How to Freeze Action in Sports Photography

Freezing the action in sports photography is simpler than you might think. All you have to do is use a fast shutter speed while using a lens with a wide aperture. 

I’m Caleb, and I’ve been a sports photographer for more than four years. Thanks to this, I’m pretty familiar with stopping the action and getting clear shots even during fast-moving games.

In this article, I’ll explain what you need to know about freezing the action in sports photography. If you’re thinking of getting into sports photography, make sure to keep reading. 

The Equipment You’ll Need for Freezing The Action

You don’t really need a high-end camera body to stop the action and get sharp images. In this case, your lens is more important.

That’s because your lens determines the maximum aperture you can use. The wider the aperture, the more light your lens allows inside. And when your lens lets more light in, you can use higher shutter speeds without suffering underexposure.

That basic logic is why most top sports photography lenses have a maximum aperture of f/2.8, providing a wider aperture than the average cheap lens.

You don’t absolutely need a lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 to get good sports photos. But having one will make your life a lot easier, as you’ll be able to make the most of the available lighting and avoid underexposure.

Best Settings to Freeze Action in Sports Photography

Luckily, the formula for getting crystal clear shots in sports photography is pretty easy to remember.

It mainly comes down to two things: shutter speed and aperture. We already brought up aperture, and why it’s helpful to keep your aperture settings as wide as possible, but what about shutter speed?

The Ideal Shutter Speed for Sports Photography

A fast shutter speed is just as important as a wide aperture. If your shutter speed is too slow, the results will come out blurry. You can fix many problems in editing, but a photo that’s too blurry is usually impossible to salvage.

Generally, you should keep your shutter speed as high as possible without the pictures coming out underexposed. Ideally, this means keeping it at or over 1/1000.

Sometimes, it’s not feasible to have a shutter speed of around 1/1000. For example, it might be too dark during night games to use settings like this.

But you should never lower the shutter speed more than you really have to. The more you lower it, the higher the chance that your photos will become blurry.

This is where having a lens with a wide maximum aperture really helps. The lower the f-stop number, the higher you can raise your shutter speed without darkening your photos too much.

Once you understand how this dynamic works, there’s not much more you have to learn about freezing action. The process itself is simple, although figuring out the exact balance needed at any given moment is a complex skill to master.


Here are other frequently asked questions about freezing the action in sports photography.

What Is The Best F-Stop For Action Shots?

For most sports action shots, the best f-stop is the lowest one that your lens will allow. This means you’ll get the widest possible aperture, and helps you avoid underexposure.

Why Are My Action Shots Blurry?

If your action shots are coming out blurry, you probably didn’t set your shutter speed high enough. Shutter speed is the most critical setting for stopping action and capturing sharp images.

What Is The Best ISO For Sports Photography?

The best ISO setting varies heavily depending on the lighting conditions. However, keeping your ISO as low as possible is usually a good idea without underexposing the image. Keeping it as low as possible will help avoid the grain that comes from higher ISO settings.


To freeze the action in sports photography, you must keep your aperture as wide as possible and keep your shutter speed high. You don’t need a high-end lens, but having one will make your life a lot easier.

Have you done action photography before, or are you thinking of trying it? Make sure to tell us in the comments.

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