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How to Photograph Fast-Moving Subjects with Your Canon EOS 6D

There is a trick to shooting fast-moving subjects with your EOS 6D. When people see photographs of racecars, they always assume the photographer used a fast shutter speed because the car looks so clear and they can see every detail, including the driver’s name on the side. But, consider doing just the opposite. Shoot with a relatively slow shutter speed when the car is traveling parallel to you.

To photograph a fast-moving subject:

  1. Attach a telephoto lens to your camera.

    The focal length of the lens depends on how far away your subject is. If the cars are relatively close to you, you can zoom out and still get the whole car. If they’re far away, zoom to 200mm, which brings the action to you.

  2. Point the camera where your subject will be when you take the picture and then zoom in.

    If you’re photographing an automobile race, you can compose your picture a lap before you take it. You can zoom to almost fill the frame with the car and then zoom out a little, leaving a little distance in front of the car to give the impression that the car is going somewhere.

  3. Press the Drive button and then rotate the Main dial to switch to AI Servo focus mode so that your camera focuses continually on your subject as it moves toward or away from you.

    If your camera has a hard time keeping fast-moving subjects in focus, you can focus manually on the spot where the object will be when you take the picture.

  4. Switch to a single autofocus point in the center of the frame.

    When you use multiple autofocus points, the camera may focus on an object other than the one you want to photograph.

  5. Press the Mode Lock and then rotate the camera shooting Mode dial to Tv (Shutter Priority mode), and then press the Shutter button and rotate the Main dial to select a shutter speed of 1/160 second.

    You may have to use a slightly higher shutter speed if you’re using a lens with a focal length of 200mm or longer. The aperture really doesn’t matter with this technique. The background is stationary, but the car and camera are moving at the same relative speed. Therefore the background will be a blur caused by the motion of the camera relative to the background.

    However, if you are photographing a race on an overcast day, and the f-stop value is lower than f/6.3, increase the ISO setting until you have an f-stop of f/6.3 or smaller. If you shoot with too large an aperture, the side of the car will be in focus, but the driver’s helmet will be out of focus.

  6. Spread your legs slightly and move your elbows to the side of your body. Cradle the barrel of the lens with your left hand and position your right forefinger over the Shutter button.

    This helps stabilize the camera as you pan with your subject. In this position, you’re the human equivalent of a tripod.

  7. Pivot from the waist toward the direction from which your subject will be coming.

  8. When your subject comes into view, press the Shutter button halfway to achieve focus.

    Sometimes the camera has a hard time focusing on a fast-moving object, such as a fighter jet traveling at several hundred miles per hour. In this case, switch to One-Shot AF mode, switch your lens to manual focus, and focus on the place where your subject will be when you press the Shutter button. Press the Shutter button just before your subject reaches the spot on which you’ve focused.

  9. Pan the camera with your subject to keep it in frame.

    When you’re photographing an object in motion, a good idea is to keep more space in front of the object than behind it. This shows your viewer the direction in which your subject is traveling.

  10. Press the Shutter button when your subject is in the desired position and follow through.

    If you stop panning when you press the Shutter button, your subject won’t be sharp. You can use the panning technique to catch the essence of speed. At this point, the car was traveling well over 100 mph.

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