How to Create a Cool Zoom-Blur Effect

The underrated zoom-blur effect is a fun technique you can add to your stock photography arsenal to create some stunning effects. The purpose is to reinforce & demonstrate action in an otherwise mundane busy scene.

How to create this effect

It’s relatively simple to do.

Basically, manually set your shutter speed camera slower (between 1/25 seconds and 1 second), by adjusting the ISO and Aperture accordingly.  Then, while pressing the shutter release, simultaneously zoom in or out.

Now, most of the time I use a 24-70mm lens but you can experiment will different types of ranges and zooming speeds to produce the desired effect. Obviously this won’t work on a prime lens, duh 🙂

Here’s some examples.

Warning this may give you a headache

I recently tried this technique while riding at the back of a golf cart in Inhotim Institute, Minas Gerais, Brazil. An open-air modern art museum not too far from Belo Horizonte.

Commercially-speaking, this could be used to support products/concepts associated with combating nausea, sickness, illness and headache.

stock-photo-purposely-out-of-of-focus-path-in-woods-with-people-headache-nausea-and-illness-metaphor-787335589
Settings: ISO 50, F13, 1.3 seconds

Caption: Purposely out of of focus path in woods with people – headache, nausea and illness metaphor

Keywords: abstract, and sensitivity to light blur effect, annoyance, blurry in motion, chaos, concept, death, dilemma, discomfort, dream, dying, foliage, footpath, forest, frustration, frustration trouble, greens, headache, horizontal, illness, medication, migraine, misery, nausea, needles, out of focus, outside, pain, park, path, pavement, photography technique, purpose out of focus, quagmire, sickness, spiritual, splitting headache, the effect of zooming on a long exposure, throbbing headache, tired, torment, trees, tropical, unwell, vignette, vomiting, woods, worry

At the airport

Airports can be stressful places, due to a combination of jet-lag, heightened security and short-layovers. However, I was everything but stressed on my way back from Rio, while chilling out at Amsterdam’s Schiphol’s Airport.

With some time to spare before a connecting flight to Milan, I was trying a few variations of this technique while on a slow-moving vertical escalator. I was literally watching the world race around me.

stock-photo-airport-and-transportation-concept-of-stressful-situation-purpo-1010028580
ISO 800, F6.3, 1/13 seconds

Caption: Airport and transportation concept of stressful situation, purposely blurred, movement and chaos

Keywords: abstract, access, airport, architecture, arrival, blur, bright, business, businessman, chaos, city, concept, corridor, departure, design, destinations, escalator, fast, futuristic, geometric, glass, go, indoor, inside, interior, late, light, metal, miss flight, modern, motion, move, movement, moving escalator, passenger, perspective, reflect, run, runaway, single, speed, steel, stress, terminal, traffic, travel, traveler, urban, view

Then, two pilots whizzed by (can tell by their uniform) and I didn’t hesitate to try again. I submitted this yesterday as commercial (not really expecting it to be accepted since people are sort of identifiable) but to my positive surprise, it got through. I think this will be a strong seller. I’ve also submitted to all other micro sites and Alamy.

stock-photo-airport-and-transportation-concept-of-stressful-situation-purpo-1010028583
ISO 320, F4.5, 1/25 seconds

Caption: Two unidentified commercial pilots whizzing by at airport, blur-zoom effect. Stressful and chaotic air travel concept

Keywords: abstract, access, airport, architecture, arrival, blur, bright, business, businessman, chaos, city, concept, corridor, departure, design, destinations, escalator, fast, futuristic, geometric, go, indoor, inside, interior, late, light, metal, miss flight, modern, motion, move, movement, moving escalator, passenger, perspective, pilot, reflect, run, runaway, single, speed, steel, stress, terminal, traffic, travel, traveler, urban, view

Key takeaways on creating this effect

  • Set your shutter speed to be a longer exposure than you would normally set under the same lighting conditions. I would recommend a least slower than 1/25 seconds;
  • Try to keep the camera still as this will help to make your subject in the middle sharper than the surroundings. A little camera shake is expected and will even add to the effect;
  • Try to get a smooth zoom, in or out. This will make the effect more interesting.
  • Choose commercially interesting subjects, such as busy urban scenes,  airport or shopping mall, where you’ll want to demonstrate action/chaos/stress;
  • Keyword and caption it to an excellent standard;
  • Practice, practice, practice until you find the settings that work for you.

Good luck!

Alex

2 comments

  1. Great “how to” article. I hadn’t thought of doing images like this! I wonder if you can create the same effect afterwards in Photoshop? Now that could be the subject of your next post!

    Liked by 1 person

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