Tips on photographing moving subjects to capture outstanding images

Stationary subjects are quite simple to shoot. Simply compose the photograph, focus the lens, adjust the exposure, and click the shutter. Photographing moving subjects, on the other hand, introduces unique obstacles. For starters, when your subject moves around the frame, the composition changes. If you then move the camera to follow your subject, the backdrop is likely to alter as well. Then there’s the problem of concentration. If the distance between the subject and the camera varies, you must compensate by adjusting your lens.

Black Headed Ibis - flying birds - photographing moving subjects
Black Headed Ibis

How To Capture Motion and Moving Subjects?

Photographing moving subjects isn’t easy. Just having a long telephoto lens or an expensive gadget may not help you in getting great images. Here are a few tips that you need to keep in mind before photographing flying birds:

  • Positioning yourself – Birds flying at perpendicular¬†to your camera would be easier for you to capture than a bid which is flying directly towards you. It would be great if you can capture an image of the bird flying directly towards you, but can a bit hard as focusing becomes a bit challenging even with the auto focusing system.
  • Taking good position so that you are in almost the same level – Try climbing up the tree or hill or get down to the lake/pond surface, instead of just standing in one corner and capturing just another ordinary shot. Capturing a bird flying high above your head is a very common shot.
Eagle flying low at Malleshwaram -photographing moving subjects
  • Check the background – You might have managed to capture a great image, but having some bright background or of a building may spoil your image.
  • Light source – You cannot always expect this to be right, but no harm in trying. You need lot of patience when it comes to wild life and bird photography. Sun at your back will look good as the bid will be front lit and may not look good if the light is from behind.
  • Photographing moving subjects without continuous focus can be challenging. Use continuous auto focus (AF-C) – as the flying bird change location continuously.
  • Select the vibration reduction to normal instead of active (in Nikon)/ Image stabilization to OFF. This doesn’t matter much as the shutter speed is high.
  • Getting close to the bird – A 300mm telephoto lens or a full frame lens 70-200 f2.8 lens in DX mode should be more than enough to capture a bird in motion. There is no need to go for high end lens, but if you can afford costlier longer telephoto lens then go for it.
  • Use a mono-pod or a tripod which has a tilt/panning head to it. If you want even more freedom to use then you can always go for handheld shots, but there are high chances that your image may not be sharp or kind of blurred.
  • What shutter speed is best for fast-moving objects? Camera settings – Keep the shutter at 1/1000 sec or more. Depends on bird. If there is a humming bird then you might want to increase to 1/4000 sec or higher, and if there is an eagle then shutter of 1/1000 sec should be enough.
  • ISO auto – better to keep it in auto. The values of shutter, ISO and aperture totally depends on local conditions like when exactly the bird is, at what time of the day etc.
  • Other settings include – Use all focus points, spot metering, increase or decrease the exposure compensation by one or two stops if needed if the image is over or underexposed. Better to get these things right while capturing instead of doing the same during post editing for better quality image output.
  • Try capturing images early in the morning or in the evening or when there is shadow. Bright sunny day might bring harsh shadows which can spoil the image. But photographing moving subjects in low light is even more challenging. So, having a f2.8 lens or lower will be helpful.

Photographing moving subjects – example

Camera Panning - photographing moving subjects
Photographing moving subjects – fast-moving bike captured using a point & shoot camera

Try these tips the next time you go out with your camera. Leave a comment below if these tips were of help. Hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and start practicing to capture photos and edit like a Professional Photographer. Buy me a coffee to support my work or you can go to my store to buy some of my images. Also, do not forget to join my FriendZone by signing up for my newsletter. Consider subscribing to my YouTube channel.

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