Kinetic photography: The magic of a camera rotation An introduction to kinetic photography


What is Kinetic photography?

Kinetic means ‘resulting from motion’, and kinetic photography is aptly named, as it is photography resulting from motion. It is a very experimental form of photography, meaning that new developments are constantly being made and there are no rules. 

One form of kinetic photography which has formed an online community is camera tossing, where photographers toss their camera into the air to form unique effects. One of the safer (but equally exciting) kinetic photo techniques is camera rotation, which this post will look at, with examples of kinetic photos and kinetic photography tips.

This post will cover:

    • Camera rotation and kinetic photography
    • How to practise camera rotation photography
    • Camera Gear
    • Kinetic photography best camera for pro
    • Camera settings
    • Setting up 
    • Camera rotation techniques

Rotation photography


Camera rotation and kinetic photography

Camera rotation is one type of kinetic photography which involves rotating your camera all the way around in a circular motion to create a photograph with interesting kaleidoscopic, geometric patterns. Check out this light painting tutorial to see how it works.


How to practise camera rotation photography

This method will involve taking your lens cap off and on the lens throughout the exposure, as you rotate, to create incredible light painting effects.



As camera rotation is quite a rare and unusual specialism in photography, many camera rotation pros have made their own camera rotation devices. However, there is an off-the-shelf solution that works perfectly for camera rotation photography. You can use a 360 Panoramic Gimbal which is designed to rotate for panoramas. The rotating design is perfect for camera rotation photography, even though this is not its intended use. You will also need a remote shutter release to take your photos, as well as your mobile phone to measure the angles of rotations, and a mobile phone mount to attach your phone to the camera.


Kinetic photography best camera for pro

A good camera for kinetic photography used by professionals is the Canon EOS 6D Mark II. Similar DSLR cameras such as the Pentax K-1 or the Nikon D750 are also good choices.


Camera settings

For your camera settings: as you are rotating your camera, you will need an exposure of 3 seconds to capture movement. A middle range aperture of f/11 will keep everything in focus. An ISO of 100 will work, but feel free to go slightly darker than you usually would for camera rotations.


Introduction to kinetic photography


Setting up

    1. First, you should mount your Gimbal to your tripod. Once the Gimbal is well secured to the tripod legs, you can attach your camera to the tripod plate, ensuring that the plate is aligned with the camera as you attach it by hand. For extra security, you can take your screwdriver and make sure the screws are tight, as your camera is going to be spinning upside down. 
    2. Before attaching your camera to the Gimbal, flip out your viewfinder screen, as you won’t be able to do that once your camera is attached. 
    3. Now that your camera has been mounted to the Gimbal, you can centre your camera which is the most difficult step of the process and will involve some trial and error. Take an object and place it in front of the camera, where you would like it to be. Then you turn on the grid in the camera, making sure the object is in the centre of the frame, in the intersecting grid lines. You can move your tripod to help centre the object in the frame. If it looks as though it is in the centre, rotate your camera all the way around, checking the viewfinder to see if the object stays in the centre of the frame as you rotate your camera.
    4. If it still doesn’t look as though the object is in the centre of the frame, you can adjust the Gimbal vertically or horizontally, sliding your camera up or down, or side to side, until you are satisfied with how the object fits in the frame.
    5. Once you’re happy with the centre, remember where it is or mark it on your Gimbal.
    6. To measure the rotations, you can mount your phone to your camera using a mobile phone holder mount. To measure the angles of rotations, you will use a level app.

Kinetic photographs


Camera rotation technique

    1. Find a light source to photograph; this could be studio lights, or something as simple as a laptop screen in a dark room. You can use light sources found outside, such as street lights or car lights at night. Taking photos in the dark is best as your lights will shine brightly. The more unusual your light source is, the more creative and interesting your photo will turn out to be.
    2. Start off with your camera level at 0°, measuring on the level app on your phone. Your lens should be on your camera, before starting exposure. You can release the shutter using your remote with the lens cap still on, and then remove it for 3 seconds, and then place it back on.
    3. Rotate your camera 20°, measuring the angle on the level app, and then fix the camera at that angle with the gimbal. You can then remove the lens cap for 3 seconds before replacing it.
    4. You then repeat this process of stopping and uncapping the lens at every 20° rotation for 3 seconds and replacing it, until you have made it all the way around.
    5. Once you’ve rotated your camera all the way back to the top, you can stop the exposure. The result of this camera rotation technique is an interesting geometric pattern with overlapping shapes and light trails.


We hope you found our kinetic photography guide useful. There are many other styles of kinetic photography which we can explore another time.

To get started, try out some rotation photos as we have described here – and let us know how you get on!

If you’re in need of kinetic photography, book with Splento. At Splento we provide you with experienced, reliable on-demand photographers, at an affordable rate. Get in touch with us today to see how we can assist you with your project.

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