Photography 101: Moment

Capture a fleeting moment and experiment with blur and movement.

Image by Cheri Lucas Rowlands

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Our lives are made up of big events and tiny moments. Ultimately, life is fleeting, and oftentimes it’s these small moments we love to document.

Consider one such moment brought to life by a Sufi dancer, in the courtyard of a former traveler’s inn in Cairo one evening:


The colors, the music, the chanting, the whirling — watching Sufi dancers is a mesmerizing experience, as bodies spin themselves into meditative states. Here, a moment becomes an eternity.

Think about the fleeting moments you experience each day — from a quiet, precious moment with your child to a busy commute through the subway, among strangers. What will you share with us?

Tip: Movement is a great way to convey time and fleetingness. If you’d like to play with motion, try the following:

For all cameras and cameraphones:

  • Turn your auto-flash off, even in low-light conditions: I took the image of the Sufi dancer in the dark, with no flash. A bit grainy, it’s not the best quality — yet the fuzziness evokes being transfixed in that moment.
  • While photographing moving subjects, use a tripod or lay your device on a surface to keep it still: for the image above, I rested the camera on an empty seat.
  • Experiment with panning: pan your camera across your scene while following your moving subject. It takes practice, but if done right you can produce images with clear subjects against blurred backgrounds.

For cameras with manual settings:

Intermediate and advanced-level photographers: Check out Marcus Kazmierczak’s night photography tutorial for more tips on working with your dSLR and manual settings.

  • Slow down your shutter speed (meaning, keep the shutter open longer): when the shutter is open longer, your subject has more time to move across the frame, creating a blur effect. This can lead to overexposure, especially during the day, as you’re letting in more light to take a picture. To compensate, close your aperture (the size of the opening) more and use a higher f-stop number, or adjust to a lower ISO.
  • Alternatively, set your camera to “shutter priority mode,” so you can set your shutter speed, but let the camera auto-select other settings, like the aperture, to ensure proper exposure.

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