See the difference with a specialist action lens

Action photographers like to draw the viewer in to their images to convey the experience of being courtside, sitting in the safari truck or flying alongside a bird of prey.

A popular way to achieve this is to fill the frame with the action, showing the subject close up in detail. There will be occasions where you can position yourself just metres from the action. However, typically you will be pushed back behind barriers or a fence and have to shoot from distance. In these cases it’s best to use a long focal length lens to transport your images into the heart of the action.

Focal length is measured in mm and the larger the number the greater the magnification on your camera sensor. Generally speaking, lenses with focal lengths greater than 85 mm are known as telephotos however to shoot action close up you will need a lens with a focal length of 200mm or more, like the EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM or EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM. These telephoto zooms offer a range of focal lengths and are popular for shooting action shots that vary in distance from your shooting position.

Let’s look at some examples:

All three of these images were shot on a commonly used EOS camera with APS-C sensor from the same position on the side of the track. In the first image at 55mm – the typical focal length you can get with the kit lens like EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM, the tyre wall is visible and you don’t feel connected to the action. The subject is just too small in the frame. The image shot at 200mm by the lens EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM is much better framed and you can start to see more detail in the subject, however there is still some distracting background. Using a 300mm lens, for example EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM, results in the action filling the frame, eliminating any distraction in the background and bringing the viewer into the action.


This is a great example of a longer lens overcoming a restricted shooting position. In the first image at 55mm, the typical focal length of a kit lens the action is in the centre of the racetrack, impossible to get close to during the race. Shooting at 300mm allows you to eliminate most of the foreground, background and sky to create the final shot.


In this example the shooting position was outside the track area behind a low fence. Using the standard kit lens at maximum focal length it was hard to avoid getting the tyre wall in the foreground and a race marshal in the background. Using a 300mm lens allowed a shot where the determination in the driver’s eyes can clearly be seen!

Explore the range of lenses for action photography in the Canon Store.

Stay Informed

Coming next: Seeing the world without a viewfinder.

Subscribe to Newsletter