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  • Blur
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creative blur effects

Blur describes any part of your image which is unsharp.

Blur occurs whenever the light from the subject is not converged to a specific point on the image sensor.

This can be the result of several factors

  • The subject may be out of focus – either in front of or beyond the near or far depth of field limits
  • If the subject has motion, the image will be “smudged” across the image sensor.
  • If the subject is static but you move the camera during the exposure this will also have the affect of “smearing” the image.

Avoid blur by

  • Careful focusing on your subject
  • Using smaller apertures (HIGH F number) to deepen depth of field.
  • Using the fastest shutter speed that enables adequate exposure (this may mean raising the ISO sensitivity)
  • Zooming out and walking in “ - the longer the focal length/narrower the angle of view/greater the magnification – the more likely you will get blur as a result of camera shake. (The oft quoted rule based on 35mm full frame cameras is use a shutter speed at least as fast as the reciprocal of the focal length. e.g. At 200mm a speed of 1/200th of a second or faster)
  • Using the image stabilisation system built into your lens/camera if available.
  • Holding your camera steady or using a tripod. (Don't forget that many image stabilisation systems should be switched OFF when you are using a tripod)
  • Use a remote control to activate the shutter – if you don't have one then use the “self timer” function. This avoids you inadvertently jarring the camera as you take the shot.
  • On Dslr cameras, avoid the jolt from the mirror movement by using the “mirror lock up” function.

Deliberate Blur

Deliberately causing blur in areas of the image is one of the photographer's primary creative tools.

Blurring background or foreground “clutter” by use of shallow depth of field helps maintain emphasis on your primary subject.

Achieve shallow depth of field by

  • Using large aperture (LOW f number)
  • Magnifying your subject either by moving closer or zooming in.
  • Increase the distance between your subject and the background to emphasize the background blur.

Motion blur

Intentional capture of motion blur can creatively emphasize the speed of movement of your subject.

  • Achieve this affect by using slow shutter speed (this may require lowering the ISO or even using a filter to “block” some light to avoid over exposure) or by deliberately “panning” the camera as you follow the subject in your your viewfinder.
  • Using slow shutter speed to capture flowing water can also give pleasing effects.

Light blur

At night the necessity of longer exposure times results in “light trails” from moving vehicles – this can give pleasing surrealistic effects to traffic or fairground lights.

See also

Take creative control of your photos

Depth of field explained



photos by Rayu Kim and Carlo Luis

"Bokeh" stems from the Japanese word for “haze”. Bokeh describes the appearance of the blur in unsharp areas.

When very large apertures are used – particularly with magnification and separation between foreground and background – the “circles of confusion” for points of light in the background take on the visible appearance of the actual aperture shape. This is normally a regular several sided polygon and can give an aesthetically pleasing creative effect to the blurred areas.

See also

Depth of field explained

Focal length, aperture and f stop summarized


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