How To Create a Motion Blur Effect in Photoshop - Digital Photography School

How To Create a Motion Blur Effect in Photoshop

Motion Blur Original

The original image before the motion blur is applied


Motion Blur Filter

For the first technique I am going to start with this rather boring and cluttered image I made in a forest on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

Maybe it wouldn’t be so boring if there was anything to show the scale of these enormous trees but it’s pretty hard to get away from cluttered in the dense forest there.

I decided to mimic the effect of in-camera panning by using the motion blur filter in photoshop to blur the image in the same direction as the strong lines of the trees.

Try this technique on your own forest scene or another scene with strong lines by following these steps. I am using Photoshop Elements but you can also do it in Gimp and some other photo editors.

1. Select Filter > Blur > Motion Blur

Photoshop Motion Blur Filter

2. Set the direction of the blur to match your image and amount of the blur to your taste. For my image I made the blur vertical and the amount maximum.

If you have a photo editor that supports layers, make a copy of the background layer and apply the filter to the new layer. This will allow you do have some fun in step #4 below.

Photoshop Motion Blur Filter Options

Motion Blur Applied

Image after motion blur is applied



3. Crop the tell-tale edges out of the image.

I find that you can always tell when the blur is done in photoshop, as opposed to in-camera, because the edges of the image don’t blur evenly. Why they don’t blur evenly I don’t know! But they don’t so I always crop the edges out.

See the 100% zoom of a portion of my image below where you will see how the edges of the image don’t look right.

Motion Blur Artifacts

4. To add a little something extra try revealing a part of the original image without the blur.

If you applied the blur to a copy of the background layer as I mentioned in step #2 above you can try this. Either using a layer mask or simply using the eraser tool, remove the blur effect from a portion of the image.

This is the final version:

Motion Blur Revealed

Here is a video I made that shows all the steps I took to make the final image using Photoshop Elements.

Zoom Blur Original

Original image before zoom blur is applied


Zoom Blur Filter

This technique is very similar to the motion blur effect but with a little bit of a twist.

As you can see the original image has a few problems. The trees are mottled with light and shadow and there are blown out highlights in the sky for a start. But I like the composition of the trees the way the wide-angle lens made them appear to lean in towards the centre of the frame.

I decided to try a zoom blur effect to emphasize the composition and even out some of the colours.

Try this technique on your own image by following these steps:

1. Duplicate the background layer (Layer > Duplicate Layer)

Duplicate Background Layer

2. Rename the layer to “blur” or something else that makes sense to you

3. In photoshop, select Filter > Blur > Radial Blur

Photoshop Radial Blur Filter

4. Change the option from “spin” to “zoom” and, in the section of the window named “blur center”, drag the centre of the zoom from the middle to the top of the frame to match the composition of the original image

Photoshop Zoom Blur Filter Options

5. Crop out the blown out highlights in the resulting image

Zoom Blur Final

Here is a video I made that shows all the steps I took to make the final image using Photoshop Elements.

Read more from our Post Production category.

Anne McKinnell is a photographer, writer and nomad. She lives in an RV and travels around North America photographing beautiful places and writing about travel, photography, and how changing your life is not as scary as it seems. You can read about her adventures on her blog and be sure to check out her free photography eBooks.

  • B

    I don’t understand why one would want to do this to their photos.

  • MaryU

    Love ! Thanks

  • http://positivething.net/ Louise

    My husband is just recently learning photoshop, and he is dying to learn the motion blur effect. I will let him see this.

  • Jurek Jerry

    Does this process work with Elements 11 too? Thanks and Happy Holidays to you.

  • Carl Lafong

    Enjoyed the tutorials. I think they are something I can use to make some of my images more interesting. Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/oceancountryimpressions Karen Byrnes

    Great post – but I personally like to create these effects in-camera – simple refresher on how to ‘tweak’ images if need be!

  • http://annemckinnell.com Anne McKinnell

    Thank you all for your comments.

    @karen I like to do it in camera too! Sometimes though it is impossible, like the zoom blur with the center of the zoom in the top of the frame.

    @Jurek yes, it works with Elements 11

    @B I do it because I like it

  • http://TheTechTalker.com Anukul

    Fantastic Article !
    Very well explained and surely useful in making some of those mundane pictures visually appealing..

    Thanks !

  • http://www.jimwoolseyphotography.com Jim Woolsey

    Really cool effect! This can definitely add a different dimension to certain types of photos.

  • Jan Bugden

    The first person to respond said why do this to your photos, well, why not, I have played around with just the basic program but now that I have Photoshop I am going to enjoy myself and create all sorts of fun and maybe even have the end results printed onto Canvas for hanging in my lounge.

  • ayaz

    it is greate information for blur effect. I have a link in which you can see guidance of blur effect http://www.tutorialz360.com/how-to-make-blur-effect-in-photoshop-or-make-blurry-pictures-photoshop

  • http://www.debcochraneimages.com Deb

    Thanks for this great tutorial Anne.
    I have just discovered this technique and I am keen to experiment!
    I dont have Photoshop Elements though. I have lightroom but I dont think it has this technique available.
    Thanks for the your great articles here. Much appreciated!
    cheers,
    Deb

  • ?????? Pippen

    Wow thank you! I will try this today!

  • Michael Clark

    In this we’ll learn how to add the motion blur effect! The effect is very popular in photography since it’s a great way to add motion, direction and excitement to an image.

    Learn Photo Editing

Some older comments

  • Deb

    June 7, 2013 11:05 pm

    Thanks for this great tutorial Anne.
    I have just discovered this technique and I am keen to experiment!
    I dont have Photoshop Elements though. I have lightroom but I dont think it has this technique available.
    Thanks for the your great articles here. Much appreciated!
    cheers,
    Deb

  • ayaz

    May 13, 2013 05:12 am

    it is greate information for blur effect. I have a link in which you can see guidance of blur effect http://www.tutorialz360.com/how-to-make-blur-effect-in-photoshop-or-make-blurry-pictures-photoshop

  • Jan Bugden

    January 15, 2013 03:44 pm

    The first person to respond said why do this to your photos, well, why not, I have played around with just the basic program but now that I have Photoshop I am going to enjoy myself and create all sorts of fun and maybe even have the end results printed onto Canvas for hanging in my lounge.

  • Jim Woolsey

    January 15, 2013 03:55 am

    Really cool effect! This can definitely add a different dimension to certain types of photos.

  • Anukul

    January 15, 2013 03:11 am

    Fantastic Article !
    Very well explained and surely useful in making some of those mundane pictures visually appealing..

    Thanks !

  • Anne McKinnell

    January 9, 2013 06:06 am

    Thank you all for your comments.

    @karen I like to do it in camera too! Sometimes though it is impossible, like the zoom blur with the center of the zoom in the top of the frame.

    @Jurek yes, it works with Elements 11

    @B I do it because I like it

  • Karen Byrnes

    January 7, 2013 07:24 am

    Great post - but I personally like to create these effects in-camera - simple refresher on how to 'tweak' images if need be!

  • Carl Lafong

    January 7, 2013 03:36 am

    Enjoyed the tutorials. I think they are something I can use to make some of my images more interesting. Thanks!

  • Jurek Jerry

    January 7, 2013 12:46 am

    Does this process work with Elements 11 too? Thanks and Happy Holidays to you.

  • Louise

    January 6, 2013 10:57 pm

    My husband is just recently learning photoshop, and he is dying to learn the motion blur effect. I will let him see this.

  • MaryU

    January 6, 2013 12:15 pm

    Love ! Thanks

  • B

    January 6, 2013 05:19 am

    I don't understand why one would want to do this to their photos.

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