Shutter speeds for action

If you are photographing a fast-moving subject, such as a racing vehicle or a bird in flight, set shutter-priority (Tv) shooting mode for a controllable way to freeze the action. This shooting mode is available on all EOS DSLR and mirrorless cameras.

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Tv mode allows you to select a shutter speed fast enough to freeze the action and help ensure a sharp photograph. It does this by limiting the amount of time the movement can be recorded by the sensor. For example, during a shutter speed of 1 second, a moving subject will be captured in different positions on the sensor, giving a blurred image. At faster shutter speeds, the subject will move a shorter distance during the exposure until you get to a speed where the image appears sharp. Much will depend on the speed of the subject and the direction of travel (see table below).

Often, the image can look sharp when reviewed on the small LCD on the back of the camera, even when you zoom in. It is only when you see the image on a large computer screen that slight subject movement might become visible.

This guide suggests suitable shutter speeds for a range of subject speeds. The more distant you are from a subject, the slower it will appear to be moving – which is why planes seem to move slowly across the sky. Also, the direction that the subject is moving relative to the camera affects its apparent speed – a car coming towards you requires a slower shutter speed to freeze its movement than one travelling across the frame.

These figures are based on a 50mm focal length. If you are using a longer lens, you will need to increase the shutter speeds relative to the power of the lens. For instance, a 200mm lens is four times the power of a 50mm lens, so the shutter speed will have to increase fourfold – from 1/1000 to 1/4000 second, for example. Equally, you can use slower shutter speeds with wide-angle lenses for similar results.

These shutter speed values are, of course, only a guide. Use them as the starting point for your own experiments.

Distance

Speed

Direction of subject to camera

feet

metres

mph

kph

across

diagonal

to or from

6

2

5

8

1/1000

1/500

1/250

 

 

10

16

1/2000

1/1000

1/500

 

 

25

40

1/4000

1/2000

1/1000

 

 

50

80

1/8000

1/4000

1/2000

 

 

100

160

1/8000

1/4000

12

4

5

8

1/500

1/250

1/125

 

 

10

16

1/1000

1/500

1/250

 

 

25

40

1/2000

1/1000

1/500

 

 

50

80

1/4000

1/2000

1/1000

 

 

100

160

1/8000

1/4000

1/2000

25

8

5

8

1/250

1/125

1/60

 

 

10

16

1/500

1/250

1/125

 

 

25

40

1/1000

1/500

1/250

 

 

50

80

1/2000

1/1000

1/500

 

 

100

160

1/4000

1/2000

1/1000

50

16

5

8

1/125

1/60

1/30

 

 

10

16

1/250

1/125

1/60

 

 

25

40

1/500

1/250

1/125

 

 

50

80

1/1000

1/500

1/250

 

 

100

160

1/2000

1/1000

1/500

100

33

5

8

1/60

1/30

1/15

 

 

10

16

1/125

1/60

1/30

 

 

25

40

1/250

1/125

1/60

 

 

50

80

1/500

1/250

1/125

 

 

100

160

1/1000

1/500

1/250

There are other ways to work, of course, including Manual mode – where you are in control of all of the settings – as well as Av mode, which is best used in conjunction with the ISO speed setting options (selected cameras), where you can specify an minimum shutter speed from which the camera can choose. However, when just starting out with action photography, Tv mode can give you a reliable and predictable way of working, with more control than the fully automated modes.

Maximum speeds

All Canon EOS cameras offer a maximum shutter speed of at least 1/4000 second – enough to ‘freeze’ the movement of most subjects you will encounter.

The rmajority of the EOS-1D-, 7D- and 5D-series cameras go up to 1/8000 second, as do the EOS 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D, 60D, 70D, 80D and 90D models.

The EOS-1D, introduced in 2001, has a maximum shutter speed of 1/16000 second. It uses a CCD sensor and the top speed is obtained electronically by switching the sensor on and off while the shutter curtains are open.

All other EOS cameras use CMOS sensors which, while offering some advantages over CCD sensors, cannot be switched on and off at high speed. This is why EOS cameras continue to rely on the tried and tested focal plane shutter.


 

HowtoShootActionPocketbookcoverFor more information on shooting moving subjects, check out this How to Shoot Sports and Action Photography Pocketbook. It's a small, concise guide that gives you the key settings and advice when capturing action and moving subjects with your Canon EOS camera.