Creative uses of shutter speed – Camera Motion

Until now, the source of the motion for our photography has been a moving subject. Next we’ll look at creating an illusion of motion with a stationary subject. We’ll explore how to make creative images by moving the camera while using a slow shutter speed (slow is relative).

Camera motion can lead to creative images – usually of the “arty” variety. I think it’s an acquired taste as some viewers like them and some don’t (it makes me dizzy is a common remark). Here is an article describing the technique by William Neill – based on his book Impressions of Light. It’s a nice read, with lots of images to accompany the explanatory material, by one of the leading practitioners of this technique.

The technique is simple but takes lots of experimentation and practice. Reviewing your results in your camera’s monitor will help steer you toward better shutter speed and motion. Don’t get discouraged.

  • No two of these will look alike – so shoot lots of them.
  • Also, your “keeper percentage” will be far under 100% – so, again, shoot lots of them 😉
  • Variables include not only the shutter speed but also the direction & speed of camera movement.
  • Be as careful in your composition as you would for a normal image.
  • Finally – I use a tripod 99% of the time (for better control of direction and smoothness).

Not of the same caliber as William Neill’s images, here are examples from my archives to stimulate your imagination.

  • I tried to make the tulips “grow” by using a vertical pan, and by “freezing” the camera either at the start or end of the panning period. Moving throughout the pan (no freeze) would make the tulips more of a red blur throughout; I wanted the tulip subject to remain intact).
  • Tulip shutter speed was 4-5 sec. with a very slow & controlled pan (pan lasted about 1/2 of the total time); experiment


Motion Variety

  1. Shake (no motion & 2 different “shakes”); all at 1/3 sec


  1. Rotate (here’s where a tripod really helps); all at 4 sec.


  1. More Rotates (1/3, 2, 5, 5 sec)


Landscapes (mostly vertical pan); all between 1-2 sec