I always thought of photography as a naughty thing to do — that was one of my favorite things about it, and when I first did it, I felt very perverse. – Diane Arbus, On Photography by Susan Sontag
What has changed over the years, though, is our attitude toward motion blur. While there has always been some acceptance of the error under very limited circumstances, such as pictures of flowing streams of water, it is generally considered a mistake. The most common one I caught then, and still often have problems eliminating, is that the subject will move, just a hand or maybe shift a foot, right as I’m clicking the shutter. I hate having to count aloud before taking each shot, but there are some people who cannot stand still for more than a split second, and some toddlers who can’t stand still at all. For them, warning exactly when the shutter is about to click is the only way to get a clean shot in environments where one can’t work with a super-high shutter speed. Otherwise, you’re throwing away the frame.
Today, we’re more forgiving of certain kinds of motion blur, such as in today’s photo. We are more likely to understand that the motion is necessary to communicate the story of the photo effectively. Capturing just the right amount of blur confirms for us that the subject isn’t just posing for a picture, but that something is actually happening; that we’ve captured an event as it was taking place, something that will never happen exactly the same way ever again.
Honestly, when I took these shots, I fully expected that it was the fringe on her top that was going to give me the most problem, and there’s not a shot in the set where every strand is staying still. Could I have fixed that on camera? Sure, but doing so would have left us with a much less emotional image. With the motion, we have a greater sense of what is going on. We are closer to understanding the story (or creating our own) and connecting to the energy of the image. Without the blur, especially in her hair, this picture comes off bland and a bit boring.
This is an example of natural light sometimes giving us what we don’t know we want. Experimenting, being willing to risk some mistakes, knowing from the start that nothing you’re about to shoot may be usable, is one of the things that makes photography exciting, and that excitement becomes part of the fabric of the resulting image. Motion blur still isn’t something we want to see too often, and the majority of images do better without it but, don’t be afraid of the emotion that comes with a little bit of blur; it may just make the whole picture worthwhile.