Quick photo tip: How to follow moving objects
Know-how

Quick photo tip: How to follow moving objects

David Lee
Zurich, on 18.03.2019
Translation: Patrik Stainbrook
Capturing moving objects on camera can be quite tricky. The background becomes blurry while the subject remains in focus. This works especially well with moving vehicles.

For a long time, I believed there was a secret to getting the perfect moving shot. I was completely puzzled at how you could retain long-time exposure while moving. How can that work?

The answer is quite simple: trial and practice! There is no one perfect trick. Even the most experienced photographers produce a lot junk when taking a picture while moving. It’s completely normal to take 300 pictures and then bin 295 of them. Don’t let that get you down! Still, here’s some advice to get you started.

Advice for your first moving subject

Use the «s» setting. You’ll have to experiment before getting the perfect shutter speed. If it’s too short, the background won’t blur enough. If it’s too long, it’ll be next to impossible to get a clear shot of the subject. An optimal shutter speed depends on the speed and distance of the vehicle, of course.

1/15 second was good enough: the front part of the tram is in focus.
1/15 second was good enough: the front part of the tram is in focus.

Use serial shot mode. The more pictures you take, the higher the probability one of them wil be in focus. And the more movement patterns you have, the better.

Start moving before taking the picture and take it while you’re in motion. Most cameras don’t show a gapless image in the viewfinder while serial shot is active. Look through the viewfinder and move the camera before taking the picture. This will give you a feeling for the right tempo.

Make sure there’s enough background in frame. Even if the background will be blurry, it’s still important. It makes the image more atmospheric. The moving subject should therefore not be in frame too big or small.

This is a success to me.
This is a success to me.

Focus on the front part of the subject. A tram or train will never be fully in focus. Frame the picture in a way so that the vehicle moves towards not away from you.

Check if your sensor is clean. The aperture needs to be completely closed at shutter times around 1/10 of a second in order to not overexpose the image. This makes even the tiniest smudge on the sensor visible. Mirrorless cameras are especially vulnerable to sensor stains.

Countless smudges on the right-hand side of the image ruined about 150 shots of mine.
Countless smudges on the right-hand side of the image ruined about 150 shots of mine.

38 people like this article


David Lee
David Lee
Senior Editor, Zurich
My interest in IT and writing landed me in tech journalism early on (2000). I want to know how we can use technology without being used. Outside of the office, I’m a keen musician who makes up for lacking talent with excessive enthusiasm.

These articles might also interest you