Sergio Rangel
Sergio Rangel

Sergio Rangel is a New York-based photographer who has been capturing moments for over a decade. Automotive photography is where he originally found comfort, but has since then ventured into professional portrait and event photography.

Capture The Perfect "Rolling" Shot

April 20, 2016

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens @ 17 mm, 1/60 sec, f/6.3, ISO 100 (Photo by Sergio Rangel)


If you’re an automotive enthusiast, chances are you’ve always wondered how photographers add a sense of motion to their images. There are many different ways to accomplish this, but today we will focus on what is often called a rolling shot or a roller.

Rolling shots are usually captured by photographers from the passenger seat of a moving car. Below I listed a few things that will help you capture better images before heading out to your shoot.

Pre-Shoot Checklist
  • Ultra-Wide angle Lens: The Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens is perfect for this application as its wide focal helps with composition. The Optical Image Stabilization helps capture sharp images when using slow shutter speeds.
  • Neutral Density Filter: Adding a Neutral Density filter to your lens will allow you to use slower shutter speeds. This is especially necessary when shooting in bright conditions.
  • Circular Polarizer filter: A circular polarizer filter helps remove unwanted reflections from your subject which can make for cleaner looking images
  • Memory Cards: Bring extra memory cards as they will fill up fast!
  • Shutter Priority Mode (Tv): Set your camera to shutter priority mode and select a shutter speed of (1/60) a second to start. If the images are coming out too bright, use one of the filters mentioned above, or wait for the sun to go down a bit. ISO settings — you will need low ISOs in daylight. Either pre-set ISO 100 as a starting point, or consider using Auto ISO if your camera offers it. Resist the temptation to expand ISO down to ISO 50 (possible with some high-end Canon EOS DSLRs); the images can become very contrasty in sunlight.
  • Drive Mode: Set your Drive Mode to High Speed Continuous. It’s easy to get blurry images when capturing rollers, using a fast drive speed will give you more options to choose from when you get home.
  • AF Operation: Set your autofocus to AI SERVO so the camera knows that you’re trying to keep focus on a moving subject.
Canon EOS 6D, Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 16mm, 1/25 sec, f/5.6, ISO 100 (Photo by Sergio Rangel)


Let’s get Rolling!

First, make sure that you have communicated to all parties what will happen—having the drivers of both cars on the same page before the shoot will make your life easier.

Always have drivers keep their speed consistent to one another; this will help you get sharper shots when using slower shutter speeds.

Hand signals such as move up, stay, and stay back. These signals will make it easier for everyone when you’re to capture different angles of your subject.

Safety First:  It's vital to always consider safety on public roads, whether or not there's other traffic nearby.  Always observe speed limits, traffic laws, and lane discipline.  Your drivers of both vehicles should always maintain total concentration on the road and their driving.  Keep the camera, and your hands and arms, inside the car you're in, and make sure the camera is secured to you with at least one strap — you don't want it to go flying onto the road if your driver hits a bump!  And be wary of surrounding traffic.  You don't want to be in the left lane of a multi-lane road, and have your driver suddenly slow down for a better photo angle and surprise traffic behind or around your car.  Never compromise your safety, or that of anyone around you, for the sake of getting a picture.

Canon EOS 6D, Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 16mm, 1/25 sec, f/5.6, ISO 100 (Photo by Sergio Rangel)


Now that you have your gear and crew ready to go, it’s time to get rolling!

Once you are at your location, take a few test shots to make sure that you’re happy with your exposure.

Start off by matching your shutter speed to your moving speed. For example, if you’re moving at 30 miles per hour, choose a shutter speed of (1/30). This formula is usually a good starting point for getting sharp images of your moving subject and blurring the part of the scene that is static.

Speed Things up and Slow Things Down

Once you have mastered the basics of getting consistent images using the formula above, it’s time to take it to next level.

You can further exaggerate motion by moving at a faster speed and using a slower shutter speed. I’ve seen great results and consistency using a shutter speed of (1/20) at 60 miles per hour. Slower shutter speeds will result in less images being sharp, which is why I suggest that you shoot in high speed continuous and bring extra memory cards—the results are worth it!

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens @ 17 mm, 1/60 sec, f/6.3, ISO 100 (Photo by Sergio Rangel)


Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Shoot in RAW as you’ll want to re-edit these down the road.
  • Shooting during the golden hour will make for better looking images.
  • Shoot from a low-angle to further emphasize the motion.
  • If images are coming out blurry, increase your shutter speed until you get sharp results.

Getting the perfect rolling shot takes time, but the “likes” you’ll get on social media will make it all worthwhile.

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