Camera Settings For Action Shots

Camera Settings For Action Shots
Skateboarder in action – action photography

Are you into sports and action movies? I know I am! Action shots look phenomenal, especially in films, sports, and athletics.

But if you’re new to photography, you’ve probably wondered about the best camera settings for action shots. Personally, I think the most important settings are ISO, aperture, and shutter speed.

High shutter speeds such as 1/1000 work best for me since they can instantly freeze the moment giving the perfect shot. But if you want to capture the motion, slower shutter speeds such as 1/250 might work best.

In this article, we’ll be going all over cameras and all the best camera settings for action shots.

So without further ado, let’s get started!

How Do You Photograph Action Shots?

Action shots are still images or motions captured by a single photo. You’re most likely to see these shots in movies, sports, and athletics.

Capturing action shots isn’t very difficult, and you only need to think about three settings. You aren’t required to have any accessories, but a steady base can help.

Besides a high shutter speed, you need to change your aperture, ISO, and autofocus mode.

This article will go over all of these in detail.

Shutter Speed For Action Shots

Your shutter speed is the first and most important setting you need to change for getting the perfect action shots. In a nutshell, shutter speed determines how fast your camera’s shutter closes.

Higher shutter speeds can capture and freeze anything instantly, freezing the shot. You should stick with higher shutter speeds most of the time for action shots since they work well in almost any scenario.

If you’re new to photography, stick with a shutter speed of 1/1000. Higher shutter speeds work best since action shots are mostly on fast-moving objects. But never change your shutter speed to be too high since it can lower the quality.

For capturing the motion instead of freezing the shot, slower shutter speeds such as 1/200 or 1/250 work best. Slower shutter speeds usually only work on lower light levels, so don’t use it unless you’re in a dark area.

snowboarder in action- using fast shutter speed to freeze motion
Snowboarding in action- a fast shutter speed to freeze actions

What Aperture Is Best For Action Shots

Aperture is the second most crucial camera setting after shutter speed for action shots.

If you’re new to photography but want to get into action shot photography, you should get a camera with a fast lens, such as the Minifinker Manual Focus Lens.

Most cameras with fast lenses will have options for f/2.8 or f/4 aperture. Better cameras have faster aperture settings, so always use the fastest aperture setting for your lens.

getting blur background and enough light using fastest aperture

Low apertures usually only work on dark areas, so almost always use a higher aperture. It’ll give off a blurring effect on the background while keeping the main subject sharp.

If you have a cheaper lens, you’ll probably have an aperture of f/5.6 or lower at max. So for inexpensive lenses, open your lens as wide as possible to let in the most light.

If you want to get into photography with action shots and want a budget-friendly camera, check out the Nikon D3500.

Nikon-D3500 - for action shots
Nikon-D3500 – best camera for action shots with a friendly budget (source:

ISO For Action Shots

The ISO setting of your camera determines how bright your pictures are. ISO is similar to photo editing software, as it changes the image’s brightness after taking the shot.

For action shots, you should turn your ISO value up to 100 or 200. However, keep in mind ISO values are too high or can make your action shots look too bright or too dark

If you’re using a fast shutter speed such as 1/1000, you should lower your ISO to something like 100 or 150. You don’t usually need to turn your ISO higher than 200, but you may need to turn it to 250 or 300, depending on how dark the area is.

Autofocus For Action Shots

Now that you’ve set up all three primary settings for the best action shots, you may be wondering which autofocus mode is.

And from my experience,

the best autofocus mode is Continuous Autofocusing. Since most action shots are for fast-moving objects, this mode does an excellent job of tracking. It specializes in tracking objects far away that are moving swiftly.

If you’re taking action shots for sports, the Continous Servo AF, shortly known as the AF-C, works best. There is another variation of this mode called AF-C, but you should never use it for action shots.

Best Camera Settings For Indoor Action Shots

If you’re trying to capture action shots indoors, you have to consider a few things.

Firstly, you have to reduce your ISO to a low value such as 100. If you change it to anything higher, the shot will look too bright since there’s already enough light indoors.

After that, you should change your aperture to f/4 if you’re taking a portrait shot and f/11 or f/14 for wide shots. 

Then select the White Balance option on your camera. This setting will automatically set your shutter speed to be perfect for the lighting condition of your room indoors.

If you want even better indoor action shots, consider changing your picture format to RAW. It’ll make your pictures higher in resolution and make them easier to edit. However, it may take up more storage on your memory card to store RAW photos.

Indoor action shots - table tennis player
Table Tennis Indoor Action Shots – Taking shots after the adjust best camera settings

Camera Settings For Action Shots In Low Light

Taking indoor action shots is much easier than taking action shots in low light since cameras have difficulty adjusting to low light levels. You should increase your ISO for low light levels and decrease your shutter speed.

Table tennis -  action shot in low level light
an-action-shot-in-low-light-with-a-high-value-of-ISO-and-a-low-level-of-shutter-speed – action photography

If the area is exceptionally dark, use an ISO of 400-600. Then change your shutter speed to something like 1/250, and put your shutter length to 30 seconds. If you still don’t aren’t getting a good shot, you can change the aperture to f/1.2 or f/2.8.

Tips For The Best Action Shots

Now that you know all the necessary steps to take the perfect action shots let’s take a look at some tips for even better pictures —

  1. Use Burst Mode

Burst mode allows you to take multiple images in one second, increasing the chances of getting the perfect shot.

  1. Shoot In JPEG

If you have enough light and don’t need to edit your photos, take your action shots in JPEG format. It’ll make your files easier to store on your memory card.

  1. Shoot From A Low Angle

Shooting from a low angle, such as whenever you’re on your knees, can significantly help with the blur and sharpness of your image.


Hopefully, now you know all about the best camera settings to get the perfect action shots. Action shots are easy to take, with only a few settings you need to tweak.

As a final tip, I’ll highly suggest you invest in a tripod or a telephoto lens.

Tripods will help keep your shots stable and sharp, while a telephoto lens can help take pictures from far away.

Good luck on your next action shots. Cheers!