Photography Tutorial – How to Zoom Burst

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Zoom bursting is a fun and easy photographic technique, that can be used in several ways to produce great results.
All you need for it is a camera that allows you to control its shutter speed and its zoom manually. Most DSLRs and other more advanced cameras should allow you to do this.

How to do it
Firstly, you need to set your camera to the correct settings. For this technique you will need a long shutter speed, and depending on the desired effect, it should be between 1/3 and 3 seconds. You will get a feel for what shutter speed after practice. If you are on the Shutter Speed Priority setting, it should adjust the other settings for you. If you are on the Manual setting, then you will need to change the aperture and ISO in order to avoid over-exposing your image.

Then you need to find a subject for your photo, focus on it it and press the shutter release (the button that takes the photo) While the shutter is open (you should hear a click) zoom in on the subject, trying to keep the camera as steady as possible and the subject in the same place on the viewfinder – for this part it might be easier to steady your camera on a tripod. When the shutter is closed (you should hear a second click), you should have it!
It may take a bit of fiddling around with the settings to get it right, but once you’ve got it, it can yield some spectacular results.

Examples of How to Use It



In the first of the photos above, the one that wasn’t taken using a zoom burst, the attention is dispersed around the picture. However, in the second, the zoom burst draws attention to a point on the horizon, because that is the only unblurred area of the photograph, and all the lines of the blur lead to it. Here is another example below.IMG_8036 (Medium)The center of focus will always be in the very center of the image, because the camera can only zoom straight ahead.

More Exciting Portraits
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The photo above was taken with a slight zoom burst. This blurs all of the surroundings, focusing attention on the subject. It also fades the colours slightly in the background, again turning the eye to the center of the picture.
Another factor of a zoom burst portrait is that it gives the impression that light rays are coming from the subject – that they are radiant. All these are perhaps great it you are taking photos of someone you want to portray as being beautiful or holy. You have to be careful in this type of photo to only zoom in very slightly, or you will end up distorting/blurring your subject as well as the background.

However, you may want to distort people’s faces with funny results. In order to distort them or their face, zoom in more on them than you would with the type of portrait explained above, and perhaps use a faster shutter speed.

Other Abstract Ideas

I’ve experimented quite a lot with zoom bursts, and there are certain things that work quite well with it.

For example, one of my favourite things to do is to zoom burst at gaps between leaves in a tree, as this can leave spectacular beams of light across the image. Here are some examples below.

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Another thing that works really well is a firework. If you can zoom burst on a firework without over exposing the image or giving some camera shake, it can produce some awesome pictures.

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Finally, cities and motorways (or anywhere were there are loads of lights) are really good for zoom bursts. All of the tiny lights in the landscape will leave a trail across the photo, and it looks great. I haven’t had much of an opportunity to try this out yet, but I do have one zoom burst of the Mousehole harbour lights at night below.
It works quite well in this because it seems like all of the beams of light are coming towards you. This is another great effect of zoom bursts – they give a real impression of speed and movement, making your photos more exciting.


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