Photography Cheat Sheet: Freezing Movement with Fast Shutter Speeds

If you’re practicing shooting with fast shutter speeds, let today’s featured photography cheat sheet be your guide to freezing movement for creative shots.

Fast shutter speeds are useful for achieving various creative results, when used correctly. As a general rule, you can freeze movement for creative shots using a shutter speed of at least 1/250 sec or faster. Still, you’ll find that how fast you should set the shutter speed depends on many factors. Today’s photography cheat sheet will serve as a quick reference for the best camera settings and techniques to use based on your shooting situation.

The cheat sheet below, by Digital Camera World, briefly explains the basic principle behind using fast shutter speeds: the faster the subject is moving, the faster your shutter speed should be. Usually, a shutter speed of 1/250 sec will be fast enough to freeze slower movement, but for fast-moving subjects like speeding cars, you’ll need to use 1/1000 sec and up to 1/8000 sec for even faster subjects. However, the guide also notes that there’s more to a great action shot than this.

It’s recommended to set your camera to AI Servo or Continuous AF mode so your camera will be able to adjust the focus for moving subjects as long as the scene is bright enough. Get your subject in the frame and make sure the focus point is positioned or locked on it. Next, take note of the timing of your shot. If you don’t press the shutter at the right moment your shot will most likely look boring or static. There are often plenty of great opportunities to get interesting captures for sports and action shots. For example, the guide suggests timing your shots to incorporate elements like dust or water to show dynamic scenes or forces at work.

For other moving subjects, like the sample image of water splashing on a rocky shoreline, it will also help to shoot in short bursts in Continuous Drive mode, timing the shot as the action peaks. This method gives you the best chance to land a perfect shot while also letting your camera store the images into your memory card without locking up.

Additional reading: Fast vs. Slow Shutter Speed for Creative Shots

Need more photography tips and tricks like this? Don’t forget to check out our photography cheat sheet collection to find more that will come in handy for your next shoot and projects!