Shoot sharper fast-moving action

Shooting great action shots, like urban river surfers, snowboarders or runners, means thinking ahead. Firstly, you’ll need to think about what you want to capture, how fast your subject is moving and where you’ll set up and shoot from. Watch the video and read on to learn the basics of action photography.

Shoot lots and keep your eyes on the action

The more shots you take the more likely you are to get an image you like. Keep your eyes on the action, and avoid checking each shot you take as doing this means you’ll miss what’s happening in front of your lens. At the height of the action, shoot in short bursts rather than one shot at a time. Most DSLRs, mirrorless and advanced compact cameras, plus many smartphones include a burst or continuous shooting mode. It’s perfect for races, fast sports shots, dancers or surfers.

Anticipate your subject’s next move and use continuous focusing

Whether you’re photographing the London marathon, Munich surfers or a friend’s five-a-side football match, give your subject space to move and anticipate where they'll be next. If possible, set your camera to continuous focus mode, know as AI SERVO or SERVO AF on Canon cameras, so that it automatically adjusts and keeps your subject sharp as it gets closer to you. All Canon DSLRs, mirrorless and advanced compact cameras offer this function.

To freeze or not to freeze?

Capturing motion is all about deciding whether to freeze the action, or whether to try and portray blurred action through using a long shutter speed. In most cases, you’ll want to get a sharp crisp image of the scene. To do this, select a quick shutter speed. How fast this shutter speed is will depend on how fast your subject is moving. 1/4000th of a second can be fast enough to freeze the motion of a car and its wheels. 1/250th is fast enough for a jogger. You can also try panning – moving your camera to follow your subject. This will blur the background, while making your subject appear sharp.

Add some drama by zooming

When shooting action, try zooming in closer to capture what’s happening. If you’re shooting people, focus on their faces for added drama. Try to show your subject’s expression as they lose themselves in the action, or as they try to score a winning goal.

Increase the ISO setting to capture more light

If you don’t have enough light, try increasing the ISO to 400, 800 or more. Or if you’re still not happy with the results, switch to manual mode and take control of the aperture. Then select f/4 or f/2.8 to let as much light in as possible. This will allow you to shoot using a faster shutter speed and result in sharper images.

Explore our City Surfer interactive experience here.