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Using Blur as an Element of Composition

A large part of my personal portfolio, the use of blur in my personal photographic work is ever expanding. I’m not condoning sloppy technique that result in a soft image, I’m talking about introducing blur into certain images in order to elicit a desired effect; an abstract study of color and blur. I’ve been working on a portfolio of such images for about 5 years now (hmm, another book idea!).

In addition to shooting movement in-camera, I do introduce blur in images using Photoshop and Elements. The process is the same for both. Its a simple technique that takes ordinary, or even less-than-ordinary images, ones you may never use in the real world, and transforms the image into something completely different, an abstract of nature. The process goes like this;

1. Open an image in Photoshop or Elements. The image should include some color and hopefully some patterns, horizontal lines, or vertical lines.

2. Make your normal color and tonal adjustments to the image. I normally utilize Levels, Curves, and the Hue/Saturation adjustment layers.

3. Create a new layer. The easy way is to “pancake” all previous layers into a new one by CTRL+ALT+E (or SHIFT+CMD+OPTION+E on a Mac).

4. Add a Motion Blur Filter to the image. Using Photoshop or Elements menu bar, go to Filter–>Blur– >Motion Blur. Adjust the angle of the blur, plus the Distance setting, which determines the amount of blur in the image.

5. Add additional color or tonal corrections. Depending on the image, You may want to add more color, contrast, or color shifts to the image using various adjustment layers.

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The final product, the image shown on the right, actually turned out pretty good by my counts. You see, this type of photography, especially in the snobbish fine art realm, isn’t for everyone

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