What is the photography term for blurred / dragged lights? Hare are two quick examples from my phone:

blurred lights on christmas tree blurred lights on ??????

Would this be considered bokeh, or does a term even exist for this?

  • 4
    For me this looks like motion blur, the lights have the same shape Dec 17, 2014 at 5:33
  • 2
    As it effects the whole image, I would describe it as camera shake rather than motion blur.
    – dav1dsm1th
    Dec 17, 2014 at 13:44
  • @dav1dsm1th If you're on a fast-moving train and take a picture out the window, is that camera shake or motion blur? :)
    – mattdm
    Dec 17, 2014 at 15:56
  • @mattdm I wrote an answer (three times) and deleted it - which went into whether it was the camera or the subject that was moving that made the distinction to me. But each answer descended into semantics (like your point) and became about "relative" movement, so I gave up and went back to just leaving a succinct comment (which was never going to cover all situations - panning for example).
    – dav1dsm1th
    Dec 17, 2014 at 18:20
  • Possible terms are "Too much coffee" and "Bad tripod". Dec 17, 2014 at 20:21

4 Answers 4


Would this be considered bokeh or does a term even exist for this?

I agree with Romeo Ninov's comment: this is plain old motion blur. You could call it "light trails" to make it clear that it's something you're doing on purpose, but photos of light trails are generally created by having the lights move rather than the camera.

Bokeh refers to the way objects (often lights) are blurred by the lens when they're out of focus; it looks like the lights in your images are reasonably in focus (the trails are fairly sharp), but blurred due to the camera moving.

  • 1
    Thanks . I've never studied photography so i didn't know this.
    – SS1
    Dec 17, 2014 at 5:50

I would go with "motion blur trails", or "motion blur light trails".

Light trails in general are the lines produced when an object moves during a long exposure — see How to shoot light trail photos with iPhone? and also When should you use a normal flash vs a second-curtain flash?

In this case, of course, the object that moves is the camera, which from a relative point of view is basically the same as holding the camera very still and shaking the world. If it's important to distinguish, you could say camera movement light trails.

Sometimes, rather than photographing something like cars with headlights at night, light trails are made by intentionally moving light sources during the exposure — this is called "light painting", and here you're moving the camera during the exposure for a similar effect, so you could also consider this a subset of that. (It's even given as an example in this answer.) In your examples, the exact pattern in which you moved the camera is shown in the trail of the lights — a horseshoe shape in the first example, and an inverted-L shape in the second.

It's not "bokeh", which isn't a general word for blur (or even the blurry light discs that it is often associated with). See What is bokeh, exactly? for both technical description and a diagram I drew showing the relationship between different kinds of blur.


They are more of light trails than bokeh.

  • 1
    This is getting downvotes, presumably because it does not explain very much. We're hoping for long answers that can serve as authoritative references for people with similar questions in the future.
    – mattdm
    Dec 17, 2014 at 15:47

These are light trails, produced due to long exposure during motion of light.

  • They are produced not because of long exposure, but because of camera/phone shake Dec 17, 2014 at 15:07
  • @RomeoNinov Same thing, really — the exposure is long enough that motion blur is visible.
    – mattdm
    Dec 17, 2014 at 15:13
  • No, its not the same. I have some photos, taken at 1/8 of the second, which are sharp. Some people can't do them at 1/30. And if you use tripod you can make very long exposures w/o blur. Above effect is from movement of the camera! Dec 17, 2014 at 15:50
  • @RomeoNinov I'm not arguing that it's not from the movement of the camera — it is. I'm saying it doesn't really matter what moves relative to the other thing.
    – mattdm
    Dec 17, 2014 at 15:55

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