4 Tips to Capture Action Photography

Lights, Camera and … Action! At Camera House, we get all manner of photo-related questions. By far one of the most popular is around how to take the best action shot. Swimming, sports, animals. With all that unpredictable movement, it can be hard to train the camera on your subject and lock in the focus for sharp, dramatic images.

Hard, but not impossible! There are ways you can improve your motion and action photography. In fact we’ve got five of them right here:

1. Get the timing and location right

Being in the right place at the right time with the right camera and settings is paramount to success. You can follow all the tips and tricks in the book (or our blog!) but it will all come to naught if you’re not where you need to be.

Predicting the best location and time for your action pics can be a little tricky at first. And you’ll only really figure it out through trial and error. You can be innovative by changing your angles, getting down low or moving to a position where you can unleash your creative side. For example, try shooting from the corners of a car racing track when the cars speed by. Or position yourself goal-side at the footy, where you’re more likely to get dramatic action shots.

person driving motorbike around corner

2. Prepare your settings

With action photography, you’ve only got one shot. That makes fixing your settings correctly ahead of time super important. Here are some of the few settings you’ll want tohave sorted before you head down to the watering hole to get happy snaps of thirsty animals.


Pre-focus means switching your lens to manual focus and having it focused on where the subject is likely to be. This lowers the lag time between pressing the shutter release and actually taking the shot. But it can be hit and miss; you really want to predict the line of action carefully.

Burst mode

Many cameras allow you to shoot in bursts – DSLRs can commonly shoot 6 fps – which makes it easier to get the right shot, simply by snapping off multiple shots in quick succession.

Even with point-and-shoot cameras, you can find this setting on the mode dial – often depicting as a running person. While commonly called a “Children” or “Pet” mode, it usually accounts for any fast action shots you might want to get.

child touching bubble

Fast shutter speed

A fast shutter speed really makes a difference with action photography. It should be no slower than 1/500 sec to freeze the action. Anything slower can blur movement.

Shoot in JPEG

JPEG files are generally quicker to capture than RAW files as they are smaller sized. That means your camera will be able to shoot a few more frames-per-second.

3. Have the right equipment

Skills can take you only so far but if you miss out on that perfect shot of the mountain lion emerging from his cave because you don’t have a long enough zoom, you’ll be kicking yourself!

A fast memory card can do wonders for your action photography. Sometimes, your memory card can actually slow your camera down as it tries to write the files as quickly as your camera’s taking the shots. Make sure you have a fast, modern memory card to get the most of your camera.

And as our example above suggests, a long telephoto lens is well worth the investment if you’re serious about your action photography. If you’ve seen professional photographers on the footy ground or at the tennis, you’ll see how important it is to the art of motion photography!

A 300mm f/2.8 is the type of lens professional photojournalists use at major events. For more budget-friendly options, try a 400mm f/5.6 super-tele option or the affordable 100mm f/2.0. You can always purchase a 4X or 2X tele-converter (which extends your lens’ length) later.

seagull flying against blue sky

4. Practice

The old adage of practice making perfect applies here too. You’re never going to get that crisp-clear shot of your child kicking the game-winning goal first time around. Practise allows you to become familiar with your camera and lens, understanding their capabilities and their limitations.

Every day, we’re surrounded by potential motion photography subjects. Take your camera down to the beach to watch locals walk their dogs, or into the mountains to record native birds. Head to the street if you’d rather snap urban images of trains, trams and buses.

Try panning the camera (moving it in the direction of the action subject), which will give you that trendy blurred background with the subject crystal clear in the foreground.

Feeling inspired to get out there and snap some awesome action pics? Make sure you’re stocked up with Camera House’s great selection of cameras and accessories, sure to get the job done!

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