhouette of the grove of trees in the centre creates a composition that befits the natural scenery captured.

Tatsuya Tanaka

Born in 1956, Tanaka is one of the rare photographers who produce works across a wide variety of genres from an original perspective. These genres range from objects in our daily lives, such as insects and flowers, to landscapes, skyscapes, and celestial bodies. Besides photography, Tanaka has also developed his own approach in post processes including retouch and printing.

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.

Published by Impress Corporation