Motion Penny Farthing Race

Capturing motion photography with your EOS DSLR

EOS Tutorial

Capturing motion in photos requires you to make a choice between freezing the action OR allowing creative blur to show the idea of movement in your photos. The direction you take depends on what you want your photo to say to your viewers. Capturing the emotion on a tennis player’s face in a frozen moment will convey a different message to a shot which shows blurred movement at full stretch across a court. Each can be equally powerful.
Whichever camera you’re using, there is a range of techniques to capture movement effectively, add creativity and convey a story through your photos. Canon tutor, Brian Worley explains how to get the most from your camera. He also reveals useful tips for shooting with your LEGRIA and explains how you can print dynamic, movement-filled images using your PIXMA printer.

Techniques for capturing movement with EOS

There are several techniques for capturing dynamic pictures of moving subjects with your EOS DSLR; these include:

Using of slow or fast shutter speeds
Panning the camera with the movement of the subject
Shooting multiple exposures

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Capturing moving subjects also means you need to use the appropriate autofocus modes. Often it’s a wise idea to use continuous drive mode to allow a sequence of images to be captured quickly.

Getting started:

Adjusting the shutter speed

How movement is captured in your photos depends primarily on the shutter speed you select. Faster shutter speeds will freeze motion while slower shutter speeds will result in movement being captured as a blur. However it is important to select shutter speeds in relation to the speed of your subject. It takes a much faster shutter speed to freeze the movement of a racing car than a person walking.

The time that the shutter is open is measured in seconds, or more often, fractions of a second. If the shutter is open for a shorter period of time the camera will record a moving object as if it is frozen in time.

The shutter speed can be chosen when your camera is set to Shutter priority mode (Tv) and also in Manual (M) mode.

Turn the camera mode dial on your EOS DSLR to Tv mode (or M) then use the camera’s main control dial next to the shutter button to select your chosen shutter speed.

Fast shutter speeds are typically 1/500th of a second or faster. EOS cameras may have shutter speeds as fast as 1/4000s or even 1/8000s.

If the intent is to capture subject movement as a blur then slow shutter speeds are needed. Slow shutter speeds typically start at 1/30th of a second though EOS cameras can offer shutter speeds of up to 30 seconds.

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Starting out with Sports mode

Sports mode, found on EOS and many other Canon cameras, is ideal for freezing the movement of fast action and sports photography automatically.

It changes the default setup of the camera; optimising it for freezing movement, tracking moving subjects and continuous shooting.

When shooting distant subjects, longer focal length lenses are often used for fast moving sports. Selecting Sports mode means your camera will automatically optimise chosen shutter speeds for the lens being used.

Helpful tips for using Sports mode

When using Sports mode the camera will not lock the focus when the shutter is half-pressed. Instead it will track the subject as it moves closer, or further away, and as it moves around the frame.

To ensure your camera optimally tracks your subject it is best to try and place the subject in the center of the viewfinder frame to start with.

It also helps to start tracking well before the subject reaches the ideal placement in the scene.

Long lenses

Longer focal length lenses are ones that capture images with a narrower angle of view than a human eye. These lenses are commonly used for sport and wildlife photography. Lenses with longer focal length make distant subjects appear larger in the frame and allow you to get closer to the action. Lenses with a focal length greater than 70mm are long or telephoto lenses.

Use a high speed, large capacity memory card

When capturing motion using your EOS, it’s a wise idea to shoot continuously so you don’t miss the best shot. Here are some useful tips:

Select the high-speed continuous drive mode to set the camera to take a sequence of pictures whilst the shutter is held down.

Use large capacity memory cards with fast writing speeds to ensure that the camera can take more shots in a single burst.

Set the camera to shoot JPEG images for the longest continuous burst of pictures.

Panning - moving your camera with your subject

Following your subject with your camera is called panning. It’s a skill that takes time to master, so try practising regularly.

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Cyclists can make useful moving subjects if you’re looking to sharpen up your skills. The ideal panning picture is captured when your camera moves at the same speed as the main subject so that it appears frozen and the background appears blurred due to the movement. If photographing vehicles the wheels will look in motion yet the vehicle will look sharp against a smoothly blurred background.

Panning can also be used to capture a range of moving subjects such as cars at a racetrack. The combination of sharp car and blurred background gives a real sense of speed to the picture.

For slower moving subjects try using Shutter priority mode (Tv) and select the shutter speed yourself.

Trying something different: Creating motion using zoom blur

Zoom burst or zoom blur is a motion-filled photographic effect. You can easily try it out using your EOS DSLR, a zoom lens and an optional tripod

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The effect involves zooming in or out while you take a photo using a long exposure, causing the shot to blur from the centre outwards.

Your image will either look filled with motion or take on an abstract look depending on how you capture it. The best results will come from experimenting with timing but here’s how to get started:

Select Tv mode on your EOS DSLR and choose a shutter speed of around 1 to 4 seconds.

Zoom fully in and focus on your subject. Lock the focus by pressing the AF-on button on your camera.

If you don’t have a tripod, lean against something to keep your camera steady.

Now zoom out, without changing your focus, to the widest angle you want to capture.

Press the shutter button and zoom in until the subject fills the frame again. Try to zoom as smoothly as possible.

Shot a zoom blur image you’d like to share? Upload it to The Gallery.

Check out the Canon lenses listed below:

EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM

A compact telephoto lens that takes you closer to the action. An Image Stabilizer prevents blur owing to unintentional camera movement. STM technology delivers smooth quiet focusing when shooting movies.

EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM

Advanced three-stop Image Stabilizer (IS) technology makes the EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM an ideal telephoto zoom for shooting in dim light and at slow shutter speeds without incurring camera shake


Shutter priority (Tv) or Manual exposure

If you’re comfortable with the advanced features of your EOS, try experimenting with shutter priority (Tv) mode which can either freeze or creatively blur the movement of your subject.

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Manual exposure (M) mode will give you complete control of the exposure and is sometimes favoured by professional photographers. You’ll get the best results by trying a few settings out and seeing what works for your style of photography.

Image Stabilizer Mode 2 for panning shots

Many of Canon’s longer lenses have multiple Image Stabilizer modes; choose Mode 2 with the switch on the side of the lens if possible when panning with your subjects. Remember:

You can pan in any direction – horizontal or vertical.

It is best to start panning with the subject before your press the shutter button and keep moving for a little after the exposure has finished. This ensures you have a consistent speed of camera movement when taking panning shots.

If you are using a lens with an Image Stabilizer it may not have the Mode selection switch, usually this means the lens will automatically detect the direction of panning and switch to Mode 2 IS automatically.

Multiple exposure shots

A number of recent EOS cameras such as the EOS 7D Mark II and EOS 5D Mark III also include a multiple exposure function. This can be used in conjunction with the continuous shooting mode to capture multiple stages of action in a single frame.

To make the best use of this in-camera multiple exposure it helps if the background of the scene is light if the subject is dark, or dark if the subject is light.

Time lapse

Movement is not always about high-speed action; time-lapse photography captures a number of frames at regular intervals to give the effect of speeding up movement or time. Clouds will rapidly move across the sky when the time-lapse sequence is played back. In short time-lapse speeds up slow moving subjects and scenes.

To capture time-lapse you need to take a long sequence of pictures at regular intervals. There are three possible ways to control the picture taking;

EOS Utility software can be used to take the time-lapse sequence of pictures at regular intervals by tethering your camera via a cable and controlling the shutter with your PC or Mac.

A Canon Timer Controller TC-80N3 can be used with several EOS cameras to release the shutter at programmed intervals.

The EOS 7D Mark II has an interval timer in the camera menu so you can set the camera to take pictures at pre-defined intervals.

Once a time-lapse sequence of still images has been captured it is necessary to assemble the still images in to a movie clip. The Canon lenses listed below are particularly suited to taking time lapse shots:

EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM

Compact, manoeuvrable and lightweight. The EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM is a telezoom featuring the very finest in L-series optical technology to deliver outstanding optical performance and operability.

EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM

The EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM is a workhorse telephoto zoom lens designed for professional use. It has a rugged durable design, a four-stop Image Stabilizer and specialised lens elements.

Upload your images to The Gallery

If you’ve felt inspired to capture life in motion, why not share your images with the world. Upload them to The Gallery.

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