How to Photograph Motion

Photo Tips / How to Capture Motion

Have you ever wondered how to photograph motion? On the way home from our trip to Mendocino County we stopped to view the Golden Gate Bridge and I wanted to capture the motion of the cars crossing it. I don’t play a lot with photographing so it took me a little longer than usual to set up the shot. I’ve shared my best tips and tricks for how to photograph motion below.

Photo Tips / How to Capture Motion
ISO 800, F2.2, 1/10 second
Photo Tips / How to Capture Motion
ISO 320, F9.0, 1.6 seconds

In order to photograph motion, you’ll need a camera and a tripod or very stable surface to set your camera on. You will also need basic knowledge about how to control lighting in a photograph. If you don’t know this, you can learn some tips and tricks here.

1. Set up your camera, frame your photo, etc. You’ll want it to be ready to take the photo aside from your settings.

2. Set your exposure, or your shutter speed. For most of these photos I found that somewhere close to 2 seconds worked best. You can adjust the shutter speed  based on how quickly your subject is moving.

3. Set your Aperture. Do you want to have less of your subject in focus, or do you want everything in focus? Bokeh will depend on the distance between your focus points and lighting and background, for tips, read my Holiday Lights Bokeh post. I tried to capture some in the photos below, but the distance between the camera and the main subject (bridge) was too far. In the shot above I wanted everything in focus, so the settings are different (higher aperture).

3. Set your ISO/ Film Speed. Is it light or dark outside? I’d recommend a very low ISO for this because your shutter will be open longer, thus letting in more light. For most of these photographs I set mine anywhere between ISO 100 and ISO 320. If you want to let in more light it should be higher, less will be lower.

I like to snap a photo between each step to give me an idea of how to better adjust the photo. I know, I could use a light meter but it was 40 degrees out and very windy when I took these.

Photo Tips / How to Capture Motion Photo Tips / How to Capture Motion

1. ISO 200, F 1.4, 1/20 second
This image is too dark, and the car headlights are single dots, in focus. I will lengthen my exposure time, which should blur headlights and brighten image.

2. ISO 200, F.1.4, 2.0 seconds
The headlights are now blurred (motion) but because of the longer exposure the image is too bright. I will lower my ‘film speed’ (ISO) to dim the image.

Photo Tips / How to Capture Motion

3. ISO 100, F 1.4, 2.0 seconds
This image is much better, and you can see the headlight trails from the cars on the bridge.

I hope this helps you understand how to better capture movement in a photograph. I want to do more with a tripod during our trips and play around more with motion in photographs.

These photos were taken from the lookout point in Marin Headlands just off of highway 101, north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Have you ever photographed motion? If you haven’t, what types of photos do you want to take?


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Responses to “How to Photograph Motion”

  1. Thanks for the great tips! I definitely going to play around with my camera with your tips to see what I can come up with!

    1. You should. I am excited to play with it more, I don’t know why I haven’t before.

  2. I love this. I spent some time last summer in the mountains trying to get the stars, and when I finally got them in view I was elated beyond anything. Unfortunately my pictures are blurry because I left the shutter open TOO long and couldn’t see well enough to focus it properly. These tips are great. I am going to try it again soon.

    1. Ahh, I’ve had that problem before. When we were in Tahoe awhile back I tried to capture them but had to do a 20 second exposure. They weren’t as sharp as I’d hoped but I wanted to get the milky way. It was tough.

  3. This was really cool! I am not a photographer, but this looks like something fun to try out.

  4. Incredible- love a how to! Motion had always been difficult for me, so this was perfect, thank you!

    1. Best of luck! Let me know how it goes. 🙂

  5. I’m def pinning this for when I get a “big girl” camera! Thanks 🙂

  6. This is amazing! Thank you Jessica! I would love to take a picture like that… or a waterfall when all of the water is smooth… and of the sky where you can see a million stars… What lens do you find you use most? Right now I have a 35mm (this is what I use regularly) and an 18-50 (came with the camera, decent but not as good as the 35mm) and I know that I need to expand on that but I have no idea what to get!

  7. AMAZING! Thanks so much for sharing! I can’t wait to try this when we are in Vegas next week!

  8. Seriously! Could your pictures be more beautiful? Gah!

  9. […] other fun Fourth of July photo tricks. I’ve touched on long exposure photographs before in this post about how to capture motion, and photographing fireworks is very […]

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