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Learn Photography

Photo Tips >

Action Photography

1 – Beginners

Look for the exposure mode dial on top of your camera.

Set the exposure mode dial to the jogger icon.

Your camera will select a fast shutter speed to freeze motion.

2 – Intermediate

A – Exposure Mode Dial

Set your exposure mode dial to S or Tv.

In this shutter-priority exposure mode, you set the shutter speed.

Twirl a knob to change the shutter speed.

The camera sets the aperture.

B – Which Shutter Speed?

Freezing Motion

To freeze motion, select shutter speeds of 1/1,000 or faster.

On your camera, 1/1,000 may appear as 1,000.

You need bright light because very little light is reaching the sensor via the shutter.

Shutter Lag

When you press the shutter release, the shutter doesn't open instantly.

You must press the shutter release a little before you think you should.

In the photograph below:

• You press the shutter release when the man is at the "red" position.

• The shutter opens when he is at the "blue" position.

Shutter lag varies from camera to camera.

Practice to get a feel for the delay.


Blurring Motion

To blur motion, start off at 1/8.

On your camera, 1/8 may appear as 8.

If you see 8 with quote marks, 8", that's an eight second shutter speed.

The light must be dim because a huge amount of light is reaching the sensor via the shutter.

A variable neutral density filter blocks light, allowing you to use a slow shutter speed in bright light.

3 – Advanced


ISO is how sensitive the sensor is to light.

Your camera is probably set to Auto ISO.

Check your camera manual.

If your camera is on a tripod, and you're using slow shutter speeds, set the ISO manually.

Otherwise, your camera may set an unneeded high ISO.

B – Drive Mode

You're camera is probably set to take a single photograph.

You may need to switch the drive mode from Single Shot to Burst.

When using Burst, hold down the shutter release to take many photographs.

When photographing movement, select a drive mode that tracks the subject.

This drive mode may have continuous or servo in its name.

C – Quality

If you're saving photographs as raw files, switch to JPEG when photographing in burst drive mode.

Raw files are large, and may fill up your camera's buffer quickly.

D – Focus

Manual Focus

In some situations, focus your camera on the action, and set your lens to manual focus.

You'll be able to take photographs more quickly as your camera isn't trying to focus.

Back-button Focus

Back-button focus is available on some cameras.

This feature separates the two actions of the shutter release button.

Normally, when you press the shutter release:

1) The camera focuses.

2) The shutter opens and closes.

With back-button focus:

1) You focus with a button on the back of your camera.

2) The shutter release button only trips the shutter.

Do the following.

1) Focus on your subject by pressing on the button on the back of your camera.

2) The press the shutter release repeatedly until you need to refocus.

Your camera is more responsive because it doesn't have to focus for every photograph.

E – SD Cards

If you're doing lots of action photography, switch to SD cards that save photographs faster.

The Fastest Memory Cards Money Can Buy

4 –Panning

Panning is a film/video technique.

You pan—move—the camera along with the subject.

Relative to each other, your camera and the subject are not moving.

Instead, the background appears to be moving.

Use a Camera Is Subject Is Result

Slow shutter speed



Background is blurred left-to-right.

Panning Tips

Do the following.

1) Use 1/8th and 1/15th of a second

2) Use a telephoto lens at its most telephoto setting, such as 200mm.

3) Set the switch on or near your lens to manual focus.

Manually focus where the subject will be in front of you.

4) Plan on continuing the motion of your camera past the time the picture is taken, like the follow-through when you swing a tennis racket or golf club.

5) If your camera or lens has image stabilization, turn this feature off, if you can.

Some cameras will sense that you're panning, and will turn of the horizontal image stabilization automatically.

6) Take lots of photographs to get one good one.

5 – Flash

Use of flash may be prohibited at some events for safety of the participants.

If your subject is within ten feet of your camera, your pop-up flash can be used to brighten shadows.

When you pop up the flash, your shutter speed may decrease to 1/125 or thereabouts.

This is called the flash sync speed.

Your flash needs time to flash, so faster shutter speeds can't be used.

Flash with Slow Shutter Speed

You can mix a frozen image with a motion blurred image.

If your subject is close, try the Night Portrait setting on your exposure mode dial or in scene modes (SCN).

The flash goes off and freezes the motion—while the shutter stays open longer to record the motion blur.

6 – Tips

Use Both Eyes

If you're using a viewfinder, keep both eyes open.

One eye is for the viewfinder.

Your other eye is to see what's happening next.



• Action is intensified when framed tightly.

• When photographing movement, have empty space on one side of the frame for the action be about to enter.

7 – Action Ideas to Photograph

• Adult sports events, such as games, races

• Festivals, such as Holi (protect your camera!)

• Amusement parks, county fairs

• Dog parks, pets, zoos

• Waterfalls, fountains, waves

• Cars, daytime and at night

• Sparklers

Always ask for permission before photographing children.