Learn Center: Shooting Sports and Moving Subjects

Great sports and action snapshots are rarely accidents, but that doesn't mean they are difficult to shoot. While there are a few technical tricks, much of your success will come from being prepared when the moment arrives and taking enough photos to achieve the results you’re after.

Use a high ISO

Using a high ISO will allow the camera to use higher shutter speeds to stop action. Higher shutter speeds will also diminish camera shake when using long focal lengths on Olympus Ultra Zoom cameras for example. In daylight, an ISO of 400 should be sufficient. Using the DIS MODE (Digital Image Stabilization) Scene Mode on older cameras, or the SPORTS Scene Mode — found in most newer Olympus models — will set the camera to automatically select higher ISOs. To manually set your ISO speed, you'll need to be in your camera's P mode (or a similar non-auto setting).

If you have a newer Olympus compact camera, look for the ISO High setting in the ISO selection menu. ISO High will automatically set the sensitivity with a priority on minimizing blur caused by a moving subject or by camera shake. This is a great setting for capturing action shots while automatically keeping a balance between image quality and shutter speed.

Image Stabilization (IS) can help make moving subjects come out clear.

Image Stabilization (IS)

Image Stabilization is available in most current Olympus cameras. The IS technology enables shooting at lower shutter speeds, or with lenses zoomed to extreme focal lengths, by compensating for camera shake by shifting the sensor up/down and left/right to steady the image. This function is typically enabled by default.

Looking for a new compact camera with image stabilization? Check out the SH-50 iHS featuring 3-axis image stabilization and 5-axis video stabilization. This 24x zoom camera can capture action shots at up to 60fps!

A diagram showing how to pre-focus the camera using the shutter button.

Pre-focus the camera for more precise timing for that perfect moment

Moving subjects are often unpredictable — and timing means everything. The shutter action on your camera is faster when pre-focused. All Olympus digital cameras will pre-focus when you press the shutter button down halfway. Once you've done this, fully press the shutter button to get the picture at the perfect moment. This technique works well for subjects that move but stay in one place, such as a baseball batter.

If the camera has an option in the menu for Continuous AF or AF Tracking, set that to ON. The camera will continuously autofocus as it follows the subject. This feature is typically found in more advanced cameras like the Olympus PEN series.

Use the Sequential shooting options found in the Drive menu

Sequential shooting [Sequential Drive] will enable the camera to shoot rapidly and continuously by holding the shutter button down. Your camera's focus, exposure and white balance will be locked at the first frame. Some Olympus cameras feature an [AF Drive] shooting mode. However, in this mode the focus is locked every time a picture is taken, so the interval between sequential pictures will be longer. 

To activate Sequential shooting, you should be using your camera's Program Auto (P) shooting mode (rather than Auto or iAuto). The [DRIVE] option will typically appear as a rectangluar icon. Selecting it will allow you to choose between the multiple drive modes available on your camera. Some models also incude one or multiple high-speed drive modes. These will take photos at a significantly faster frame rate, but may also automatically change the camera's settings to take lower resolution photos.

Six sample images from sequential shooting mode.

Sequential shooting with the Stylus 720 SW. In cooperation with: Ocean Expo Park, Okinawa.

Sequential shooting can be used in most camera models, but the actual performance of the function will vary depending on the model. Get creative when using your drive modes to capture action. Try using it to capture the movement of water while swimming, or to analyze a golf swing by viewing the image sequence.

Three sample images from shoot & select mode.

Similar to the Drive mode is Shoot and Select Mode

Some older model Olympus cameras include the "Shoot and Select" mode. This mode you can take pictures of a fast moving subject using sequential shooting, and then select only those pictures you want to save on the memory card. For example, taking good pictures of a softball or baseball game can be quite difficult. Often you press the shutter button when you think you've got a great shot, but by the time the picture is taken the players have moved.

Set the [SCENE] mode to [SHOOT & SELECT1]: The camera will be set to high-speed sequential shooting and will continue shooting pictures as long as you continue to hold the shutter button down. The pictures taken in the sequence will then be displayed on the LCD and you can select and save the pictures you like. Note: the image size is reduced when using Shoot and Select mode.

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