long exposure of Ferris wheel

Capturing motion photography

Exploring motion photography

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.

Getting started:

Remember - children and small animals move fast!

Whenever you see small children and dogs running in your local park, you’ll notice they move quickly, and often in erratic directions. Change of direction and speed is common, so photographing small children and dogs can be challenging.

If you have the Kids and Pets mode on your camera, it’s ideal in these situations as it uses multiple focus frames to ensure focus is sharp on the subject. This mode is even more effective if the subjects are at least three meters from the camera.

At this distance it is simpler for the camera to achieve and keep the focus on the subject. If your subject gets really close to the camera it is much harder to keep the focus locked on. If you don’t have Kids and Pets mode, then remember to switch your camera to continuous shooting and Servo AF mode to ensure crisp autofocus.

Big sports stadiums or concerts – turn off the flash

If you take your camera to a large sports stadium, make sure you switch off the flash or choose the flash-off mode. The built-in flash is designed for subjects relatively close to the camera, typically up to five meters away. If you use flash at stadiums most of the picture will comprise flash lit subjects in the seats in front of you.

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.

  - 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 centre 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.

Freeze the action

The Image Stabilizer function will help to deliver sharp results by reducing camera shake that is a natural characteristic of long zoom lenses. When shooting with the lens at or near maximum zoom try to hold the camera securely with two hands for a better result.

Use a high speed, large capacity memory card

When capturing motion, 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.

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.

Advanced Tips:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 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:

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

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

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

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

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

Move your camera to add interest to movies

Movies are made more interesting with the use of camera movement. If the subject is also moving, then plan to shoot both static and panned shots.

Static shots often need the camera to be held stationary, but with practice short clips are quite simple to capture even hand held. Remember that a wide-angle shot will appear less shaky than a close up shot. For the ultimate static shot a tripod or other support is best.

Static shots are often ideal for the start of things. Start with a wide shot to establish the context of the event or subject. Allow the action to happen and the subject to move out of the frame. Once the subject is moving track them by moving the camera at the same speed to keep the main subject in the same part of the frame. This can be quite hard to do but keep the clips relatively short. Short clips give a greater sense of pace to edited movies.

Capture moving details with both static camera shots and moving camera shots. By focusing on a small moving detail of the scene you capture a useful clip of movie that can be inserted between other clips to help tell the story. If the subject is an athlete running, then make sure to capture close-up clips of the shoes and feet.

Use a mix of static and tracking shots

Making movies is all about movement and there are different ways to show movement with video. The moving subject can pass across the frame with the camera kept still, a static shot; or the camera can be moved to track or pan with the moving subject.

Use a mixture of static and tracking shots to create more interesting footage.

If you are filming something that repeats in a predictable way - such as athletes lapping a running track – then plan in advance how you will capture the event.

To establish the context of the scene a wide-angle shot is good to start with, and then switch to a tighter shot but keeping the camera in a fixed position.

Once the race is running try a mix of moving camera and fixed camera shots. Make sure to be ready to capture the important finish too.

It may be better to shoot a wider finish line shot to include all the competitors running to the finish line, but be ready to move the camera to follow the winner celebrating after the race is over.

Selecting the right settings for action-filled prints

Printing your photos using a PIXMA is a great way to showcase your high-speed action images. PIXMA printers give you the ability to produce high quality prints, with amazing levels of detail. Here’s how to get the most from your prints:

  • Choose the right paper size to match your image (e.g. for high resolution images, why not print larger than A4 if your printer supports it?)

  • Choose the right paper type to achieve stunning colours (using the PIXMA with Canon’s wide range of photo paper will help achieve accurate colour prints)

  • Increase the quality settings in the printer driver to achieve the highest amount of details in your prints

Using My Image Garden software with your PIXMA

My Image Garden is a handy software application that allows you to easily organise and print your photos. The software can even print still images selected from movie clips captured using Canon cameras. Additionally, it can merge multiple still frames into one file for printing. So, if you have a video sequence of a tennis player serving, you can breakdown the sequence into individual images, and combine it to show the whole serve action in one print.