Zoom in and capture fast action

Photographing action is all about capturing split second moments. You’ll need to keep up with the game, follow your snowboarding friends or be poised to capture city surfers as they ride the waves. But you won’t need to move quite as fast if you’re prepared.

The key to getting good images while using a telephoto (or zoom) lens is being able to set your camera up in advance. It means when things kick off you can forget about adjusting your settings and focus on what’s happening in front of you.

Smartphone cameras are limited in the image quality they can produce when it comes to zooming in and capturing moving action in detail. DSLRs, mirrorless and advanced compact cameras allow you to get close to the action from further way and offer far more quality and control when shooting action by allowing you to accurately zoom using a telephoto lens.

Fast shutter speeds are a must for shooting action

Your shutter speed is the most important thing to get right if you want to shoot action photography. If your shutter speed isn't fast enough then you'll be left with blurry shots that you’ll just want to delete.

So if you’re using a DSLR, choose a shutter speed of at least 1/125th of a second or faster. Many action shots are taken at 1/500th of a second or faster depending on the speed of the subject.

To use a fast shutter and still ensure you’ve got enough light coming into your camera, you’ll need to use a wide aperture (a small f number like f/2.8). Using a wide aperture and high shutter speed will also create depth of field, picking your subject out against a lovely blurred background. Or, if your camera offers control over the ISO setting, try increasing it e.g. from 400 to 800 so your camera’s sensor is more sensitive to light.

Shoot using burst mode

Sports action, like city river surfing, moves quickly - so make sure you and your camera can keep up. Use your camera's continuous shooting mode (sometimes called burst mode) to capture multiple shots and give yourself the best chance of getting a great action-packed image. You’ll find this mode on most cameras and on some smartphones.

Use continuous focusing

If you’re using a DSLR camera it will probably be set to use standard focusing as a default. It means you can half-press the shutter button to lock the focus, then push it down fully to take a shot. However, for action and zooming shots, try using continuous or tracking focusing mode (known as AI SERVO or SERVO AF on Canon cameras). This mode allows your camera to automatically refocus to track a moving subject, meaning you can get sharp, detailed action shots without having to do lots of work.

Canon’s Zoom Framing Assist

When zooming, especially at high focal length, you are so close up that it is easy to lose your subject. Canon has come up with a clever technology that solves that issue.

Found on selected Canon PowerShot compact cameras with large zooms, Zoom Framing Assist helps to keep your subject in frame by zooming out as they reach the edge of the frame. It then zooms back in when you place the subject at the centre of the shot. This gives you the power of zoom without losing your perspective or your subject.

Explore our City Surfer interactive experience here.