Zoom Burst Effect

Zoom burst photography effects are one of the most fun and frankly unpredictable photography techniques you may have never tried.

They are ridiculously simple to set up and can be tried with anything – literally!

Image by Patricia Smith
Image by Patricia Smith (iPhotography Student)

What is a Zoom Burst Effect?

Here are some examples of zoom bursts…

They are a result of light waves being dragged through different focal lengths, during one single exposure, to create this warp-speed effect.

While you can try out zoom bursts on any type of subject, you’ll find that scenes with bright lights (discos, street lights, fairy lights, neons, car headlights etc) are most effective.

While you can use cameras with digital zoom, you will find that optical zoom lenses are quicker to react during an exposure.

How to Take a Zoom Burst Photo

Switch your camera in to Shutter Priority (S/Tv) or Manual (M) mode and pop it on a tripod. While it is possible to shoot zoom bursts handheld, to keep the lines of light smooth a tripod will help.

Change your shutter speed to around 1/30th, you may need to adjust this based on your results. Zoom as close in as possible to your subject. Set your aperture and ISO accordingly to make a balanced exposure.

Focus on your subject with a single spot focus point.

Female Photographer using a zoom lens to take a photograph

Use Manual Focus when Zooming

Once you start the zoom most of the shot will be blurred, so trying to keep some part sharp will give the image some interest. You can alternatively use manual focus (MF) otherwise.

You’ll need to multi-task as when you press the shutter button (you could also use a remote trigger too) you need to rotate the barrel of the zoom lens and zoom out.

It’s important to react fast and twist that lens to get a noticeable effect. You can zoom out a little or a lot, that’s your decision.

You could even turn everything on its head and zoom in to your subject during the exposure.

Image by Patrick O'Reilly
Image by Patrick O'Reilly (iPhotography Student)

Zoom Burst Photography Tutorial

How to Create Zoom Burst Effect in Photoshop

Zoom Burst Photography: Final Words

Give it a go – zoom bursts are way of breaking the boredom of shooting the same types of shots over and over.

Because each image relies on your manual movement of the lens, you’ll get a unique effect each time. Singular subjects look the best in the centre of zoom burst and instantly draw attention in.


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