How To Guide: Action photography

Panning to create the effect of action

A great action photo can capture a critical moment in time or show off the action in a way nothing else can.

If you are a little nervous about taking action photos with your Canon, then don't be. A combination of the straightforward advice in this tutorial, the helpful features on your camera and some practice will have you taking photos of which you will be proud.

Shutter speed: 1/25s, © Miles Willis

One way to bring the elements of movement into your photography is to use a technique known as 'panning'. Panning uses slower shutter speeds combined with a sweeping motion of the camera that tracks the subject. If executed correctly the subject will be sharp whilst the background will display beautiful motion blur.

Start with a shutter speed of 1/30s and vary between 1/15s and 1/60s depending on the speed of your subject. Start tracking the subject through the viewfinder well before you intend to take the shot, hold the camera as steady as possible minimising vertical and tilt motion.

Auto GP - Monza, © Simone Simone 2011, EOS 7D

When ready, gently press the shutter and continue to track the subject during the exposure and well after the shutter has closed to ensure the motion is smooth from start to finish. One useful tip is to try Continuous shooting mode. Keeping your finger pressing the shutter during the panning motion can help minimise camera shake.

You may also need to change the Image Stabilizer setting on your camera:
• EOS owners: Unless your lens has an Image Stabilizer with a 'mode 2' (for panning) turn the IS off; otherwise the lens will try and correct your panning motion and may affect your final shots
• PowerShot and IXUS owners: Most current PowerShot and IXUS cameras have Intelligent IS; this detects that you are panning and adjusts accordingly. If your camera does not, then simply change the IS mode to "Panning".

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