How do I taking pictures of moving things?
June 8, 2005 5:12 PM   Subscribe

When I take pictures of moving things (like fidgety kids, etc) with my Canon Powershot A95, the pictures are often blurry where the motion is. The manual is extremely brief on this. Can someone tell me what I should be doing that I'm not?
posted by frenetic to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
a) Use the flash when possible
b) In the camera's settings, change the ISO speed to the highest setting (eg ISO400). This will shorten the shutter speed, reducing the amount of blur. It will also make images grainier, since less light gets to the sensor in the shorter time.
posted by cillit bang at 5:20 PM on June 8, 2005

what c-bang said.
posted by neilkod at 5:30 PM on June 8, 2005

The essence of freezing motion is reducing the amount of time the shutter is open (increasing the shutter speed).

I don't know your particular camera, but DP Review's picture of it shows a special mode for shooting quickly-moving objects (the runner icon on the dial). This probably sets a high ISO like cillit bang says, and biases the camera towards choosing a fast shutter speed.

If you want more control than the preset offers, your camera has a Shutter Priority mode, which will let you actually choose the shutter speed. Play with shooting different moving subjects at various shutter speeds and seeing what you can get away with before you start seeing blur.
posted by aneel at 5:30 PM on June 8, 2005

To get a good picture with fast shutter speed, you're going to need enough light. If there's not enough light to capture a fast exposure, and you're too far away to use the flash, you're out of luck: this is a hard and fast limit of the camera.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:18 PM on June 8, 2005

Today's NYTimes (registration required, etc.) had an article by David Pogue on minimizing shutter lag (and 9 other suggestions). I'm not sure it's directly relevant, but you might find it useful. Among other things, he points out that a flash is only good up to about 8 feet.
posted by WestCoaster at 6:26 PM on June 8, 2005 [1 favorite]

The f-stop also affects the shutter speed, and you'll probably find that the zoom automatically adjusts the f-stop.

What you need to do is keep an eye on the shutter speed (it should be displayed on the screen). It's pretty easy to get a feel for how low it can go vs amount of before you get blur problems. Eg 1/60 (meaning one sixthieth of a second) is a long time, but probably short enough for most moving subjects. 1/20 means things will have to stay still, while 1/2500 means it doesn't really matter how fast the subject is moving :-)

Anyway, zoom in and out, and if you notice that zooming out increases the shutter speed, then that's useful information.
Most of the other methods of increasing shutter speed have already been mentioned.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:25 PM on June 8, 2005

I just got an A95 for my bday last month. Use the SPORTS setting on the knob at the top of the camera. It selects the best settings for shooting as fast as possible. It does amazing things, I can get helicopters with their blades frozen, in bright sun.
posted by Goofyy at 10:19 PM on June 8, 2005

In addition to what other people said, you can try to use the burst mode. I've found that out of 3 pictures taken in a quick row, there's usually one that's usable, at least in light conditions that are still good enough (if you're down to less than 1/30, you'll be out of luck anyway). The burst mode is also ideal for fidgety subjects like kids.
posted by elgilito at 12:24 AM on June 9, 2005

Can someone tell me what I should be doing that I'm not?

As others have mentioned, what you're not doing is getting enough light. The problem is that you, human, are a very poor judge of what is "enough" light, because human eyes are incredibly sensitive to a large range of light intensities. Your camera is not.

Here's what you should do:
  1. Make sure you're completely zoom-ed out. This is for two reasons: first, the more you zoom, the more you magnify your own unsteady hands; two, because the A95 is a variable-aperture zoom, which means it allows more light into the camera when it's zoomed out (f/2.8) than when it's zoomed in (f/4.9).
  2. Put it in Fast Shutter mode.
  3. Track moving objects as well as you can -- this means panning along with the motion. Kids can be difficult and unpredictable, of course, but do your best.
  4. If you have to use the flash, make sure you're close enough.
  5. ...otherwise, go outside and take your pictures.

posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:40 AM on June 9, 2005

(I wrote this last night and forgot to postit, so I apologize for piggybacking what's essentially been said already.)

As mentioned above, the reason why it's blurring is because the camera's shutter is not snapping fast enough to freeze the motion. The shutter operates at a number of different speeds, ranging from multiple seconds to thousandths of a second. When using the camera on automatic mode, this speed will likely be set automatically for you. With traditional film photography, a shutter faster than 1/30th of a second will generally be fast enough to freeze the motion without blur. In darker situations, however, the camera needs to bring in more light to capture the subject on film (or the digital sensor). One way it does this in automatic mode is by slowing the shutter down. The problem, as you've noticed, is that when the shutter is operating slower than 1/30th or so, it will be nearly impossible to freeze motion as you intend.

There are a number of things you can do to compensate for darker situations, however. Many of them are listed above. You can increase the ISO from 100 to 200, 400, or 800 which will make the sensor more sensitive to light and thus, it will require less light and use a faster shutter speed. Increasing the ISO, however, will increase the amount of noise in the photos, so it's generally a good idea to increase it only as much as necessary. I find ISO 400 to be decent, but once you get to 800 and above (differing with camera makes, naturally), the quality of the pictures really starts degrading.

You can also teach yourself how to shoot manually. This requires a time commitment in order to learn how to use the camera, but it pays off -- especially if your photography hobby takes off! By shooting manually, you control both the shutter speed and aperture size. You'll be able to "open up" the aperture to allow for more light, which will then allow you to increase the shutter speed as well, giving you less blurry photos.

My fondest recommendation is that you learn how to use the blur to your advantage by teaching yourself the art of panning. If you're plagued with a slow shutter speed, use your camera to "follow" the moving subject. Holding your camera stationary while something moves in front of it will just give you a big blur -- but if you train your camera onto a subject and isolate the camera's movement in relation to that subject (following it while the shutter is open), the subject will be mostly "frozen," while the background will show motion. It's not terribly hard (just takes a little practice), but it'll let you use the slower shutter and blur to create more dynamic photographs. Here are a few of mine from a recent marathon. (self-link)
posted by Hankins at 5:42 AM on June 9, 2005

Seriously, though, zoom out. You'll gain almost two stops of speed. That's the difference between shooting at 1/60th of a second (good) versus 1/15th of a second (very bad).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:45 AM on June 9, 2005

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