Wedding + Portrait

Trend or Fad: Is Intentional Photo Blur Here to Stay?

November 23, 2022

By Aimee Baldridge

Sorry, everybody! We’re not declaring a general holiday amnesty for all those blurry goof-ups you’ve been sorting into your blooper folder. What we’re talking about here is intentional blur—the array of artistic choices including motion blur, defocused subjects, and other lens-based styles that only result from skill and sensibility. We’ve been noticing a lot more of them in wedding shots lately.

So has Harmony Walton, founder of The Bridal Bar, a marketing agency for luxury wedding professionals. “Photographers who have that look in their portfolio now are more requested than not,” she says, and it’s not just for late-night dance floor shots anymore. She sees it bringing a romantic vibe to portrait shoots and peppered throughout the wedding day.

[Read: Intentional Blur and Why My Clients Love It]

“You’ll see, say, a wide shot of a beautiful tent and waiters coming through, and guests moving and talking or cheersing,” says Walton, “but all of the people are blurred out. So you still get the beautiful visual of the decor that was invested in, and you get this sense of movement and action.” She says the trend is part of a delicate, ethereal look that has grown in popularity as it has filtered down through social media from high-end shooters: “Some of the top names in wedding photography have leaned into that style in recent years.”

Blur photo of wedding couple with guests blurred
© Jorge Santiago Photography

Pittsburgh photographer Jorge Santiago agrees that intentional blur is grabbing clients’ attention. “I think there’s two types of photography,” he says. “One in which the photographer goes and records what’s happening, just gets the shot. And another one in which the photographer actually makes the image, in which there are more tools used in creating an image, in adding mood and movement. I feel like a lot of my clients have been requesting that I participate more as a photographer, and I tell more of their story with these types of tools.”

[Read: Using a Fan to Shoot Portraits with Movement and Blur]

Tomasz Wagner is a long-time practitioner of skilfully applying blur, and he sees it catching the eyes of clients who are looking for creative mastery more than technical perfection. He points to the resurgence of film photography as an influence. The Vancouver photographer mainly uses digital to shoot weddings, but his style often emulates film looks. “People are just kind of coming back to film photography and this way of shooting as a documentary that invokes more feeling than having a still, really sharp image,” he says.

blur and movement GIF of bride and groom
© Tomasz Wagner

And maybe there’s something deeper than social media driving the trend. Washington, D.C., photographer Abby Jiu points out another reason why clients are prioritizing work that captures the motion and emotions of the day: After the isolation of the pandemic, “weddings have come back, obviously, with a bang—and with them the want for photography that feels like you’re there, as opposed to being posed. That feeling of being there,” she says, “I think the blur creates that feeling with the motion.”

bride walking in blur photo
© Abby Jiu Photography

So will the blur trend last as the pandemic wanes? “I do think it’s here to stay,” says Walton, “but I don’t think it’s going to be a focal point for long.” (No pun presumably intended.) She sees intentional blur as a creative style that will keep its place in the range of image types wedding photographers shoot, even as its prominence fades. “I think it will always remain in a portfolio,” she says.