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Tips on shooting blurry creative images

How to create soft, dream-like composition.

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Digital Photography Composition for DummiesExtraction from Digital Photography Composition for Dummies by Tom Clark (page 210). For more information visit Wiley Publishing.

When you think of photography, you probably think about images that are in focus. A blurry photo is considered a failed attempt and is discarded as useless. It doesn't represent the subject in an ideal way. People don't want to look at blurry images; doing so makes them feel like something's wrong with their eyesight. However, a certain quality in a blurry image is worth exploring.

Using blur creatively
Photo by David Clapp.

As I discuss experimenting with images that don't have a focal point, I refer to blurry as 'soft' because it sounds better and seems appropriate for the mood you create by not having sharp focus. A soft image is subtle and provides a sense of secrecy. The finer details aren't yours to know, so you focus on the other details in the image instead.

When you create a composition with no sharp focus, keep in mind that you'll still have a focal point or a main subject. The subject's story is going to be told through lines, shapes, and colours, but you lose the elements of texture, fine lines, and literal details. Basically you shot the subject's essence, so make sure it's interesting. Throwing any old composition out of focus and calling it art usually is a mistake and won't receive positive reviews.

Because you have fewer elements to work with in a soft composition, you have to pay extra careful attention to the ones you do have. Here are the elements to consider:

Lines
Your lines are softened but will still work as leading guides, telling a viewer where to look in the composition. Finer lines may be lost, which simplifies the composition and draws more attention to the bolder lines. Make sure your lines don't take away from your composition in any way.

Shapes
Your shapes contain less detail and become very basic. However, they play a major role in your photo. If the shapes aren't interesting, you have no reason to create this kind of image. Smoother shapes work better in soft compositions than rigid shapes.

Colours
Colours work as the strongest element in soft compositions. Because colour appeals to people, it's used in abstract art, interior design, and fashion to create compositions. If you can create an interesting composition of colour, you don't need sharp focus to tell a story.

Reinforce your subject as the focal point in a soft composition by keeping in mind elements like contrast, compositional placement, and size. Just because you don't have the subject in focus doesn't mean you can't cause people to concentrate on it as the subject.

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