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Action! Capturing motion with shutter speed

Dave Johnson | April 10, 2013
Have you ever wondered why still photography is thriving even though it's so easy to capture video with our smartphones. I'd say it's because there's something endearing in the knowledge that a photo has captured a moment in time. Still photographs depict a slice of some action, and you can convey that action in a lot of different ways. Let's take a look at how to freeze action with your digital camera.

What's fun about this kind of photo is that there's no one right way to shoot this. Experiment with different shutter speeds and check out the result in the LCD display. Of course, when you slow down the shutter speed, you should try to mount the camera on a tripod to steady the overall scene. If everything is blurry from camera shake, the photo simply won't make any sense.

Panning action

My favorite technique for capturing motion in a photo is to shoot with a slower shutter speed and, instead of keeping the camera still so the subject zooms through the scene, pan the camera to keep up with the subject. When done well, the subject will be fairly sharp, and it's the background that'll blur--conveying a powerful and dramatic sense of motion.

The trick to this technique is to start tracking the subject as it comes into the scene and smoothly pivot your body to keep it centered in the viewfinder. As it passes directly in front of you, gently press the shutter release (don't jab or stab it) and continue to follow through, pivoting to track the subject even though you can't see it as the viewfinder went black. You'll need to find a shutter speed that works well for you, but I recommend starting around 1/15 second.


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