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Photographing moving subjects can be a lot of fun, but sometimes you might feel that the movement wasn't quite captured with enough motion. But you can always add a little motion later in Photoshop, as you'll see here. I have a photograph here of an airplane that was flying overhead. It happens to be a crop-duster. And you'll notice that the propeller exhibits a little bit of a blur, because of a shutter speed that was reasonably slow. But because I was panning with the aircraft, there's really no evidence of motion blur on the airplane itself. And I'd like to add a little more dramatic effect with some motion blur. Let's take a look at how we can do that in Photoshop. I'll start off by creating a copy of my Background Image layer. So I'll drag the thumbnail for that layer down to the Create New layer button at the bottom of the Layers panel, and that will create a background copy that I can use for the effect itself.
I'll then go to the Filter menu, and choose Blur, followed by Motion Blur, and that will bring up the Motion Blur dialog. And you'll notice that all we have, in terms of adjustment settings, is the angle and the distance. We're determining the direction that that blur effect is going to operate on, as well as the distance, how big a blurring effect it will be. Now, there are all sorts of approaches you could take here, but generally speaking, you'll want to set the angle to a value that matches the overall direction of motion in the image.
In other words, the direction that the key subject is actually moving. You can use the Spinner control over here on the right side of the angle setting, in order to adjust that setting. But to me I prefer to get it approximately right, with a distance setting that's higher than you think you need, and then click into the Number of Degrees field for the angle, and simply use the up and down arrow keys on the keyboard to adjust that angle. If you hold the Shift key while pressing the up or down arrow key on the keyboard, then you'll increase or decrease the value in ten degree increments, rather than one degree increments, and then you can continue fine tuning with the up and down arrow keys all by themselves. That looks to be pretty good.
I'm taking a look, for example, at the wheels here. The streak for the wheels looks to be straight and parallel to the wheels themselves. We can also check some of the other lines within the image. But overall, I think the 22 degree angle I have set here is working pretty well. I'll now reduce the distance a little bit. I want to have some motion blur, but I don't want it to be too dramatic. I'd like to keep it at least slightly realistic. So I'll use a moderate setting for that motion blur, and right about there I think will work out nicely. With those settings established, I can go ahead and click the OK button in order to apply the effect.
Now at this point, you might consider the effect completely finished, but you could also focus this blur effect, this motion blur effect, so that it only applies to certain areas of the photo. Let me show you what I mean by that. I'll go ahead and hold the Alt key on Windows, or the Option key on Macintosh, while clicking on the Add Layer Mask button, the circle inside of a square icon down at the bottom of the Layers panel. By doing so, I'll create a layer mask that is filled with black rather then white. That's because I was holding the Alt or Option key, and therefore, this layer, my background copy layer that contains the blur effect, is completely blocked.
It's not visible anywhere in the photo. But I can then paint the effect into specific areas of the image using the Brush tool. So, I'll choose the Brush tool from the tool box. I'll press the letter D, as in default colors, in order to get the foreground color to white, and the background color to black. I'll then take a look at the Brush pop up, and make sure that I'm working with a 0% hardness, in other words a soft-edged brush. I'll also make sure that the Blend Mode for the brush is set to normal, and that the opacity is at 100%. Now I can move my mouse out over the image, and as needed, use the left and right square bracket keys to adjust the size of the brush. The left square bracket key will reduce the size of the brush, and the right square bracket key will increase the size of the brush. And then I can paint the blurring effect into the image only where I want it. So for example, maybe I'll only add the blur along the trailing edge of the wings, and maybe along the trailing edge of the horizontal stabilizer as well, because that will give me this effect of motion blur, but where the airplane remains sharp.
So something like that certainly gives you a sense of motion, but we still have crisp detail in other portions of the airplane. But of course, it's entirely up to you how you apprach this particular type of effect. But the bottom line is, it can be a lot of fun, and it can create a cool result in your image.
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