Fast As a Blur–Motion in Photography

I am sure you have all seen photos like this:

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Have you ever wondered what the mechanism behind the blur is? How you ever tried replicating the effect on your own camera? Motion-blur is a technique that allows still images to remind us of movement and to excite our mind.

Even if you already know how this works on an DSLR, do you know how this works on a phone? I don’t, and that’s why several weeks ago, I went near the highway to experiment settings, hoping for the magic.

I was defeated, completely defeated. It was impossible to adjust shutter speed the way I wanted to on my Samsung Grand Prime. Possible on an IPhone 6s maybe, or a Galaxy S6, but not on my phone. I reached this painful conclusion through weeks of experiment and research.

It all started with my post a month ago, in which I advised Android phone owners to try an app called Camara FV5 Lite. By having a slow shutter speed, motion-blur would be simple. This suggestion was based on research on the Web and a brief look at the function of its “shutter mode.” At that time, I have yet to find subjects that are fast and furious enough for the charm of motion-blur to manifest itself, but I was so confident the app will work well for the occasion that I recommended it nonetheless.

As soon as I decided to try the technique out on the trip to the highway, I encountered problems. The images I took look like the following:

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It reminds me of several images, successively taken, that are stitched together in a computer program. Before anyone ridicule my stupidity for trusting that smartphones have the same capabilities as DSLR, let me explain why I had confidence that shutter is adjustable by apps in Android. Unlike aperture (definition can be found here), which can be found to be fixed on all phones just by a simple Google search, shutter speed is adjustable on smartphones by many related articles I have found online. Like learners in any field, I trusted public sources and assumed what applies to them applies to me. I was wrong.

The official website of Camera FV5 stated that some smartphones are not capable of true long-exposure photos, and the app instead relied on algorithms to manipulate existing images to mimic the long-exposure effect. As can be seen in the photo above, this was done badly.

I could not help thinking, “if shutter speed cannot be controlled, how was the phone able to use different shutter speed to take different pictures?” I know this as fact because Google Photos shows that the exposure time for photos indeed varies. So far, I have not found a satisfying answer. I guess questions without answers are a necessary part of any intellectual exploration.

I began trying to indirectly influence the shutter speed by changing scene modes on the default camera. I found that, in daylight, scene modes do not influence shutter speed, which is very surprising. “Sports” mode and “Night” mode both use the same shutter speed if the subject is the same. Another roadblock. 

A thought crossed my mind. If depth of field (definition here) can be easily changed post-production, can motion-blur be somehow faked? Photoshop, the king of photo-editing, can no doubt successfully do so. Yet, I was more looking for an easier approach. That is, I hope to find an editing app more accessible and less professional than PhotoShop in order to stay true to this blog.

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The editor LunaPic blurs the entire image.

Roadblocks and mistakes are always to be overcome and to become a stepping stone to a higher level; I just have not found the way yet. Any suggestions, anyone?

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