Have you ever dared to slow down the shutter speed to photograph sports? If not, you definitely should. Here’s how to use long exposure for stunning action photos!

Kayak athlete in action
Olympian and Canoe-Kayak’s team Canada athlete Pierre-Luc Poulin. Photo taken at 1/30s.

Choose movements that moves parallel to the camera

For best results — and to avoid a blurry mass — chose a subject that moves either from left to right (or right to left), or up and down in front of the camera. Anything moving forward or backward will just look weird. Running, cycling, diving, swimming, kayaking or car racing are just a few examples or sports that suits well long exposure.

The trick is to follow the subject at the same time as it’s moving in front of you. This is what will create the “blurred background/in-focus subject” effect in the image.

Aerial circus artist Rachel Gauthier. Photo taken at 1/40s.

Start at 1/30s and re-evaluate

It takes some trial and error in order to find the right shutter speed in any given situation. From my experience 1/30s is a great starting point.

Once you’ve taken a few shots, look at them and determine whether the subject is too blurry or too frozen. If it’s too blurry, increase shutter speed to 1/40s or 1/50s. If the subject is too frozen, decrease it to 1/20s or 1/10s.

Female dancers long exposure
Female dance crew. Photo taken at 1/8s.

Stabilize the camera

It’s easy to miss the focus altogether when doing a long exposure. Even though the most efficient way to stabilize your camera is using a tripod, it’s not impossible to realize it freehanded. Just make sure your body is completely still and you’re holding your breath while taking the picture! (If you’re looking for the best autofocus settings for shooting moving subjects with your Sony camera, head to this article!)

Long exposure runner track
Olympian Anne-Marie Comeau. Photo taken at 1/40s.

Trial and error: The key to long exposure for stunning action photos

Action and sports photography in general is all about trial and error. Long exposure brings another challenge to the mix. It’s a great way to add dynamism and movement to your work. It also keeps you on your toes! Give this technique a try and get ready to be amazed by this new world of creative opportunities!