Are you looking for something a little different in your Christmas photos this year? One of my favorite ways to photograph almost anything is to do so in an abstract way. There are several ways to create an abstract image of a scene. One way, motion blur, is a great way to make your Christmas images out of the ordinary. Motion blurs can be created in one of several ways. First, you can move the camera while the shutter is open. Second, you can zoom the lens in/out while the shutter is open. If you've never tried these techniques, it may seem strange at first as we've always been taught to hold the camera perfectly still. But, it is great fun and you can get extremely creative with your shots.
In order to have enough time to move the camera or the lens, you must have a shutter speed that is long enough to capture the movement. A shutter speed of 1/3 second or longer gives you enough time to capture the blur created by the movement of the camera or the lens. There are several ways to do this:
1) Make sure you have a slow enough shutter speed by shooting in lower light;
2) Set your camera on aperture priority and a small f/stop (f/16 - f/22). This will decrease the amount of light hitting your sensor and your camera will adjust to a slower shutter speed to get a good exposure;
3) Set your camera on shutter speed priority and set the shutter speed to 1/3 second or slower;
4) Add neutral density filters to your lens to decrease the amount of light. Low light can be indoors, on a very overcast day, or near twilight. Shooting in low light is one of the easiest ways to do this.
Because Christmas lights are often a combination of various light temperatures, I shoot in RAW mode and daylight white balance. I can adjust the white balance if needed during post processing. If you are not shooting RAW, you can set your white balance to tungsten if you are shooting interior shots, or if the interior is lit with florescent lights, set your white balance to that mode.
Slower Camera Movement Abstract
Faster Camera Movement Abstract
Once you have your camera set so that you have a long enough shutter speed to capture the effects of the motion, it is time to get creative. You can gently move your camera up and down or side to side in a smooth motion, depending on the scene. For most vertical oriented subjects, like Christmas trees, I would suggest an up and down movement. You really do not need to move the camera much at all to get a blur. A little goes a long way. Practice and practice some more. After a while, you learn just how much movement it takes to get either a slow motion or fast motion effect.
Holding the camera still and zooming the lens in or out creates a completely different blur effect. Again, the speed at which you zoom the lens will have an impact on whether or not you get something that looks as if your wreath is exploding toward you or you get just a little zoom effect.
If you want to experiment more, set your camera up so that you can get an even longer shutter speed, one second or longer, and move your camera a little at the time, stopping momentarily between movements. This creates a layered effect that can be beautiful. Also, remember that you can twirl your camera and create very interesting effects.
Faster Zoom Abstract
As you might imagine, you can create so many different motion blurs just by allowing yourself a long enough shutter speed to move the camera or lens in different ways. It's great fun, you can create images that no one else has, and it allows your imagination to run wild!
We wish to extend a special thanks to Marti Jeffers (Marti Jeffers Photography) for writing this fun and informative article for Backyard Shots! To learn more about Marti and her photography workshops, please visit her website