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Part of the excitement of travel is experiencing the new and unexpected – which often happen at speed. Pro photographer Jon Sparks has five top tips on how to take great action pictures to capture those fleeting moments for ever.

The world in action

There’s more to action photography than sports or adrenalin pursuits: the world is full of movement, from cascading waterfalls to stalking cats to a pizza chef spinning the dough.

Panning for gold

Try panning shots. This involves following the subject with the camera as they move past you. Done right, it gives you a sharp image of the subject while the background is blurred by the camera movement. But it needs a slower shutter speed, so don’t use Sports mode: you could try Landscape, or use Shutter-Priority.

A place in time

Action – especially outdoor action – happens somewhere. Think about the setting and the context. Sometimes the distinction between action photography and landscape photography looks academic.

Stay focussed

Some cameras simply can’t focus fast enough to keep up with rapidly moving subjects. DSLRs are generally best at this; mirrorless cameras are getting better; everything else is going to struggle at times. In this case, don’t flog a dead horse but look for moments of stillness or slower action when you can shoot.

Freeze frame

Most cameras have a ‘Sport’ or ‘Action’ mode, which will set a fast shutter speed to help ‘freeze’ fast-moving subjects. On most cameras you can also take direct control of shutter-speed through Shutter-Priority mode (usually labelled S or Tv on the camera).


Take a look at the other features in this series;


Photography Masterclass 1: Landscapes
Photography Masterclass 2: People