How to create a zoom burst

By Geoff Harris


Do you ever have one of those days where you just fancy trying something a bit different? Perhaps trying for a more arty, creative image? Well, if so, you might like to try a zoom burst. It’s easy to do, and can create some amazing effects!

Ideally, you’ll need to have your camera on a tripod. Once you’ve found your subject, set your camera to shutter priority mode and select a slow shutter speed – try ¼ or ½ second as a starting point.

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If you can’t get a slow enough shutter speed, make sure you’ve selected your lowest ISO setting – this may help.

Once you’re all set, position your subject in the centre of your frame and focus. Then press the shutter release and manually zoom the lens during the exposure. You can zoom in or out – you’ll get interesting effects either way!


You don’t have to use the entire range of your zoom – experiment with just using a part of the range as well for different results.

This technique can be used on static subjects, such as brightly coloured flowers or neon lights at night, to create an image with an abstract feel to it. Or you can try it on moving subjects to exaggerate the sense of movement in your photograph. With moving subjects, a touch of flash can sometimes help to give more detail in the subject.


The great advantage of digital cameras is that you can review your results as you go along – so take a few pics, then check the results, and adjust your shutter speed or zoom range if need be. Take a lot of different shots and then analyse which ones have worked best, and why. As you practice more, you’ll get a feel for which subjects will work well. It’s a fun technique to try!

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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