08. Capturing action shots

We always assume that fast shutter speeds are necessary for action shots but how can slower shutter speeds and panning be the key to photographing action shots? In this chapter Karl Taylor explains exactly how as he heads down to a motocross event, the perfect place for practicing this sort of photography. See the results and learn how you can capture them for yourself.

NOTE: This photography class is available with English subtitles.


  1. Persistence paid off Karl as it doesn’t matter about the ones that don’t work because you got a few crackers which are the ones that you have in the bag and can show off ☺

    1. Exactly David, and as with most photography you give yourself the best chance of success when you understand more about your subject, i.e. what it might do, where it might be, what the likely conditions will be etc, this is why researching and pre-visualising really help your success rate.

  2. Hi Karl, for such action shots, some people also use cobra flash (or bigger flash) to help freezing action. Do you use such technics for action shots and if not what do you think of using flash for action shots ? Thank you for all your learning technics that improve a lot our photraphy skills.

  3. Just curious if you have some examples of indoor action – what would vary in approaching indoor sports ?

    1. Hi Peter, in the Light Source course I cover models jumping and to freeze that action I need to use flash with a fast duration. This can also be done with speedlites. I’m guessing you still want to freeze the action indoors and if so then you would have learnt from the ‘Introduction Course’ in the ‘Essentials’ section that this will require fast shutter speeds. As you increase the shutter speed you also lose light and indoors you have already lost light, so your only choices are to increase the ISO or add artificial light (or both).

      1. Hello Karl,
        Thankyou. Ill go back and review some of that essentials content.

        For the sports in mind, I’m too far away for flash lighting. I have an 70-200 F4 zoom but may need to upgrade to maximise the light capture along with ISO – indoor fluorescent lighting most likely at the venue.

        I was thinking freezing the action with the telephoto ( as is the norm ) BUT having watched some of the other content and knowing the sport, mixing it up presents some interesting thoughts – the action tends to be explosive and centred – time lapse up to a second or two might capture something entertaining.

        If I can get close enough, some portrait options also present. not sure how these will work with the lighting available.

        tjhank you again

        1. Hi Peter, as an example a rugby or football game shot in a floodlit stadium requires the photographers to use higher ISO to freeze the action. With your action being indoors and under fluorescent lighting then it may need a combination of high ISO capability and even faster aperture lenses such as a f2.8 although this gets more expensive!

    1. Hi Kevin, no I never use auto ISO simply because I wouldn’t have full control over the exposure. See the introduction course to understand how and why I almost always work in Manual only.

  4. Were you using the Continuos Focus Mode? And lastly would you consider using or are you using continuos shooting for higher frame rates per second?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Edmond, yes for part of this I was using servo focus and continuous shooting, but please be aware that this is not 100% accurate the camera can make mistakes and not always keep up with focus. In other situations I would prefocus manually where the action is expected to happen.

  5. Thanks Karl: I often photograph mountain bike events, but after watching this video I decided to try my hand at photographing motocross as well. Surprisingly the motor bikes seem to go at much the same speed as the crazier mountain-bikers but have the advantage – for a photographer – that they do fun stuff going up the hill as well as down ! Thanks for giving me the idea.

  6. I found the focus tracking on the Nikon patchy too Karl. It`s fine if covering fairly slow moving things like runners coming straight on – other than that you get lots of blurred images among the few good ones.
    I had the opportunity of shooting small birds of prey, in flight, in Wales. Like you I figured out setting a higher ISO (which also helped with longer focus lengths) depending on the ambient light, cranking up the shutter speed and setting a pre-defined focus area. You do get a few blurry shots but its spot on when subject comes into focus area. I set the format to jpg, rather than RAW, as the buffer doesn’t fill quite so quickly at 6fps and the files are smaller to write.
    Many thanks.

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