Shooting Challenge: Figure Abstraction

Illustration for article titled Shooting Challenge: Figure Abstraction

Shooting Challenges are back for 2013, and our first of the year is a doozy. For this week's challenge, you'll capture beautiful human figures that blur into abstract art. An accomplished portrait photographer explains how.

The Challenge

Capture a long exposure of blurry, human movement. Paint a picture with the human figure. See exactly how below.

Illustration for article titled Shooting Challenge: Figure Abstraction

The Technique

This week's challenge is inspired by the work of photographer Bill Wadman. For his series Motion, he brought dancers into his studio to create this effect. Remarkably, the effect is not nearly as complicated to execute as you may think. As he explains:

The images from my 'Motion' series were taken in a dark room with a single soft light from above and a shutter speed of around 3 seconds. But that certainly doesn't mean that my settings should be taken as rule. This is all about experimentation.

Use a tripod, of course, if you want the background to be stable. Don't forget that the more kinetic they move, the less it'll show on the image. Rather the image is going to record where they stood still. It's the opposite of how people naturally think.

And don't forget to enjoy yourself. That's the whole point.

The Example

Our lead shot is, of course, from Bill's Motion series. You can see more of his work here, and even follow his podcast here.

The Rules

0. No watermarks. They're so ugly.
1. Submissions need to be your own.
2. Photos must be taken since this contest was announced.
3. Explain, briefly, the equipment, settings, technique and story behind shot.
4. Email submissions to, not me.
5. Include 970px wide image (200KB or less) AND a native resolution sized shot in email.
6. One submission per person.
7. Use the proper SUBJECT line in your email (more info on that below)
8. You agree to the Standard Contest Rules - though we DO accept non-US resident submissions.
9. If the image contains any material or elements that are not owned by you and/or which are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any persons appear in the image, you are responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the image in the manner set forth in these rules without additional compensation. If any person appearing in any image is under the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence the signature of a parent or legal guardian is required on each release.


Send your best photo by Monday, January 14th at 10AM Eastern to with "Motion" in the subject line. Save your files as JPGs, and use a FirstnameLastnameMotion.jpg (970px wide) and FirstnameLastnameMotionWallpaper.jpg (2560px wide) naming conventions. Include your shooting summary (camera, lens, ISO, etc) in the body of the email along with a story of the shot in a few sentences. And don't skip this story part because it's often the most enjoyable part for us all beyond the shot itself!

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For inspiration, check out Yell Saccani's stream on Flickr. OR, if you want to have your spirit to try this technique completely crushed (lol).