I would like to address the process of intentionally blurring an image. Blurring refers to observable movement in a photograph. Blur is usually created by a slow shutter speed, camera movement, and/or subject movement.
In the photo above, I panned (moved in a horizontal motion) my camera at the same speed Rebecca was walking, resulting in her head and torso being mostly sharp. But since the background was not moving, it appears blurry. This technique creates a sense of motion and helps the subject stand out from her surroundings (her dark dress helps too).
And there's an added benefit of being able to obscure an intrusive or unpleasant background - for example, a parking lot that's behind a field where kids are playing soccer. With the camera panning alongside the moving players, the blurred area behind them can become almost unidentifiable and, therefore, not intrude on the image of the players. In this photograph, there was no need for that. Her environment is appealing, and being able to identify what it is adds a sense of place to the image. The camera settings were 1/15 sec, f8. (click on photo to enlarge)
Occasionally, I’ll blur the whole image. Mentioning this to people often brings looks of bewilderment. So, I explain that the right amount of blur can produce a photograph that's both interesting and dynamic. It’s when there’s too much blur (making the subject unrecognizable) or just a little blur (making it look as if the photographer screwed-up) that causes problems. Properly done, the subject will still be identifiable, but rendered more diffusely, with softer tones, and hopefully more offbeat.
You’ll have to experiment with various shutter speeds and camera movements to determine what the appropriate amount of blur is. A relatively long shutter speed usually is enough to produce an effective blur. If I need more, I’ll use an even longer shutter speed or slightly move the camera up and down, side to side, or in a circular movement while shooting. Again, experimenting is key. In the photos below, each image has been blurred. (click on photos to enlarge)
Here Maggie is peering out her kitchen’s screen door. The camera settings were 1/10 sec, f4.5.
Kimberly is standing in front of her kitchen window and next to a hanging plant. The camera settings were 1/4 sec, f4.
I asked Danielle to bend slightly forward. The camera settings were 2 secs, f5.6.
A very pregnant Tabitha is standing in front of her bedroom window. The camera settings were 1.5 secs, f5.6.
This is Rebecca playing with her hair. It’s somewhat less blurry than the other pictures. The camera settings were 1/2 sec, f4.