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Tips to Take Your High-Speed Photography to the Next Level

Capturing movement in photography is no easy task, especially when these movements are happening at high speed. But whether it’s an athlete jumping or a butterfly flitting by, you don’t want to take home a blurry photo because you weren’t prepared.

These high-speed photography tips will ensure you get that perfect shot of these fleeting moments.

high speed photo of soccer players

Aperture and ISO

For high-speed photography, you’ll need a lens and camera that can keep up. A fast shutter speed is crucial for clean and crisp high-speed photos. Lenses with wide apertures like f/2.8 and wider will let in more light, so you will be able to achieve a quick shutter speed at the perfect exposure.

You’ll also want a camera that can produce crystal-clear photos at high ISO settings. A high ISO will allow you to increase your shutter speed, but often at the consequence of pixelation.

Focus modes

When photographing high speed or sporadically moving objects, it’s best to set your camera to AF-C or continuous-servo. When the shutter is half-pressed in AF-C mode, your camera will continuously evaluate the focus distance of your subject, keeping it in focus as it moves closer or further away from you.

high speed photo of a bald eagle
While AF-C tracks your subject from front to back, the Dynamic Area Focus setting will follow it from side to side. To do this, the camera uses adjacent autofocus points to help maintain focus on your subject. Check your camera’s manual to learn how you can adjust these settings on your camera model.

Continuous shutter release

In high-speed photography, anything can change in a fraction of a second. To make sure you don’t miss a beat, use the continuous shutter release setting; your camera will continue to take pictures as long as your shutter button is pressed. Some modern cameras can shoot up to eight frames per second! Try to anticipate what will happen so you can capture before, during and after the action. This way you can choose from multiple shots, some of which you will undoubtedly like better than others.

Panning

This slightly advanced technique of high-speed photography takes a bit of practice and a lot of patience. It works by following a moving subject with your lens as you take a picture. When done correctly, the moving object will appear clear while the background is dragged across the frame, creating the appearance of movement. For panning to work you’ll need to slow your shutter speed down enough so that your background is slightly blurred.

high speed photo of speeding scooter
In this photo, I kept my viewfinder on the scooter coming through the intersection all the way through the shot. My shutter speed was slow enough to create a blur on the background as I moved the camera sideways, following the scooter to create the sense of traveling at high speed.

Zoom

A similar technique to panning is using the lens zoom to produce the appearance of high speed. For this to work you will also need a slightly slower shutter speed. Start at 1/30 and play around with it. Make sure your camera is level and pointed straight ahead. Start to twist the zoom, then hold down the shutter button. Make sure you continue zooming throughout the entire shot until you hear the second shutter click. Once you’ve got the hang of it on solid ground, try this out on a moving vehicle.

high speed photography on snowmobile
This photo was taken on a snowmobile ride in Lapland. We were already moving pretty fast, but to give the photo a little more punch I decided to add a little extra speed by zooming through the shot. Zooming through the shot blurs the edges of the photo while keeping the distant center relatively clear, thus creating the effect of traveling at high speed.

Do you have any extra high-speed photography tips you don’t see here? Share them in the comment section below!

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