Blurred Long-Exposure Portraits Showing Dancers in Motion


For his project titled Motion, Brooklyn, New York-based photographer Bill Wadman shot portraits of dancers with a slow shutter speed in order to capture their movements through motion blur. The resulting photographs look like a strange fusion of photography and painting.

Here’s what Wadman tells us about how the project came about:

‘Motion’ started as an experiment, a departure from my traditional and conceptual portrait work. I had attended a lecture by old-school sports photographer Marvin Newman where he showed a slow shutter speed image he had taken of a boxer with his saturated glove smearing across the frame as he punched his opponent. I was inspired by the imagery and idea of capturing motion in a dynamic way, so started experimenting with long exposure photography.

My initial plan was to use a broad cross-section of subjects, specifically people who move as part of their job. Athletes, construction workers, cooks, etc. were all on my initial list of potential shoots. However, my first experiment was with a professional dancer and the results were incredible, so I decided all the subjects should people whose use of motion is their living. During the following months I had sessions with nine different dancers.

The entire series was shot using a Canon 5D Mark II and a 35mm f/1.4 lens, and the resulting photographs were cropped to a 4×5 ratio during post.

Each of the images is a simple exposure taken in a very dark room, with a single soft light source shining down on the dancers from above. Wadman used a 3-second shutter speed with his lens stopped down to f/11 (to prevent the depth-of-field from being too shallow, since he was aiming for motion blur rather than out-of-focus blur).












This project is like a non-flash version of photographer Ben Von Wong’s dancer photo behind-the-scenes that he shared here last month.

You can buy some of these photographs in the form of a print or a photo book through Wadman’s online store.

P.S. We interviewed Wadman back in 2009 regarding his 365 Portraits project.

Image credits: Photographs by Bill Wadman and used with permission

  • Mathok12

    apocalypse is coming and you waste your time with such thing….

  • Richard

    Fantastic work.

  • Bernd Capitain


  • Leonardo Abreu


  • Bisma Putra

    wow.. I had the same idea in capturing dancers.. but his execution is amazing.. a ma zing

  • Jason DreamArts

    prefer the work of VonWong about motion dancers ^^

  • eraserhead12

    and you waste your time commenting on it ;)

  • Mansgame

    All been done a million times. At least maybe he could have done some exciting lighting or something, but nah. just put camera on tripod, use long shutter speed, and bam,profit.

  • coolclear

    I wonder if Wm Waldman’s related to Max Waldman…dance and theatre photographer who made great use of 2475/available light.

  • coolclear

    google Max Waldman, perhaps this Waldman’s grandfather…did wonderful B&W with dancers and actors, notably around “Marat Sade” using 2475 recording film.

  • coolclear

    “done a million times” is perhaps the most stupid comment anybody could make. these are photographs, not technical exercises.

  • Mansgame

    I doubt they even used manual mode. Probably aperture priority. At least it looks like they turned off auto-ISO so bravo sir, you are an artist.

  • Joe Kundlak

    One wonders what kind of troll this is… Photography in its course IS a “someone-done-this-already-five-times-over” thing and it is always about the photog’s vision and the scene he sees in front of him. So suit yourself in hiding behind the curtain of interwebz and barkingout all day long… But it does make you only stupid-er each time.