The Digital Darkroom; Spin Blur Photoshop

The Digital Darkroom is a series of posts aimed at beginners and those interested in Digital Photography and Editing. In previous weeks we have looked at basic adjustments, curves, editing colour with the HSL/Color panels, black and white toning, split toning, local adjustments, sharpening, noise reduction and Lens Correction and Camera Calibration in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw. Moving into Photoshop we have looked at the program’s layout,basic adjustments to light, basic adjustments to colour, basic black and white adjustments, Basic Sharpening, Basic Noise Reduction, Creating Presets and Actions, Basic Masks, Making Selections, Refining Selections, Using the Pen Tool, Clone Stamp, Heal Tool, Patch Tool, Content Aware, Smart Objects, Basic Blur Filters, Field Blur, Iris Blur, Tilt Shift Blur, Path Blur and this week Spin Blur.
If you wish to check out previous posts in the series you can do here.

The last of the blur filters in the blur gallery is the Spin Blur. The spin blur just like the path blur, allows you to add motion to a picture. The motion is obviously a spin. The spin is elliptical and has quite a lot of customisation from a seamless blur, to a more segmented one showing sharp details of what is spinning.

Spin Blur


For this post I am going to use a picture of my watch. Usually product photos of watches have the hands at the 10 and 2 position; to show off the brand name of the watch. Having all the hands static is fine yet a little bit of motion would be nice to make the image a bit more dynamic.
This could be done with a long exposure, but we would have less control over the outcome. Another option would be to fire multiple flashes while at the same time having a long exposure; this is has an element of control yet also a bit of technical know how in the studio. Spin Blur however can give us the effect of the second hand moving, in the same way as you would be able to create in the studio.


Angle– this controls the angle of the blur, but we can also call this strength.

Strobe Strength – How Much Blur between flashes, but we can equate this to how continuous the blur is. Set at 0% the blur is a single continuous movement; as it is increased segments of detail appear.

Strobe Flash – how many segments appear, if set at 1 there is no blur,  but as you increase the strength more segments can appear. At full strength the blur looks continuous.

Strobe Duration – Controls the length of the blur

spin-blur-2-With these options you can create the characteristic of the blur you are looking for. If you want something strong and continuous,  Strobe Strength set at 0, with a high angle and strobe duration will do the trick. If you are looking for some separation in the blur to make it more dynamic, having a weaker angle with a strong strobe length, combined with a medium strobe flash will do the trick. Really it is a case of playing with the options to get the feel you want.

As with all the Blur Gallery Filters, the spin blur uses pins to state where a blur is taking place and you can use multiple pins with the Spin Blur.

1 the centre of the pin and the blur, you can also control the angle of the blur here as well.

2 the edge of the feathering, where the transition begins from blur to the edge of the blur.

3 the edge of the blur.

After Applying Spin Blur

As with all filters I applied the spin blur to a smart object. I then used the filter mask to mask away areas I did not want to be adjusted. I only wanted the second hand to be blurred and add some subtle movement to the image, so I masked away everything else. This did leave me with a slight problem. Numbers on the watch’s face had been caught in the blur meaning some cleaning would be needed.


Apart from cleaning the image did add a few more layers to finish off the image, this included a surface blur on the metal of the watch to make it smoother and bringing more attention to the watches face, I also added some levels adjustments and sharpening.

Final Thoughts on the Blur Gallery

The Blur gallery is a very useful and more accurate way of creating a blur that will work for your image. Even if it is just adjusting; the perceived depth of field, creating a dynamic focus with a tilt shift effect or adding movement. This is not to say other blur filters don’t have their place.
The blur gallery though is not a one click solution to an image, all these filters do need some refining once applied and this is the huge benefit of applying such filters to a smart object, which has a filter mask. As I have shown today I didn’t use the spin blur to effect the whole watch, just a part and it needed the filter mask to refine the adjustment as well as extra editing after.

In the coming weeks we are going to be looking at artistic filters and brushes. Although For some this may cross the line of photography such skills can be useful when editing your photos.

Fossil Watch Black

If you have any questions or comments please use the comment box below, all are welcome as this series is designed to help people learn how to use Photoshop and Lightroom.

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If you wish to get notifications when I post on my blog, you can follow me on Twitter@apertureF64, on or alternatively be emailed by subscribing below. All images are the Copyright of Benjamin Rowe , ALL RIGHTS Reserved unless credited to another photographer. For more information please read my Copyright Statement

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