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Creating Zoom Blur In Your Images

Zoom burst is an interesting technique that can take some time to get right. Here's our advice to help you perfect the technique.

| Specialist
Zoom bursts can add an abstract quality to a variety of subjects including statues, windows and flowers. It can also give sports and action shots a dynamic edge. You can achieve a similar effect in Photoshop but there is more satisfaction getting right in-camera.

Gear Suggestions:

To create the blurred streaks and lines that emanate from the centre of zoom burst images you need a lens that will zoom. Trying different zoom lenses and changing the starting point of the zoom and the range you zoom through will give you different effects.

You're also going to be using slow shutter speeds so a tripod is an essential bit of kit and means you'll have your hands free to control the zoom. Try using a remote release to fire the shutter to reduce camera shake. If you don't have a remote cable release try using the self-timer option found on all cameras. A burst of light from a flashgun can help freeze your subject and add sharpness to the image too.

Creating Zoom Blur In Your Images: Zoom Burst


The key to the image is getting the zooming action right. If the zoom is too obvious it may make an interesting image but it will disguise your subject. But if you don't zoom enough it will just look like a normal picture. Even though you can zoom either way most people choose to zoom out.

Once the shutter opens, wait for a while (half to three quarters of the exposure) then in one fluid but quite fast movement, zoom out. That way, you get a get a bit of definition into the subject before you blur it. We're lucky that digital cameras let us see the results straight away so if the zoom isn't quite right, you can re-set and do it again. Of course, your subject and creative aims will change how the shot is taken.

If you want to add speed to an image rather than a burst of light or colour, zooming out then starting a short exposure while you're moving the zoom will help you do this.

A small aperture (around f/22) is needed to allow a slow enough shutter speed and you should use ISO 100 or 200. A slow shutter speed of one to four seconds is needed but that can be tricky with a subject like a stained glass window because of strong backlighting. The need for a slow shutter speed is because it make it easier to time when to start zooming - with an exposure of 1/2 or 1/4sec, that is very difficult to do. If it is so bright that you can't get a slow enough shutter speed, fit a polarizer or neutral density filter, set an even lower ISO if you can or find a less brightly backlit window. When you meter, make sure you do it from your main point of focus.

It may take some practise before you have this perfected but experimentation and perseverance is the key to cracking this technique.

Creating Zoom Blur In Your Images:
Creating Zoom Blur In Your Images:

Creating Zoom Blur In Your Images:

Creating Zoom Blur In Your Images:
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avacreates 11 448 1 United Kingdom
22 Jan 2013 1:42AM
Thanks EPZ for these instructions, i needed to know this. I'll start practising. Wondering if you will be giving instructions for Flash slow and fast shutter sync ?
Ava Wink
22 Jan 2013 7:59AM
Hi Ava,

It's a subject we can cover - not a problem.

We are always open to suggestions for articles that will help our members.

Kind regards,

Philpot Plus
10 1.0k 4 United Kingdom
22 Jan 2013 1:11PM
Here's one i took a good while back with some settings and my technique, its great if you can get it spot one.. Regards Phil

Click here
22 Jan 2013 4:33PM
Thanks for the link Phil. You should put the image in today's Photo Month forum.

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