A (Simple) Motion Blur Effect tutorial, part 1

September 12, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Capturing the blur of motion can be accomplished a number of ways.  You can do this in the camera (by using long shutter speeds and panning or mounting on a tripod), or on the computer (using photo editing software such as Photoshop).

But how do you impart a sense of motion or abstraction to a stationary object, or if the scene is too bright for long shutter speeds?  Over the next few entries, I will teach you my process for creating abstract images with a sense of fluidity and movement using the motion blur tool in Photoshop.

In today’s example, we will apply a simple, vertical motion blur to this image (fig.1) of trees near my home in the golden light of an early autumn evening.  The first image is the original, unedited version.

In the second image (fig.2),  I applied a motion blur without any other editing by setting the direction to 90 degrees and moving the slider all the way to the right (998 pixels).  While the look is nice, I am not completely satisfied with it because the softness disappears around the top and bottom edges and the evidence of digital editing becomes much more apparent.

So, to maintain the softness throughout the image, it becomes necessary to first blur the details at the margins.  First, duplicate the layer (command-J or ctrl-J in Photoshop) and apply a Gaussian blur (set to about 65 pixels here) to the new layer.  Then take the marquee tool to draw a box that encompasses all but the top and bottom 10 per cent of the image.  Then delete the selection (command-X or ctrl-X)  and flatten the layers to create an image similar to the one in (fig.3).

Now, you can apply the motion blur to the flattened image, and the result is an ethereal, abstract landscape like the one in (fig.4).

Check back here to esjphotopro.com for the next installment in a few days.  Leave a comment if you have any questions, or if there is something else you would like to see.


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