Inspiration Photography

Photographing motion: Why you should still use a camera even if your smartphone is boss

You can create a wow factor when you use a camera to capture motion.

Some smart phones are great cameras and most of the time, you can pretty much take all your imagery using a smart phone these days. Antun uses his iPhone to chase light in his stories of the Croatian coast, and I have done that too, shooting in Phuket solely with the smart phone. But for some trips when I go to specifically photograph the place, people and life, I pack a DSLR and a couple of lenses.

The reason is: control.

A camera gives you some control over how your resulting images will look. The impact of an image depends upon how you design it, and that design involves some control over how the camera will produce the image you want to create.

For example, you can spice up your travel photography by keeping your camera in motion!

I kid you not.

Most of us have learned at some point that the only way to get a good photo is to keep absolutely still when taking it. Yes, this is a general rule. Holding the camera steady when taking a photo is one of the essential skills a developing photographer needs to master. There are even breathing techniques we use to make sure our images come out sharp!

It’s also a general rule that we have to keep our shutter speed inversely proportional to the focal length of our lens to make a sharp photo. That means if your focal length is 50mm, you have to make sure your shutter speed is 1/50s or faster.

These two rules are good to know and keep in mind. But sometimes, you have to break the rules to be creative. Here’s how breaking these two rules in photography can help you capture motion  and spice up your travel photos.

Panning is a technique used to create a photo with visible motion. Hoi An, Vietnam with Canon 7D.

Slowing down shutter speed to a value lower than the inverse of your focal length and moving the camera from one side to another can result in images that show motion. Let’s break it down into details of what we have to do to make these kinds of shots.

How to capture motion

First, set the camera to Shutter Priority. This is S Mode on a Nikon and Tv mode on a Canon. (I use a Sony now, but most folks own these two brands of DSLR so I’m using them as case studies.) Then, set ISO to the lowest possible. I used ISO 200 on the Nikon and ISO 100 on the Canon.

Try to shoot motion in the times of day when there is less light, like early morning or late afternoon. Using these techniques when there is a lot of light results in overly overexposed images, which will not work.

The shutter speed that can allow us to keep sharp a walking person is at about 1/15s. If your focal length is 24mm, like what I was using for the photo of the man in the Balinese market, this shutter speed is much slower than what I require to take a sharp photo. But what I did to make the man sharp against the moving-like-a-blur market was to focus on him when he was walking initially outside of my frame, and then following him while keeping the shutter release depressed.

Man in market, Bali. ISO 200, 1/15s at 24mm. Nikon D3.

I pressed the shutter release just as the man walked into the frame I had decided beforehand. This technique blurs the background and everything else but keeps the man sharp, making this photo that captures motion in the bustling market.

This technique of moving the camera from one side to the other is called panning. Panning can also be used for faster objects, such as the people on bikes in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Yellow bike is faster than the other. ISO 100, 1/20s at 16mm, Hoi An, Vietnam. Canon 7D.

Capturing motion is simple and fun, and the resulting images spice up your travel photography.

In this age of Instagram, there are a lot of photos of beautiful people in beautiful settings that greet you as you scroll through social media. Sometimes, though you can create a wow factor by using an actual camera instead of your smart phone. And, there are so many more images you can create that are not just ‘look how pretty it is’ — and you might have fun along the way!

If you enjoyed this short tutorial, why not download our FREE Light Chaser Guide to MUST HAVE SHOT LIST to Asian Temples? If you are planning to travel in Asia, temples will be part of your itinerary!

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    1. Hi Alexandra, Thanks for your comment. It’s great that you stopped by. I hope the little lessons help you find some fun in your photography! Safe travels, Light Chaser


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