Focus on Travel Photography
» See the tips and sample pictures
The idea in photographing most action subjects is to use a shutter speed that is fast enough to stop any hint of motion. There are times, though, when intentionally switching to a slow shutter speed and exaggerating movement is a better interpretation of the context of a photo. A race horse frozen in mid-stride is not nearly as expressive of action as one whose four legs are tangled in a rhythmic blur.
One way to capture action in motion is by keeping the camera steady and letting the movement write its own story across the frame. In photographing a rush-hour crowd, for example, standing in one place and using a long exposure will turn the onslaught into a swirling array of faceless forms. As with stopping action, the actual shutter speed you use will depend on three factors: the speed of your subject, its direction, and how close it is. As a starting point, estimate the correct shutter speed for stopping action and then experiment with shutter speeds at least two times slower; typically speeds in the 1/30- to 1/4-second range are effective.
With the technique called panning, you use a slow shutter speed and move the camera to follow your subject. The result is a relatively sharp subject surrounded by a blurred or streaked background. With a moderately slow shutter speed (1/60 or slower), focus on your subject (a skier, say) and gently press the shutter as you pan with it. It helps if there's a good color contrast between subject and background. Panning is one technique for which a point-and-shoot has an advantage, because you can continue to see your subject during the exposure. With a DSLR, once you press the shutter, the reflex mirror will block your view.
Occasionally you may be the one in motion—trying to shoot pictures from a moving cable car, for example. In these situations, stopping action (not to mention camera-shake) is near impossible, and it's often better simply to go with the flow, slow down the shutter speed, and let some blur into your pictures.Next: "Zoom Effect"
Free Fodor's Newsletter
Subscribe today for weekly travel inspiration, tips, and special offers.