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Phlearn Battle: Create Emotional Photographs With Motion Blur

Category: Battle, Opinion, Video
Tagged with:
Jan 24

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Let’s Get Blurry with Motion Blur

We’re getting blurry this week with two fantastic photos by Paarma and Msvnicks. Both use motion to convey a sense of mystery about their subjects. What image do you like more, and why?

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New Battle Format

Welcome to Phlearn’s newest format for our weekly battles. The voting and submission process will stay the same, but we’re excited to let you know that we’ll be offering more ways you can better your own photography from now on. We’ll also be reading comments from the Phamily, so make sure to explain the reasoning behind your vote and what you think of the images presented in the battle today.

Let us know if you have any suggestions – the purpose of these battles is for the community to learn and grow as photographers!

Monotone Battle Results

Two weeks ago you voted on three amazing images by Petra, Andri, and Sarah. Andri’s photograph depicting a man standing among crashing waves came in first, while it was a close tie between Petra and Sarah. We go over on how using a prop can really shift the meaning of a photo, and how using out of focus elements can help to break apart a monotone image.

Make sure to become part of the Phlearn Family on Facebook, conversate with us on Twitter, and #hashtag your Phlearn inspirations on Instagram. We want to know what the Phlearn community social chatter is about, and who is sharing it. You all keep us motivated to do our best.

Battle Guidelines:

How to Enter
If you would like one of your images battled against another, just post it to the Flickr Phlearn Group and tag it with PhlearnBattle. Your image is now available to battle!

Click Here to View Battle Entries

The battle is nothing without you, so be sure to enter your vote and tell us WHY!

By submitting images, you give Phlearn LLC the right to digitally alter your image and display on, and use your image and any resulting derivatives to promote We reserve the right to change the rules whenever we want.
  • Sarah Allegra

    I voted for Paarma’s photo because I love the deep sense of mystery it exudes. It gives me an unsettled feeling looking at it, and I’m not even sure why. It feels like it could be a film still from a dark, suspenseful movie.

  • Norbert Csoka

    IMO the walk picture is good, but needs a little more vignetting and some color toning. My eyes jump to the branches and the sky.
    But I voted for Paarma’s photo because of the colors used (cold, generates tension), and it has a Michael Myers look :D

  • Pezi Be

    I like Msvnicks’s photo much more because the whole compositions works better for me. I do like the colours a lot and also blur, which is not too much nor too less. The movement makes the photo very interesting and also a bit creepy.

  • eddy746

    I voted for Msvnick’s phots because, firstly, the composition is great with the path leading the eye from foreground to background. Secondly, The blur adds to the picture, giving the viewer an insight in to the mind and world of the subject.

  • Joe Berninghausen

    I like the overall feeling of Msvnick’s photo. The sharp BG matched with the moving/blurred subject has an erie feeling to it thats very strong. A later hour would add to that erie feeling.

  • Vania Stoyanova

    MsVnicks’ photo tells a story while I feel Paarma’s is more of a ‘portrait’ of sorts.

  • Sarah Place

    I like both of these images but for me and in light of the topic of this battle Paarma has my vote. I say this because Msvnick’s image, while beautifully composed and with lovely tones, it would look just as good if the subject were not blurred.

    However with Paarma’s I feel the blurred smudginess is what really makes the image. It gives the image an eery sense that would not come across as well without the blur. I also have to disagree with those who said Paarma’s photo is simply just a portrait. Even though it is simple it still resonates with mystery and intrigue. The two beams of light behind him also really add to this sense of mystery and gives us a a bit of insight into the setting rather than it just being a blank wall. What are these lights? Are they coming from a light overhead or are they from double door being opened into this dark room. I find myself wondering who this man is, where he is, how he got there, is he alone. So many questions come to my mind.

  • Sam Andrastek

    I like the color toning of Msvnicks’s image; she has done a good job of balancing saturation and color (complimentary green & magenta) so that it’s effective, but not overwhelming. However, I think Paarma’s image is just a bit more evocative. The shadows on the subject’s face are just dark enough to shroud his demeanor. The shadows coupled with the blur make the image a bit more compelling and cryptic than Msvnicks’s. Is the subject irate or just sullen? Dejected? Contemplative, perhaps? Is something insidious afoot? The icy blue lights slicing through the darkness behind him add a distinctly paranormal flavor to the overall effect of the image as well.

Episode Transcript

Aaron Nace: Welcome to the battle of the blur. Hey guys welcome to PHLEARN guys. My name is Aaron Nace. You can find me on Twitter @aknacer. Today, we're starting a new battle. We've got a little bit of a new format going on for our battles. I'm really excited about it. We've got some great comments printed and some statistics from the last battle to encourage you guys to write your own comments, because those are the things that are going to really spur these battles forward. We're going to talk a bit more about recapping the last battle because that's the only reason why we do these battles. It's to kind of figure out why we like one image over the other, and what really is going on in there. Then you can kind of take that knowledge and bring it to your own photo.

The comments are huge, and why you vote the way you do is a really big time. I'm going to go and spend a little more time on that, and we're going to announce today's battle afterwards. The last battle was monotone portraits and it was between Petra, Andre and Sarah. Andre won the battle. It was a really, really close battle between Petra and Sarah, but Andre won it … and just amazing images. We got a lot of really great comments, so I'd like to read through some of those. Then, I'm going to give my thoughts on each of the images as well.

We have one from Peter. Peter says, "The story that evolves in my head looking at Andre's photo deserves my vote. The pose, the prop, the sea tells me about a new journey, a farewell, a new start somewhere else. The coloring, or lack thereof, sets me in a blue mood, so for this, it's a goodbye to the past. Without the suitcase, it would have been more suicidal." That's kind of interesting. Petra sent me in the "King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime Mood". Very, very cool, and I totally agree. We talked a lot about how props can really make a difference in your image and what … a little suitcase here and there can totally change the meaning of an image and I think that's totally right. In this case, the suitcase really does a great job at telling that story.

Says "The ocean picture wins for me. I like the ocean and it raises a lot of questions. It's also really monochromatic. Time of day, color of clothing, suitcase and water, it all fits. I would like to see it a little more contrasty though". So Mark O'Donnell voted for Petra and here's why. He said "The color works for me with the expression and the mood of the photo. I love the contrast and muted skin tones and the composition is nice, with the leading lines from the crown to the trees. The Brenizer Method is something I plan on playing with." Thanks for sharing. Great, great advice … really, quite a bit more contrast than the other photos, and using that Brenizer Method really does separate out the subject from the background.

Although, the contest was about monochrome, keeping everything in the same color, it's interesting that this kind of got judged on another level as well, and that's the whole point of this. Even if we're talking about just monochrome, you can even kind of figure out okay, these are all monochrome, but why do I like this one more than that one? You can say “Well, maybe I'm drawn to more out-of-focus areas in images. I might include more of that in my own work, and that might be something that other people will enjoy in my own work as well.” It's a really cool way to kind of look at different images and then figure out what you like in your own work and then bring it out a little bit more. It's kind of like some self-analyzation, but I do this stuff all the time, and it really does help make some better images

On to today's battle, guys. We've got two great images, both of which are using a lot of motion blur. The first thing we have is [inaudible 00:03:10] image. He's using a lot of motion blur here. He's got some great coloring as well. The blues and the greens really play with each other very well. I'm not sure how he created that kind of light effect from the background, because it's a little bit out of focus and the exposure of the contrast has been cranked up. It might have been something as simple as like a stairwell or a couple of holes that had some light hitting on him. I'm not sure what they are, but it's really interesting and it kind of steps the photo up a little bit in my mind. I think motion blur totally worked in that I can't really tell what's going on with the subject, but that kind of visual discrepancy can sometimes add to a photo.

Sometimes, you can create more emotion and more feeling through a photo by not having everything tack sharp. I'm kind of working that in my own work. We just did an awesome lensbaby series, and there's a lot of motion, a lot of crazy blur going on. What I found out is that it can kind of help to add a little bit of emotion. I'm going to be playing with my own work in adding a little bit of motion blur as well because I'm loving it. It's really, really cool right now, and that's one of the reasons why we picked this week's contest theme. She went a completely different route. Almost her entire frame is still, but she has one element that does have quite a bit of a motion blur, and I like this a lot.

It could either been a composite, or just the fact that the camera was on a tripod, the environment didn't move a whole lot. She … I'm assuming that's her, is walking through the frame at the same time. In my mind, it kind of gives it a little bit more of that moody feeling, where you're looking at the image and you're not quite sure what's going on here. I don't even know really who this is. Even if I knew this person, maybe I couldn’t identify them. It adds to the feeling a little bit more of this image, rather than what it would've been if it was just completely still. I love both of these images guys, and now it is your turn to tell me which one of these wins. Vote down below in a comment. Let us know which of these images you think should win this week's battle, and be sure to leave a comment down in the comment box below. Next week, I'll probably be reading yours to the whole world, so you're going to get famous. Look at that, that's awesome.

I can't wait to see your guys' entries. Thanks again and make sure to vote below. I'll PHLEARN you guys later. Bye everyone.
On to the next one, on to the next one. I’ve got a million ways to get it.

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