Tuesday Photo Tip | How to Freeze Action

Today’s tip is all about shutter speed & how to freeze action.  A big topic, but I will do my best to keep it brief and to the point. If you have further questions feel free to leave them in the comment field and I will reply!

Thank you to my friend Kathy who asked this question.  She has a really nice Nikon DSLR camera, and two awesome girls that rock the soccer field!  Her question is : How can I take soccer action shots that are not blurry?

If you want to freeze action, you need to use a fast shutter speed.  Let’s cover some basics here and then I’ll show some examples.


What is shutter speed?  Shutter speed is the length of time a camera shutter is open to expose light into the camera sensor.

Shutter speed is measured in seconds – or in most cases fractions of seconds. The bigger the denominator the faster the speed (i.e. 1/800 is much faster than 1/30).

How do you change your shutter speed? If you have a DSLR,  the easiest way is to set your camera on Shutter Priority and adjust your shutter speed (more info in your camera manual).  The camera will do the rest for you.  If you have a point and shoot, rotate your dial to the runner icon!

If you want to freeze action, use a faster shutter speed  i.e. my standard 1/500th (bigger denominator) .  If you want to blur action, use a lower shutter speed i.e. 1/100th ( smaller denominator)

The brighter the time of day, the easier it is to stop motion.  More light = faster shutter speeds available.  (This is without a flash)


 If I want to freeze action I typically shoot at 1/500th shutter speed.  I like to really freeze the action – you can experiment and use a slower shutter speed and see what you get.  Practice practice!


Here are a few samples of different shutter speeds that I used for different results :

My settings here are :  shutter speed 1/500th   Aperture f/3.5  ISO 640

Keep your focus point on the subject.  Every two clicks or so I re-focus. (Let go of the button and press it again)


I bumped my shutter speed up a little faster for this pic, since I knew my kids would be racing each other!

shutter speed 1/800th    aperture f/7.1     ISO 320

Every two clicks I refocused.  I call it burst shooting.  Not sure what the technical term is.


I wanted the hair in this image to be a bit blurry & soft, so I slowed down my shutter speed.  I focused on her eyelashes and then said go!

shutter speed 1/200th    aperture f/3.2     ISO 640


I hope this helps!  It’s a huge topic with a lot of variables, so please know I only touched on a very few.  And please know I am not claiming to be the expert here 🙂   Just sharing what I know.

Leave me a comment – I’d love to hear back from you if this tutorial made sense and/or helped you understand!


Portrait Photographer Raleigh, NC


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