We have all been there. The coolest looking bird (dog, car, insert your own option) zooms past us, our photographer reflexes kick in, we aim, shoot, and get a sad photograph where our subject is out of focus completely or slightly blurry and smudged at best. Of course the question is, how does one prevent such disappointing outcome? Today we overview three important parameters that will help you get crisp images of of your favourite athletes at sporting events, your children riding bicycles, or simply your cat doing back flips.

Here motion blur adds interest to the picture, but what if you wanted to see the car in detail? This photograph was shot at 1/20s shutter speed.
Here motion blur adds interest to the picture, but what if you wanted to see the car in detail? This photograph was shot at 1/20s shutter speed.

1.Shutter Speed.

First and foremost setting that you need to address is your shutter speed. If your subject is moving fast, your shutter speed needs to be fast, too. Switch to S (Shutter Speed) mode on your camera or Tv (Time Value) to control the shutter speed. Set your shutter speed at around 1/1000 seconds or faster. Some cameras can shoot as fast as 1/4000 seconds or 1/8000 seconds. The faster your shoot the less light you get, as such you might want to increase your ISO or lower your aperture value. Read more on ISO here.

Shutter Speed: 1/1000s
These water droplets were moving very fast. To capture the detail we needed a shutter speed of 1/1000s.

2.Release mode/Drive mode.

Rather than taking one picture at a time, switch to the continuous shooting mode. Different camera models have different names for this parameter. The continuous shooting option allows the camera to take pictures continuously without stopping as long as you are holding the shutter button pressed in. You would normally find the continuous shooting mode in the same submenu as the timer mode. Look for an Icon that looks like this: Your camera might have a dedicated button for this setting or you will need to find it in the quick menu. In Nikons you would find this option in the Release Mode and in Canons in the Drive Mode.

4 Photographs taken within one second using continuous shooting mode.
4 Photographs taken within one second using continuous shooting mode.

3. Auto-focus mode

Most cameras have three basic automatic focus modes:

1)One Shot (Canon) or AF-S (Nikon) – for still objects, landscapes

2)AI Servo (Canon) or AF-C (Nikon) – for tracking moving objects

3)AI Focus (Canon) or AF-A (Nikon) – camera decides between the first two modes

As you can see, the 2nd option is the recommended choice for moving objects. In this mode the camera tracks moving objects and continues to refocus. For instance if the bird is flying away from you, the camera will continue to refocus on the bird as the distance between you and the bird changes. If you are shooting a scene where the bird is sitting but might fly away, you may want to change to the third option. The camera will then decide between the first two depending on the situation.

We highly recommend that you take advantage of these tips and apply them in your photoshoots. If you cannot find the settings in your camera, look back at your manual to find sections that provide you guidance on shutter speed, shooting/release/drive mode, and auto-focus modes.