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Photography in motion


In this short lesson, students will learn about several different methods of capturing motion in photography, including techniques for blurring and freezing motion. Then, students will practice these skills in both a guided classroom atmosphere and as a homework assignment.


  • Students will understand different methods of capturing motion, including blurring, freezing and panning techniques using a digital camera.
  • Students will participate in guided practice of motion photography.
  • Students will capture a journalistic story using motion photography techniques.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.9-10.6 Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1.C Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify or challenge ideas and conclusions.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.2.D Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to manage the complexity of the topic.


45 minutes


Slideshow: photography in motion

Handout: motion homework

Several wheeled items that students can sit on (such as skateboards or office chairs)

DSLR cameras for group work

Lesson step-by-step

1. Introduction — 5 minutes

Ask students to share/discuss the following questions with a partner:

  1. When you are looking at a photo, how can you tell what elements of the photo are moving and what is still? (Students may share that they can see motion in a photograph through blur, body positions of the subject, general atmosphere/type of photo.)
  2. In what scenarios might a photojournalist take a photo that needs to capture motion? (Many students will get stuck on “sports photography” as an answer to this question, but try to encourage them to think beyond that. For instance, they might want to capture movement in a crowded school hallway, a dance performance, a parade, etc.)

Then, have students share their discussions with the class.

2. Direct instruction — 10 minutes

Use the slideshow “Photography in motion” to present key concepts to the class. Students should take notes as needed. Stop to address questions as they arise.

3. Practice — 20 minutes

You will need a large open space for this, like a hallway or gymnasium. Divide students into groups of 3-5 and provide one camera and wheeled item (skateboard, rolling chair, etc.) to each group. During this practice time, instruct students to practice taking photos using the following techniques: freezing, blurring and panning. Have one student sit on a wheeled item and another student push him/her across the floor. Another student should take photos as they roll past, practicing freezing the entire frame, blurring the entire frame and panning. The panning skill is by far the most challenging to learn, so expect students to get frustrated with it. Pay attention to the tips for panning in the slideshow.

4. Discussion and extension — 10 minutes

Once students have had adequate time to practice, return to the classroom and ask students for feedback. What was easy to accomplish? Were there any techniques that were more difficult or confusing? In what ways did they see successful or visually interesting photos? Were there any methods students tried that didn’t really work?

Distribute the Motion Homework handout, going through the material together. Students need to attend an event and take three motion-related photos on their own: stop motion, motion blur and panning. They can submit via the method of your choice (email, online content management system, etc.). Students also should submit a short written paragraph in which they evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their images. This assignment can be due on any future date based on teacher preference.


For students who struggle with advanced photography skills, consider having them practice only freezing and blurring, because panning techniques may be too frustrating for them to attempt.

Advanced students should focus more on panning techniques. Once they seem to master panning, you may choose to introduce the concept of “smearing,” which is where the subjects of a photo are blurred as a way of highlighting the event as a whole rather than the individual people. The tricky part about a “smearing” photograph is that something in the photo must remain in focus; otherwise the image looks unintentionally blurry.