How to Add Action to Your Photographs

It's my mission each week to offer you practical tips you can use to immediately improve your photos.

To find ideas, I've been looking through the photo-contest entries (this month's theme is Cuppa Joe -- all things coffee-related), and I came across a wonderful image full of interest for the eye.

How did the photographer do it? By adding motion to the picture. You can do the same thing with your own images. It's not difficult. And it will guarantee you more dramatic shots.

Take a look at this motion-filled photo-contest entry, here:

See how the people in the background are blurred?

My guess is that the photographer created that effect intentionally (if not, it was an incredibly lucky grab shot).  But it's something almost all of our cameras can do…


For starters, when you have a good subject or scene, you might look around and see what is there that creates movement. Is there a stream or some kind of running water nearby? Is there activity in an amusement park?  Are you standing still while cars whiz by?

To create action or blurred images in a photograph, you'll generally need to adjust your shutter speed. If you don't know how to do that on your camera, go grab your camera manual now and follow along with me as I walk you through a few easy steps:


You need to get a slow shutter speed -- generally 30 or slower -- to create a blur. This shutter speed varies slightly depending on the speed of your "motion" subject -- a race car, for example, could use a higher shutter speed than, say, two kids pushing a merry go round.


Step 1: Let's get a "test" shot first, with your camera in auto mode. Step outside near the roadway and when a car goes by, snap a picture. Look at it. The car should be stopped in its tracks. Set on auto, your camera will stop action.

Step 2: That established, let's work next on capturing a car in motion. Read your camera's manual to find out how to change the shutter speed on your camera. Some point-and-shoot cameras will let you make this adjustment (though you may find yourself toggling through a few menus in order to locate the place where you do it). If you're a digital SLR user, put your camera in shutter-priority mode so that the camera will adjust the aperture automatically while you choose the shutter speed.

Step 3: Set the shutter speed to 30 or slower and snap the same picture of the moving car in the street. This time, the car should be blurred, and appear to be moving. Don't follow the car with your camera; just shoot as it passes.

So now you know how to set your camera to capture motion -- the same way that photo-contest shot does. And I should add, too, that another reason that coffee photo in the cafe is so strong is that it implies meaning -- it imparts the message that you can relax with a cup of java while the world goes speeding by.


To find out more about our photo contest click here and register to win.

First-time users should register first on the "register" link on the right side bar.  Once you have a username and password, click "Enter to Win" to upload your photos.  Only one photo per applicant will be considered.

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]