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Image Editing Tips – Adding Motion Blur

For this tutorial I've used The GIMP, the free open-source image editing program. You can download a copy of The GIMP here. It is available for Windows XP SP2 or later, Max OSX, various versions of Linux and other operating systems. As usual the techniques explained here will also work in other image editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Elements or Corel Paint Shop Pro.


An index of all our image editing tutorials can be found here.


If you use the “Sport” mode on your camera to take a photo of fast moving action, it will set a fast shutter speed so as to freeze the action and capture a sharp image. This usually works very well, but for some subjects it robs the picture of the sense of movement, so that it looks posed and artificial. Take the photo below of a Caterham Super 7 sports car being driven on a test track. It was actually doing about 50mph in a controlled skid, but the shutter speed of 1/2500th of a second has frozen the action a little too well, so that the car looks completely stationary.

In a previous tutorial I've explained how the proper use of shutter speed can be used to capture moving subjects without freezing them, but with most automatic cameras this option is not available. However we can use an image editing program to restore the sense of movement by adding artificial motion blur to the picture. With a few simple steps we can produce a picture that looks a lot more dynamic.

The technique is quite easy, and can be applied to almost any high-speed shot, but I've included a full-size version of the starter image above for you to try it out for yourself. Read on to find out how it's done...

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