Photography Cheat Sheet: Staying Sharp for Action Shots

When it comes to action shots, getting your shutter speed right is only one part of the equation. With this photography cheat sheet, you’ll also be able to use your camera’s AF points to ensure sharp photos.

Photographing moving subjects can be tricky, especially for beginners. Not only will it require using fast shutter speeds to freeze movement, but also nailing the focus. Today’s photography cheat sheet will help you with the latter through some tips for choosing the right AF point depending on how your subject is moving.

If you’re struggling to keep your moving subjects in focus, the cheat sheet below by Digital Camera World will help make sure you capture them sharply at the right moment using your camera’s AF points. Since it’s in flowchart format, it’s easier to learn how to apply the techniques in real-life shooting situations. Pair the right AF point set-up with the right shutter speed, and you’ll surely stay sharp for action!

The flowchart provides two shooting scenarios you’ll most likely find yourself wanting to capture: a subject either moving along a predictable path or moving erratically. In the first scenario, you can use the center AF point in single-shot mode, then point your camera at the spot where the subject typically passes. Half-press the shutter to focus, then switch to manual focus to keep the setting locked. Then, simply fire the shutter once your subject moves into the spot you are pre-focused on.

With a subject moving erratically or unpredictably, it’s slightly more complicated. You’ll need to use continuous AF and take note of the background of your shot. If it’s full of details, you’ll have to manually select a focus point and keep it on your moving subject, so the focus doesn’t lock on the background. If it’s clean, activate all the AF points across the frame so your camera will focus on anything that moves — typically the closest or the highest contrast point.

If you find your camera struggling to keep the focus for both scenarios, you might want to try using just the center focus point. This option is the most sensitive, but tracks movements better and faster if you keep the focus point on your subject.

As a bonus, if you want to maximize your chances of landing the perfect shot, try shooting in burst or continuous drive mode as well. This will let you shoot a series of shots for as long as you keep the shutter pressed as you track your subject. This is particularly useful for shooting sports, dance, and racing subjects.

You may also want to pair these tips with the cheat sheet for choosing the right shutter speed for the right shooting situation.

Need more photography tips and tricks like this? Don’t forget to check out our collection of photography cheat sheets so far!