Digital Photography: Capturing Motion

Lesson 6: Capturing Motion


Capturing motion

An action shotAn action shot

Capturing a fast-moving subject can be one of the most significant challenges for a photographer. The key to capturing any kind of fast motion is to use a faster shutter speed. DSLRs and bridge cameras allow you to adjust the shutter speed manually. If you're using a point-and-shoot camera, you can select the Sports scene mode or turn on motion detection to help you capture action shots.

Sometimes a little bit of blur can be a good thing, as it gives a sense of motion. If your camera lets you adjust the shutter speed manually, you can experiment with different speeds to see which one gives you the right amount of blur.

In the photos below, the first photo has motion blur, which helps to show that the car is in motion. The second photo has much more motion blur, so the subject is almost completely blurred out.

Using a slower shutter speed to capture motion blur
Too much motion blur

Below are some tips you can use to capture any kind of action shot, including sports, active children, and pets.

  • Use the Sports scene mode. This mode uses a fast shutter speed to help you capture the action.
    Selecting the Sports scene modeSelecting the Sports scene mode
  • Turn on motion detection. Many cameras have a motion detection setting that can help to reduce blurring by using a faster shutter speed when necessary.
    Selecting the motion detection optionSelecting the motion detection option
  • Don't wait for the perfect shot. By this point, it may be too late. You may need to take lots of extra photos in order to capture the perfect shot.
  • Anticipate your subject's actions. Try to aim the camera a little bit ahead of the subject so it doesn't look like that person is running out of the photo. Also, moving the camera with the subject can help to reduce motion blur (although it may blur the background). In the photos below, the second photo has a more natural look because there is some extra space in front of the basketball players.
    Not enough space in front of the subjects
    Plenty of space in front of the subjects
  • Press the shutter button halfway down ahead of time. You'll need to give your camera time to adjust the focus and exposure; otherwise, you may miss the perfect shot. You should press it halfway down a few seconds before taking the photo so your camera will be ready to capture the exact shot you want.
  • Use continuous shooting. Continuous shooting will take several photos every second as long as you are holding down the shutter button. This can help you capture the perfect shot, since you don't have to wait for the exact moment to take the photo. If you're using the Sports scene mode, continuous shooting may already be turned on. Otherwise, you can go into your camera's settings to turn it on.
Taking several shots with continuous shooting