Beginner Cat Photo Skills

Fast Photos In Less Than Five Minutes

If you want to take action shots of moving cats or speedy football players you need to take fast photos so your images have the sharpness you need. This quick post shows the kind of settings you will need using your DSLR or Mirrorless camera as well as some quick smartphone tips to help you.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Use the Right Camera Settings

Taking fast photos on a DSLR/Mirrorless starts with the right camera settings. For quick movement shots, set your shutter speed to around 1/500th of a second and reduce the ISO to prevent grain. This setting will capture movement while keeping the picture clear.

I am assuming that you can already navigate around the menu on the back or top of your DSLR camera to alter your shutter speed. I take a lot of photos around a speed of 1/250 – 1/400 and am slowly venturing into faster territory!

  1. For really fast shutter speeds like 1/1000+ you need what is called a wide aperture. f2.8 to f5.6 is a good place to start. It is where a lot of my photos end up. Wide can be confusing because the numbers are small, something I still get confused by sometimes.
  2. Shutter speed needs to be fast. To freeze action 1/1000 and above, depending on your camera, and to capture motion 1/250. I began by using 1/250 until I gained confidence and got used to my camera then I began pushing my speed up a bit.
  3. Use good light and set your ISO 100 or 200. These are great for getting nice cat photos.
  4. If you feel lost, use Aperture Priority AV (A on Nikon) especially if you don’t have a lot of experience. You set this one thing, the aperture, and the camera works out your shutter speed. For active cats this works, I use it most of the time following my cats while I build my manual skills.
  5. Experiment with ‘Sport‘ mode too (a running athlete icon).
Cat Climbing a Tree
Coming Down Fast! – ISO 200 5mm f4 1/320

Don’t Forget Burst Mode

For Smartphone and DSLR your device has a way to activate a rapid series (or burst) of shots. Compact users check your camera, burst mode is often included here too. Your burst of shots can be reviewed later and you can select the shot that perfectly captures the moment. Ths mode works in Aperture (Nikon A) and TV (Nikon S)and may be all you need fr a quick series of shots.

  • On the iPhone you drag the shutter button sideways.
  • On your DSLR/Mirrorless you choose the setting ‘Continuous Shooting‘ (continuous drive or similar).

Smartphone users, check how many photos your camera can take in one burst. Some older cameras may have limits.

Don’t forget you also have a ‘Sport’ mode setting on most cameras including compacts. This does a lot of the thinking for you and is perfect if you just have time to turn the dial and lift your camera.

Two cats playing on the ground
Fight Club Kitten Style – ISO 200 50 mm f3.2 1/400

Photo Lenses

I use both my Canon 50 mm nifty fifty lens and my 55-250mm zoom which are both great for the photos I shoot; portraits and action shots of cats. They form the backbone of my photo kit.

This might be a bit of a stretch for beginners but, you might be able to borrow a zoom lens. Look for one that is at least 200mm. Mine is a Canon 55-250mm f2.8 which lets me take fast photos and create a nice background blur. This helps me focus on my cat subjects a lot more easily. If you don’t have something like this try your camera’s trusty kit lens to see what you can do. It is how I started and it is still one of my lightest and most portable lenses.

Striding Tabby Cat Walks towards Camera
Pacing Tabby – ISO 200 113mm f5 1/1250

Glossary of photo jargon:

  1. Shutter Speed: “Shutter speed is the length of time the camera shutter is open, exposing light onto the camera sensor.” Photography Life
  2. What is a FAST lens – “A fast lens refers to a lens with a wide maximum aperture [f/1.4, f/1.8, and f/2.8]. The larger the maximum aperture, the faster the lens”. Digital Photography School NOTE: A fast lens can be bulky and is can be very expensive.

Other helpful photo posts:

12 thoughts on “Fast Photos In Less Than Five Minutes”

  1. Always great info you share for shutterbuggin’! Those pics are beautiful. I love my Canon! And when I had my FiveSibes, I used the sport mode to capture them running and playing. I love that setting! I have to admit, I have not played around with shutter speeds in some time now. I’ll have to try it out again with my grandkids, they are fast, but not quite as fast as my Huskies! Pinning to share!

  2. Great information but I am still using my camera as it is easier for me to see as such. I am slowly getting better with your posts

  3. I finally found the continuous/burst capability on my Cannon camera. It’s a bit weird so I still use the automatic setting. The AV setting is helpful. Photography just isn’t my thing, I suck at settings but have learned a lot about composition.

  4. These are great tips for action shots! I’m going to look for the continuous option on my phone and see if that helps me get better action shots of Henry. Excellent tips! You’re a great teacher!

  5. Beautiful action photos! And great tips! With fast moving animals like cats, you certainly need to be ready with fast techniques to get the action!

  6. I didn’t know that about taking bursts with my iPhone. I thought you just took video or live shots. Learn something new every day! Thank you!

  7. A great, informative post, Marjorie. Loving those action shots, especially the close up pose on the trunk (no elephants were hurt in the making thereof) shot!


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