Photography tips: how to freeze the moment

With a few simple tricks, you can stop time – here's how to make your action shots sharp and compelling

8 mins

1. Go into motordrive

Judging the exact moment can be tricky, so to increase your chances, shoot a burst of pictures using your camera’s motordrive function. This will typically have three settings: high, low and single shot; the former might be able to shoot as fast as six or more frames a second. Make sure that you have enough space on your memory card for so many pictures, and be aware of your camera’s limitations: some cameras can’t continuously autofocus at the highest frame rate.

2. Watch your focus

If the action is moving across the frame, such as with this land-diving image, then your camera’s continuous (or servo) focus mode might not be able to focus in time. Either track the movement with the camera or, if you can predict it, manually focus on the key spot – where the jumpers are landing – and use a relatively small aperture like f8 to create enough depth of field to keep your subject sharp.

Base jump (Shutterstock)
Base jump (Shutterstock)

3. Use as fast a shutter-speed as possible

What you are aiming for is to completely freeze any motion, leaving your subject hanging in a seemingly surreal pose. Aim for at least 1/1000 second for jumping, leaping or falling subjects; higher if your subject is mechanically powered.

4. Increase the ISO

If you can’t select a fast enough speed to really freeze the action, then you can increase your camera’s ISO (or light) sensitivity. For every stop of ISO you increase, you can increase the shutter-speed by a stop. So if your camera is giving you 1/250 second at ISO 200, you could shoot with a blistering 1/1000 second at ISO 800.

5. Get to know your kit

As well as using a fast shutter speed, you’ll need fast reactions and familiarity with your kit. To speed things up, set everything up in advance, even taking a test exposure to check the image quality.

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Main image: Base jumper (Shutterstock)

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