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!
- 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.
- 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.
- Use good light and set your ISO 100 or 200. These are great for getting nice cat photos.
- 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.
- Experiment with ‘Sport‘ mode too (a running athlete icon).
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.
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.
Glossary of photo jargon:
- Shutter Speed: “Shutter speed is the length of time the camera shutter is open, exposing light onto the camera sensor.” Photography Life
- 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.
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