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How to Capture Action with the Rebel t5i

A fast shutter speed is the key to capturing a blur-free shot of moving subjects with the Rebel t5i, whether it’s a spinning Ferris wheel or a butterfly flitting from flower to flower. A shutter speed of 1/125 second was too slow to catch the subject without blur. For this subject, who was moving at a fairly rapid speed, the shutter speed was all the way up to 1/1000 second.

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The backgrounds are blurry in both shots because the camera settings produced a shallow depth of field; in the first image, the skater is a little farther from the background, blurring the background more than in the second image.

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Try the techniques in the following steps to photograph a subject in motion:

  1. Set the Mode dial to Tv (shutter-priority autoexposure).

    In this mode, you control the shutter speed, and the camera takes care of choosing an aperture setting that will produce a good exposure.

  2. Rotate the Main dial to select the shutter speed.

    In the Shooting Settings display, the option that appears highlighted, with the little arrow pointers at each side, is the one that you can adjust with the Main dial. In Tv mode (and M mode), the shutter speed is the active option.

    The shutter speed you need depends on how fast your subject is moving, so you have to experiment. Another factor that affects your ability to stop action is the direction of subject motion. A car moving toward you can be stopped with a lower shutter speed than one moving across your field of view, for example.

    Generally speaking, 1/500 second should be plenty for all but the fastest subjects — speeding hockey players, race cars, or boats, for example. For slower subjects, you can even go as low as 1/250 or 1/125 second.

    Remember, though, that when you increase shutter speed, the camera opens the aperture to maintain the same exposure in Tv mode. At low f-stop numbers, depth of field becomes shorter, so you have to be more careful to keep your subject within the sharp-focus zone as you compose and focus the shot.

    You also can take an entirely different approach to capturing action: Instead of choosing a fast shutter speed, select a speed slow enough to blur the moving objects, which can create a heightened sense of motion and, in scenes that feature very colorful subjects, cool abstract images.

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    If the aperture value blinks after you set the shutter speed, the camera can’t select an f-stop that will properly expose the photo at that shutter speed.

  3. Raise the ISO setting to produce a brighter exposure, if needed.

    In dim lighting, you may not be able to create a good exposure at your chosen shutter speed without taking this step. Raising the ISO increases the possibility of noise, but a noisy shot is better than a blurry shot.

    If Auto ISO override is in force, ISO may go up automatically when you increase the shutter speed. Auto ISO can be a big help when you're shooting fast-paced action; just be sure to limit the camera to choosing an ISO setting that doesn't produce an objectionable level of noise. (Set that limit via the ISO Auto option on Shooting Menu 3.)

  4. For rapid-fire shooting, set the Drive mode to Continuous.

    In this mode, you can take approximately five frames per second. The camera continues to record images as long as the shutter button is pressed. You can switch the Drive mode by pressing the left cross key or using the Quick Control screen. The icon representing the current mode appears in the Shooting Settings display.

  5. If possible, use manual focusing; otherwise select AI Servo AF (autofocus) mode and Automatic AF Point Selection.

    With manual focusing, you eliminate the time the camera needs to lock focus in Autofocus mode. Of course, focusing manually gets a little tricky if your subject is moving in a way that requires you to change the focusing distance quickly from shot to shot. In that case, try these two autofocus settings for best performance:

    • Set the AF Point Selection mode to Automatic. Press the button shown in the margin to adjust this setting. If Manual selection is in force, rotate the Main dial until all the focus points light up. Or tap the return to Auto Selection icon on the touchscreen (lower-left corner of the screen).

    • Set the AF (autofocus) mode to AI Servo (continuous-servo autofocus). Press the right cross key or use the Quick Control screen to access this setting. The name of the current setting appears in the Shooting Settings screen.

    Frame your subject under the center focus point, press the shutter button halfway to set the initial focusing distance, and then just reframe as necessary to keep the subject within the 9-point autofocusing area. As long as you keep the shutter button pressed halfway, the camera continues to adjust focus up to the time you actually take the shot.

  6. Compose the subject to allow for movement across the frame.

    Don’t zoom in so far that your subject might zip out of the frame before you take the shot — frame a little wider than usual. You can always crop the photo later to a tighter composition. For an alternate effect, try panning with the movement. The central subject will remain relatively sharp but the background will be blurred.

One other key to shooting sports, wildlife, or any moving subject: Before you even put your eye to the viewfinder, spend time studying your subject so that you get an idea of when it will move, where it will move, and how it will move. The more you can anticipate the action, the better your chances of capturing it.

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