While it arrived on the wedding scene within the last couple of years, the trend of intentionally blurring photos is still going strong and it’s unlikely to be leaving any time soon.
It’s a specific technique that, on first glance, could look like a mistake to be relegated to the outtakes pile. But when done well, it can capture the essence of movement in a still shot, offer focus in a crowded space, and bring a unique beauty to wedding photos.
“It’s not just a technique; it’s a creative tool that can elevate the storytelling aspect of your wedding album in breathtaking ways,” says Michigan wedding photographer Shuhrat Choudhury.
Choudhury also thinks the use of blur in wedding photos goes beyond a trend, saying the technique is here to stay. At the very least, it’s clear this is no flash in the pan as the style has been gaining traction for a few years now. Wedding photographer Asantae Haanstad made a viral TikTok on blur in wedding images back in 2022.
“I personally love blurry photos as they show movement and make you feel as though you are there in that moment,” Haanstad told PetaPixel at the time. “My photography style is very candid and movement-oriented and I think that the blurry photos fit perfectly with that vibe.”
Choudhury adds that it can help tell the story of the wedding but isolating moments in a powerful way.
“Motion blur adds a sense of energy, emotion, and dynamism to your wedding shots. It beautifully captures the motion and rhythm of the moment, whether it’s the twirl of a bridal gown, the dance floor in full swing, or the laughter-filled candid moments,” she says.
“Moreover, motion blur isn’t just about freezing action. It’s about infusing a sense of movement and emotion into still images. It’s that storytelling element that transports you back to the joy, laughter, and whirlwind of emotions felt on your wedding day.”
Choudhury tells PetaPixel that she’s seen a 20 percent increase in clients expressing interest in the style over last year. Right now, about one to two out of every 10 wedding clients ask about it.
“It is certainly an uprising trend, but a lot of couples who do not follow trends or social media are still not aware of it. And many couples are aware of it but decide to stick to the traditional style,” Choudhury adds.
“As a photographer, I might experiment with a few photos in different galleries to get the feel of it even if they don’t request it, and I have always gotten positive reviews about them. I noticed the uptick from last year’s wedding season. I have already gotten a few requests for this year’s upcoming season. Interestingly, when brides mention the blur, they associate the word ‘film aesthetic’ with it.”
The fact that this has only picked up over the last few years shows this is more than a fad. But it can still be tricky to get right.
“Implementing blur successfully to an image and moment is a learning curve for sure. It does not only have the technical part, but a photographer also has to develop the understanding of when to use it to see the best result,” Choudhury shares. “When utilizing this feature, a photographer should be mindful of adequately exposing the image, especially in a low-lighting situation. The camera settings for blurred images are a bit different than usual images. So, it can be a bit tricky for a photographer who is just starting to grasp the idea to adequately estimate the lighting situation.”
She notes “it requires a delicate balance and a keen eye for composition and timing.”
“This effect is achieved by adjusting the camera settings to capture a sense of movement, creating a dynamic and visually compelling image,” says Choudhury.
Choudhury describes shutter speed as “the star player in capturing motion blur,” which makes sense because it’s crucial to getting the blur in question to appear at all. Photographers will want to lower it to around 1/30 second or slower. The slower the speed, the more blur.
The aperture and ISO settings will help build the right look while prioritizing shutter speed, with the former being crucial in finding that balance. On one hand, many weddings come with low-light environments. The slower shutter speed, in addition to capturing more movement with greater time, also allows more light in. Combining a higher shutter speed with low light can allow for a midrange aperture between f/5.6 to f/8, allowing enough light to come in while giving a photographer a bit more flexibility in regards to depth of field. A wider aperture lets more light in and can create a pretty bokeh effect. The ISO, Choudhury stresses, should be kept as low as possible, around 100 or 200, to avoid noise and grain.
Choudhury also encourages photographers experimenting with motion blur to consider stabilization. A tripod is an obvious way to keep the camera steady, ensuring that any blur seen is intentional and not the result of a shaky hand. But when photographing a wedding and moving around the space, that might not be an option. In that case, utilizing stabilization features on a camera body or lens will help keep stationary items sharp and in focus while being able to take advantage of motion blur.
Beyond pure technique, it’s important to use the effect smartly. Motion blur needs, well, motion to be effective. Adding blur to stationary objects isn’t providing anything to the image.
“Imagine moments like dynamic dance moves on the reception dance floor, or the couple being playful during their portrait session by running around adding blur can do magic to these images,” Choudhury points out. “Moments like these are best displayed by adding a bit of blur to the image. It demonstrates a fleeting moment but still adds meaning and emotion to the image.”
But trying to add blur on a stationary subject can cheapen the effect, and come off looking like a mistake.
“Photographers should keep in mind the intent behind using the blur in an image. Are they using it to tell a story or are they just using it for the sake of it?” Choudhury notes.
Additionally, this is a trend in wedding photography specifically. That means paying attention to what the couple wants.
“The couple might have a different vision for their images, they might be planning to hang a very sharp focused artwork on their wall. Blurred images won’t be the best option for that,” she adds. “Photographers should also avoid using blur during significant moments and family group shots.”
Choudhury suggests offering a variety of shots, mixing ones with motion blur and more traditional, sharply focused images to a gallery. This ensures the couple has choices and won’t be disappointed when seeing a photo of their families together that, while beautifully and artistically shot, doesn’t quite capture what they were hoping for.
Having a conversation with the client and knowing what to emphasize, whether that’s the twirls of a first dance or the energy of a conversation caught in a candid, can give offer photographers a way to embrace a growing trend while delivering on the couple’s vision.
“As we gaze into the future, the evolution of motion blur seems promising. It’s poised to continue evolving, blending artistry with technology, offering new realms of personalization, and seamlessly integrating with the storytelling essence of wedding albums,” Choudhury says. “While the future holds advancements and innovations, the core remains unchanged—the pursuit of evocative storytelling that captures the essence of love, emotion, and movement in every frame. Embracing the evolution of this trend, photographers will continue to weave mesmerizing stories, creating timeless images that resonate with generations to come.”
Image credits: Photographs by Shuhrat Choudhury