Blur Photos Artistically With Your Camera's Zoom

Here's how to blur photos artistically with your camera's zoom

Photography has changed quite a bit in the last few decades. Back in the days of film, it was hard to add special effects to your photos because that generally required a darkroom. These days, of course, there's no darkroom required. For example, it's easy to experiment with exposure just using your camera's LCD. And that's not all. You probably already know about some photo tricks you can do using photo editing software. Equipped with even an inexpensive digital SLR, though, you can perform some tricks "in the lens," when you take the photo.Consider zoom blur, for example.

What Is Zoom Blur?

207382-zblur01_original

While zoom blur can be done with an image editor, it doesn't need to be. You can get awesome results by doing it with your camera when you take the photo. Consider this photo of my daughter's prized limited-edition Stupid Fox plushie, for example, which I took using the technique.

To take a zoom blur shot, you need to use a digital SLR with a zoom lens—or any camera that allows you to change the focal length of the lens while the picture is being exposed. Alas, most point-and-shoot cameras use an electronic control for the zoom setting that locks while the exposure is taking place.

Mastering the Zoom Blur Technique If you have a camera capable of playing along, give it a try. The basic idea: You'll shoot the scene with a somewhat slow shutter speed so you have time to change the focal length during the exposure. Since the exposure will include a range of focal lengths, the resulting photo will be a blur that ranges from wide angle to telephoto.

Set your camera to Aperture or Shutter Priority mode and dial in about 1/4 second. There's no one perfect shutter speed, but keep in mind that you'll need enough time during the exposure to move the zoom, but not so much time that the photo is jittery from being held during the shot.

Line up your shot, then point the camera at your subject and start zooming with a firm, steady, and consistent motion. Don't zoom too fast, or you will make the camera jerk around—and don't do it too slow, either, or you'll reach the end of your zoom range before you finish the exposure.

Just after you start zooming, gently press the shutter release. Just as in golf, be sure that you follow through the zoom motion during and even after the shutter releases. That way, you won't stop moving the zoom in the middle of the exposure, and the overall effect will look smooth and natural. And just as in golf, you will need to practice this a few times to get the shot right.

207382-zblur02_original

That's all there is to it. You can experiment with different settings—I've found that brightly colored subjects and a simple backgrounds tend to work best—and vary the zoom range and shutter speed to see how they affect the result. Here's another zoom blur, for example, of a bagpipe player I encountered in a park.

If you have a tripod, you can try mounting the camera for support so you don't introduce hand jitters into the shot, and you can use longer shutter speeds without worry.

Zoom Blur Alternative

I think that using a digital SLR and zooming with a real lens is the most fun way to try this photo style, but you can always add the effect afterwards using a photo editor as well—which is a good alternative if you have a point-and-shoot. To give it a try, check out the Radial Blur tool. In Photoshop Elements, for example, you can choose Filter, Blur, Radial Blur. In the Radial Blur dialog box, you can change the mode from Spin to Zoom.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Dave Johnson

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?