Complete Guide to Action Photography On Your Smartphone

It doesn’t matter if you want to capture rad skateboarding shots or get some thumbnails for your golf blog, the tips and tools for good action photography on your mobile phone are the same.

So, the complete guide to action photography with your phone is applicable when photographing anything with a fast-twitch movement. That can include:

See, action photography is more applicable than you thought. So, keep reading to see how you can utilize it in your phone photography.

Complete Guide to Action Photography With Your Phone

There are tricks – like those in the video above, that’ll help you improve your action photography.

But, at the end of the day, it’s the photography tips that improve your skills that’ll take your work from drab to downright dope.

So, let’s get to these tried and tested tips for action photography on your mobile phone, shall we?

7 Tips for Astronomical Action Photography With Your Phone

action photography on your phone
Joe Monk (@jmmobiphoto)

There’s usually an extra bit of pressure on you when doing action photography because your shot can’t be staged. You can’t pause Lebron James in the air while he dunks, can you?

To explain, if you’re doing a portrait shoot, then you can take hundreds of photos where you can control the variables – angles, lighting, and timing, among other things.

If, on the other hand, you’re at a college baseball game, you can’t expect the game to stop for you. So, you have to do efficient work, have the correct gear, and know what the hell you’re doing.

Don’t worry, though, we’ve got you covered on all counts.

Smartphone Action Photography Tip #1 – How to Be Prepared


Have all your gear charged (need a battery?), cleaned (need a cleaning kit?), and ready to go, so that your efficiency is never an issue (a lens bag would help). Being prepared is the name of the game if you want to capture the perfect action photographs.

Step one of being prepared is having all your gear organized, cleaned, charged, and ready to go. We’re going to tell you what equipment you need to be a top-rate action photographer, but it’s your job to be prepared when the moment of action is at hand.

Know the camera settings you want to use before you need to use them. Be aware of the environment that you’ll be shooting in and adjust your settings and gear appropriately beforehand.

If you’re adjusting when the action is going on, then there is no way you are capturing what’s going on. As an action photographer, it’s literally in your job title to capture the action, so get as much of it on camera as you can!

Smartphone Action Photography Tip #2 – Vantage Points Are Imperative

action photography vantage points
Wallpaper Cave

Action is inherently exciting, so you’ll need to do some things to set yourself apart as a phone action photographer. Vantage points are the easiest way to add a little spice to an action photo.

Think about it, when you see action shots that truly grip you, they’re taken from odd vantage points. The vantage point decision is a choice that the artist makes to shed light on the action from a different angle – to intrigue the image’s viewer.

The artist above was far away from Lebron, but his vantage point – at the meeting of the baseline and the sideline – gave him an impressive angle to capture this shot. The way that Lebron’s arm angles back wouldn’t have been as cool looking from directly under the basket.

It sounds like the old right place, right time addage, but with practice, you’ll learn to position yourself correctly without having to think too hard about it.

Smartphone Action Photography Tip #3 – How to Lens Blur On Your Smartphone

Digital Photography School

A lens blur is a killer tool to have in your photography tool belt, especially if you’re into street photography. It’s worth noting that a lot of action photographers are also street photographers.

It would require a lengthy explanation to teach you the perfect lens blur on your mobile phone.

So, it’s fortunate that we’ve written a guide on long-exposure that discusses how to lens blur like a pro!

Just know, you’re going to have to learn how to lens blur if you want to be successful at action photography, street photography, or night photography.

Smartphone Action Photography Tip #4 – Experiment With Water!

iPhone Photography School

iPhone Photography School

Intriguing looking water action shots always seem to perform well on social media, so you should teach yourself how to do them!

Truth be told, it’s pretty easy – especially if you have the right gear.

In reality, the trick to taking water action shots on your smartphone is to experiment and take lots of photos. You have little control over what the water is going to do, so it’ll take some time for you to get the perfect shot.

Do know that Burst Mode is a useful tool for phone water action shots.

Smartphone Action Photography Tip #5 – Bring on the Burst Mode

Pinterest (iPhone Photography School)

What’s Burst Mode? What’s the difference between Burst Mode and Sport Mode? How can they help me improve my action photography on my phone?

Well, they’re similar to each other, and they’re made for action. To under complicate things, Burst Mode is for iPhone, and Sports Mode is for Android. Really, all you need to know, though, is that they both capture ‘bursts’ of photos.

The Burst Mode is excellent for all kinds of action photography because it’s taking lots of photos in a short amount of time. The number of pictures and the amount of time depends on the phone you’re using, but the results are pretty much the same unless your subject is going really fast.

Remember, though, the Burst Mode with the most shots in as little time as possible is the best option for action photography.

Smartphone Action Photography Tip #6 – Have a real knowledge of what you’re shooting

I love and live golf, so naturally, it’s one of my favorite things to photograph. The fact that I know and understand the game so intimately aids in my ability to seamlessly capture its nuances without disrupting a round.

By this, I don’t mean that you can’t take good photos of something you aren’t passionate about. For example, you may not be excited about the energy drink you’re doing mobile product photography for, but you have to do the work to pay the bills.

The argument for a passion for the subject when doing action photography stems from the need to react in the moment. You can not think before moving when doing action photography because you’ll miss the action!

As a result, the goal is to know where to move before the movement is needed – you need an intuition that can be only be developed by an intimate knowledge of the action.

Smartphone Action Photography Tip #7 – Capture the Actual Action

Paws Pet Photography

There’s nothing worse than reading a basketball highlight about a game-winning shot, and the photo for the article is from the second quarter.

It’s not relevant – it’s not the action that the reader wants to see captured!

So, always be mindful of what’s going on. Whether it is keeping tabs on the score of the game or instigating a pet into action, the onus is on you to capture the actual action.

One of the benefits of employing these tips is that you shouldn’t be overly stressed about getting good shots. Instead, you should be focused on getting the ideal shot.

You know, the one that’ll set you apart from the rest of the crowd because it captures the moment, in addition to being a top-class photo.

What Gear Do You Need to Do Action Photography With Your Phone?

Gear Action Photography With Your Phone
The Phoblographer

When it comes to action photography, you’re going to need some gear. If you want to capture things in the blink of the eye, you’re going to need something that can handle shooting at high-speed.

You’re also going to need something that you can keep steady. If you’re shooting at high-speeds, then any unsteadiness is going to be visible in your shot. The solution?

Well, we recommend a handheld – whether it be a tripod or a gimbal. We recognize the fact that most phone action photographers are also interested in videography, so we’d lean towards a gimbal. It’s designed for videography while a phone tripod is not.

Best Phone Cameras for Action Photography


Apple iPhone 11 Pro

Google Pixel 3a

Samsung Galaxy S20
Product Apple iPhone 11 Google Pixel 3a Samsung Galaxy S20
Cost $$ $ $$$
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The easiest way to improve your photography is to get the newest technology.

Don’t get us wrong, we definitely recommend you checking out our guides to improve your photography, but we can’t downplay how much phone camera has been enhanced over the last three years.

So, if you’re in the market for a new smartphone for photography, then this list is the perfect resource for you.

Best Quality Option – iPhone 11

Apple iPhone 11  Camera Specs:
  • Wide-Angle Camera (12MP featuring f/1.8)
  • 120° Ultra-Wide-Angle Camera (12MP  featuring f/2.4)
  • TrueDepth Camera (12MP featuring ƒ/2.2)
Apple iPhone 11 Video Specs:
  • 4k @ 24/30/60 fps
  • 1080p HD @ 30/60 fps
  • 720p HD @ 30 fps
  • Slo‑Mo (1080p) @ 120/240 fps
Best Budget Option – Pixel 3a

Google Pixel 3a Camera Specs:
  • Rear Camera (76° 12MP dual-pixel featuring  ƒ/1.8)
  • Front Camera ( 84° 8 MP featuring  ƒ/2.0)
Google Pixel 3a Video Specs:
  • 4k @ 30 fps
  • 1080p @ 30/60/120 fps
  • 720p @ 30/60/240 fps
Best Deal Option – Galaxy S20

Samsung Galaxy S20 Camera Specs:
  • 10MP Selfie Camera
  • 12MP Ultra Wide Camera
  • 12MP Wide-angle Camera
  • 64MP Telephoto Camera
Samsung Galaxy S20 Video Specs:
  • 8K @ 24 fps
  • 4K UHD @ 60 fps
  • 1080p FHD @ 60 fps
  • 720p HD @ 30 fps
  • Super Slow-Mo (720p) @ 960 fps
  • Slow Motion (1080p) @ 240 fps
  • Hyperlapse (1080p)

Best Phone Camera Lenses for Action Photography


Moment Anamorphic Lens

Beastgrip Anamorphic Lens

ULANZI Anamorphic Lens
Product Moment Anamorphic Lens Beastgrip Pro Series 1.33X Anamorphic Lens ULANZI 1.33X Anamorphic Lens
Cost $$ $$$ $
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Can’t I just use my wide-angle lens for action photography on my phone?

Well, yes. But we would actually recommend using an anamorphic lens to capture that action photo. An anamorphic lens is designed to shoot video, so add it to a high fps (Frames per Second) capability phone, and the results will be killer.

And as we mentioned earlier, if you like action photography, then you should give videography a try. Typically the subjects of videography and action photography overlap a little bit.

An anamorphic lens – like any of those below – will give you the ability to shoot excellent action photography on your smartphone phone. Oh, and you can try phone videography too!

Best Deal Option – Moment Anamorphic Lens

So, obviously you know that Moment is the pinnacle of smartphone photography and videography. But, did you know that their anamorphic lens may just be their best product yet?

Well, it is so good we did a whole review on the Moment Anamorphic lens. And, while you’re going to have to spend a little money to get ahold of this filmmaking lens, the quality of the content you’ll create will be more than worth it. Be wary that this lens works best with the Moment Pro Camera app which is only updated on iOS.

Best Quality Option – Beastgrip Pro Series 1.33X Anamorphic Lens

You may be surprised to see the best quality anamorphic lens slot occupied by someone other than Moment. Well, the Beastgrip Pro Series 1.33X Anamorphic Lens is here because it performs – end of story. If you like Beastgrip’s gear, have you heard of their new app, BEASTCAM? Learn more here.. If you like Beastgrip’s gear, have you heard of their new app, BEASTCAM? Learn more here..

At the end of the day, when you get to this price point of anamorphic lenses it’s all about choosing the cinematic look for you

Best Budget Option – ULANZI 1.33X Anamorphic Lens

An anamorphic lens at this price point is definitely worth considering. And, the ULANZI 1.33X Anamorphic Lens packs a pretty serious punch for the cost. Does it compare to the Moment or Beastgrip anamorphic lenses? No. But, does it produce quality content? Yes.

So, the question is are you creating engaging vlogs or cinema-quality content? The ULANZI 1.33X Anamorphic Lens will work for the former but not for the latter so it’s important to think about your content plan before purchasing.

Best Phone Handheld for Action Photography


DJI Osmo Mobile 3

Hohem 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer

zhiyun crane m2
Product DJI Osmo Mobile 3 Hohem 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer Zhiyun Crane M2 Gimbal
Cost $$ $ $$$
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When it comes to choosing a phone handheld for action photography, you’re going to have to decide on what it is you want to shoot.

Actually, you’re going to have to decide how you want to shoot what you want to shoot.

To explain, if you’re shooting B-Roll for an indoor vlog, then a tripod works for you. You don’t need to move quickly enough to have a gimbal.

If, on the other hand, you’re shooting snowboarders, then you’re going to have to be able to hold the camera steady as you shred down a mountain behind them!

Maybe, in that case, the extra help from the gimbal’s auto-stabilization technology would be worth it.

Best Deal Option – DJI Osmo Mobile 3

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the DJI Osmo Mobile 3 is the best combination of performance and cost-effectiveness on the market. If you’re looking for a phone handheld to make capturing content both easier and more fun, then you’re looking for the Osmo Mobile 3.

While there are other options that’ll keep your smartphone steady, DJI has thought through the bells and whistles include only the most necessary and useful. Have we mentioned how great the collapsable size of this gimbal is for content creators on the go?

Best Budget Option – Hohem 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer

Looking to create variable content but have a seriously limited budget? Well, the Hohem 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer is going to allow you to create quality content without hemorrhaging your budget on one piece of equipment. Yes, a phone gimbal is important, but it’s not the only piece of gear that you’ll need to succeed.

The Hohem 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer is going to do what you need it to, but it doesn’t offer the quality or the bells and whistles that a DJI or Zhiyun gimbal. The question is, are the savings worth it to you?

Best Quality Option – Zhiyun Crane M2 Gimbal Stabilizer

The first thing to note is that we’ve spoken with the creator of this video, Joshua Mensah, in his Mobile Creator Series post, so be sure to check that out. He obviously loves the Zhiyun Crane M2, so let’s figure out why.

Well, with a 1.58-pound carrying capacity it’s easy to see why the M2 is a favorite of mobile content creators. This gimbal can stabilize all smartphone and lens combinations in addition to action and small mirrorless cameras. The movements that Zhiyun has included in this offering are impressive as well, with 360° pan, 310° tilt, and 324° roll options to go along with six modes of operation.

If you’re a mobile-only kind of shooter, then the Zhiyun Crane M2 may prove to be more than you need. But I’d also point out that you won’t complain about the extra features and improved carrying capacity after using it just once!

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