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Tips & Tricks

How To Show Motion W/ Joe McNally

By Kishore Sawh on October 7th 2014


If there could be one thing said for the pains of looking through torrents of photos daily, it’s that boredom, and familiarity are great filters. Looking through hordes of work can be approached as study, no doubt, because only this way can you really begin to notice details of a photo at speed. To some degree, it’s important to spend time on each image to appreciate the nuances, but after you’ve seen volumes of work, it becomes a lot easier to spot the ones that may warrant that time, much more quickly.

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I can liken it to my Uncle, a Hemopathologist, who has been looking at slides of human tissue for the past three decades, for the purpose of diagnoses. He says he is at the point, where with incredible accuracy, he can tell within an extremely minute period of time, when there is something amiss – something that’s cause for concern. What may take a junior doc ten minutes to deduce, he will do in seconds. What he often tells me is that it’s not really just a matter of a predisposition to being good at this, but simply he has looked at millions of slides in his time, and he is able to pick up in a flash, the irregularities.


Similarly, in photography, going through the amount of work I do, I can spot the boring images, and the images that deserve a second look. One of the few things that can get more time and attention continuously, are images of motion. This is not to say all motion does a good photo make, but that it’s still much less common than a perfectly still image. Capturing that motion isn’t necessarily a difficult thing to do, but it pays to know a few ways to do it.

In the video featured here, Joe McNally, in conjunction with AdoramaTV, will rather quickly discuss two ways to capture motion which I think are good starting explanations and how-tos. It’s not necessarily groundbreaking techniques being discussed, but Joe has a way of explaining things and bringing you into a scenario with his words that often find a way into your memory. He’ll discuss, albeit briefly, the function of flash in motion, what shutter speed to show motion generally, and also an idea of when to use both. When to implement these in your work is, of course, to your discretion, but I think it’s a great way to separate from the crowd.

Source: ISO1200, images are screen captures from featured video.

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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    Thanks for the article ….

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  2. Clare Havill

    Great video, I’ll try this technique this weekend in my local park.

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    • Steven Pellegrino

      A park is the perfect place to practice this. I was able to try it out on runners and bicyclists and in a short time had the results I was hoping for.

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  3. Steven Pellegrino

    This is a fun technique to work with. I learned it a while ago from another video, but McNally hits all the high points. I started photographing active people in the urban environment of downtown St. Louis, primarily joggers and bikers. The photos were fine, but missing that extra “something” and that’s what he’s talking about in this video. It’s easy to stop the action, but everyone looks like mannequins. Capture the motion and the image really pops.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      That’s just it Steve, there’s so much photography done in environments with lots of movement yet it seems that movement is generally expected to be understood or implied rather than shown. It really helps an image breathe with some movement. I’ve also often found that isolating the subject by showing movement around it, or showing movement in the subject and little around it is a good way to do this.

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  4. Brandon Dewey

    Great Tips from one of the Greats in the business!

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