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DR Photos - David ReidWOW, you spent hundreds – most likely thousands – of dollars on one of the top lenses from Canon or Nikon and you’re going to turn off a feature that drove the cost up.   Image stabilization is a great feature and a must have for many shooting situations.  Having it on a lens often demands a significant leap in cost.  So why would you want to turn it off?  Aren’t your photos going to come out all blurry?

When to turn off image stabilization (IS) or vibration reduction (VR)

The most common time to turn this setting off is when you’re shooting action sports.  One of the best tips I was given for photographing soccer was to turn off the lens stabilization.  At first it was tricky and didn’t always work out the way I thought it would but what does in photography?  The key thing to remember here is that this technology was designed for low light low shutter speed pictures.  Now most of my sports photos like horse racing, rodeo, reining or motocross photos are taken at 1/1000th of a second or faster.  At this high shutter speed there is no need for IS or VR stabilization on the lens.  The fast shutter speed takes care of it.  Actually when you have this setting on the lens is trying hard to find something to stabilize and causes your lens to focus slower and typically creates a blurry shot.  Now that’s backwards isn’t it!

Lens stabilization and camera settings for sporting photography

  1. Shutter speed – set it fast and keep it locked on.  Common shutter speeds are 1/1000th of a second and faster.  Test, set it and forget it.
  2. Lens stabilization – Image stabilization (IS) or vibration reduction (VR) should be turned OFF!
  3. Fast memory card – most cameras now dump a large file when you shoot.  If you’re taking action photos like a sporting event in RAW make sure the memory card is as fast as you can get.

Check out all my photos in my gallery.  There are tons of examples of how to take great photos with the lens stabilizer off.


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