Freeze Fast Moving Subjects Like a Pro Using These Photography Tips

Gain control of time and learn how to freeze fast moving subjects by mastering these high-speed photography tips.

Sports and wildlife photography entails capturing fast moving subjects. Freezing birds, race cars, etc. in your frame is paramount. This is tough for even seasoned professional sports and wildlife photographers. For those new to the craft, freezing high-speed subjects can feel like a downright Sisyphean task. But, don’t give up hope just yet. The following infographic from Digital Camera World provides some vital insight into everything you’ll need to know to freeze fast moving subjects.

Consider Everything

Tackle the problem holistically when shooting. It’s not just about how fast your subject is moving. Consider the angle from where you’re photographing: how fast a subject moves across the frame is arguably more important than how fast they’re moving in real life. Your angle may mean that conditions change. If you’re photographing a whooping crane flying above you, the conditions might make the exposure settings change. This is a major consideration if you’re in Aperture, Program, or Shutter priority. But if you’re in manual mode then you need to change them yourself. Both of these are big considerations.

When Your Subject Is Heading Straight at You

A fast moving subject heading directly towards the camera is a more unique scenario. Since the subject isn’t moving across the frame, you won’t necessarily have to crank your shutter speed up very high. Autofocus is much more critical here since the subject is moving towards you and rapidly decreasing the focusing distance. Some cameras provide the ability to adjust their autofocus system’s sensitivity and tracking characteristics. Dialing in your camera’s autofocus behavior correctly will have a much more profound effect in this scenario than simply shooting at super-fast shutter speeds. You’ll want to experiment with the different autofocus settings on your camera to ensure that it’s able to lock onto your subject and maintain focus.

When Your Subject Is Moving Across the Frame

The window of opportunity for nailing the shot when photographing fast moving subjects traveling across the frame is much shorter. Merely shooting at fast shutter speeds may not always be enough to create a sharp image. In addition to relying on your camera’s autofocus system, you’ll also want to do some of the heavy lifting and pan the camera to follow the subject as well. You’re essentially following the subject along as it enters your frame, extending the duration within which the subject appears in your frame. Some photographers find it helpful to mount their cameras on a monopod to alleviate some of the arm strain. Shooting in high burst mode will also increase your chances of nailing the shot. You may also want to experiment with slower shutter speeds once you’ve got the hang of this panning technique. This will allow you to add a sense of motion to your final image while ensuring that the subject appears sharp.

When Your Subject Is Traveling at a 45-degree Angle

This scenario is essentially the combination of the two previous scenarios. In this scenario, the subject is traveling across the frame while also moving towards the camera. Although the subject may be moving at the same speed it was when it was moving sideways across the frame, it’s relative speed will appear slower as it is now traveling diagonally across the frame. The slower relative speed will allow you to shoot at slower shutter speeds and still walk away with sharp images. Since the subject is also moving towards the camera, you’ll want to make sure that your autofocus sensitivity is dialed in accordingly as well.

Pauleth Ip

Paul is a New York City based photographer, creative, and writer. His body of work includes headshots and commercial editorials for professionals, in-demand actors/performers, high net worth individuals, and corporate clients, as well as intimate lifestyle/boudoir photography with an emphasis on body positivity and empowerment. Paul also has a background in technology and higher education, and regularly teaches private photography seminars. When not working on reviews and features for The Phoblographer or shooting client work, Paul can be seen photographing personal projects around NYC, or traveling the world with his cameras in tow. You can find Paul’s latest work on his Instagram over at @thepicreative.