• Susan Hammons Photography

Can You Run Faster Than A Cheetah?

Probably not since Cheetahs are the fastest running mammals, on land, running at top speeds of 60-70 mph within short distances. But you can, with planning and practice freeze them in motion to show action. By the way, not much action going on this day of the cheetah cub pictured. Really warm days tend to make you want to lay around instead.

To capture really fast moving animals you need to consider several things. First, consider using a tripod. A tripod will help to eliminate camera shake and can be very useful in helping to keep the camera steady when quickly panning on an animal and tracking it. My tripod will allow me to adjust vertical and horizontal movements. For a cheetah, I would want to secure the vertical movement so that little to none occurred and my horizontal movement is free flowing and smooth.

Second, when shooting any animal, you will want to try and predict their movement so you know which way to aim the camera As you are trying to understand and predict animal behavior, you can even try and predict ahead of time an animals movement to the area you believe it will move into and prefocus the camera on that area you believe it will cross in front of and then wait.

Third, make the decision in your mind whether you want to freeze movement of the animal (use a faster shutter speed) or if you want to show motion of the animal (by using a slower shutter speed)

Fourth, use your viewfinder not your live view window. By using the actual viewfinder you can track, shoot faster, and maintain better control of the camera to capture the shot. Also, when I use live view, my camera shutter responds much slower in firing off shots than it does in viewfinder. Having that extra speed, tracking ability and ability to maintain better control can make all the difference in capturing the shot you saw and wanted.

Fifth, consider the below chart to determine "auto" focus choices for your situation to get sharp focused wildlife photos.

Auto focus choices for shooting wildlife.

When thinking about this chart and your choices consider this; a Cheetah can run speeds up to 60-70 mph to catch the meal of the day? In all actuality, a Cheetah normally only needs to run half of their top speed to catch its meal. If its prey gives it a good run for its money, at top speeds, a Cheetah will need half an hour approximately to catch its breath before it can hungrily devour its food. There is time to catch a few sedentary photos.

Conservation Efforts

Sixth, it is a good idea to have an understanding of the animal that you are photographing (habitat, diet, characteristics, behavior, mating patterns, etc. so that you know a little bit more about them. In this case, Cheetahs are an endangered species. Overall cheetah populations are on the decline with an approximate number of 10,000 left in the world. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN's) list of threatened species, most cheetah subspecies are considered vulnerable depending on the location of where they are found. For example in Iran, cheetahs there are listed as critically endangered. Hyenas and lions once thought to be the main reason for the cheetahs population decline in stealing their hard-earned prey has proven false. In fact, humans are to blame for their decline from fur trade to human interference into their habitat by farmers erecting fences and barriers which has forced the cheetah to spend too much of their energy traveling looking for prey rather than finding prey within their territory and capturing it for food. With the cheetah walking further to find prey, their cubs must also walk further with them to look for food while trying to survive out in the open and being a target by hyenas and lions for food. Saving them means insuring increased high fur regulations, hyena and lion populations are in control, and humans remove the fences and barriers to their habitat and enable the cheetahs to run free with no interference whatsoever in finding and catching prey.

Habitat & Diet

Cheetah's can be found living in dry, open grasslands in areas found mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and in eastern and southern African parks where they can live, hunt, and raise their families. Namibia is home to one of the largest populations of Cheetahs. However, some can still be found in southern and northern Algeria and Iran. The open grassland is perfect territory for a Cheetah to spot its prey from far away and, run and hit top speeds when stalking it's prey. Cheetah's stalk and hunt their prey during two primary times including daybreak and dusk. Cheetahs are carnivores, which means they are meat-eaters. Cheetahs tend to go after the smaller prey for an easier capture and take-down. Their primary source of food includes birds, gazelles, rabbits, smaller wildebeest, and warthogs. The Cheetahs style of killing its prey is unique. Most cats attack their prey and go for the throat, but that is not the Cheetahs style. A Cheetah will run up to its prey and knock it off of its feet and then it will suffocate its prey by clamping its powerful jaws down on its throat.


A cheetahs is very distinct in their appearance. They are large, sleek, and aerodynamically built cat that chases their prey. These graceful big cats can be identified by their unique black spots on gold coats that help them to blend into the grass to protect them and help them stay hidden out of sight when hunting. It also helps them when they are hiding from predators. Cheetahs have sharp eyes for seeing at a distance and beautifully marked faces with unique stripes running down both sides of their nose. Cheetahs also have unique physiological characteristics that make them unique. They have an extra-large heart, nostrils, and lungs that help them process more oxygen when chasing down their prey.


Cheetah males are picky about who they hang out with and live in small groups called coalitions. Male coalitions are made up normally of brothers. Female cheetahs, are loners and only spend time with their young taking care of and raising them.

Life Cycle & Babies

When a female cheetah becomes pregnant, she will carry those babies for three months. On average, a mother cheetah will give birth to three young cubs. When cubs are born they are very tiny weighing between 150-300 grams. As the cubs begin to grow the mother teaches the cubs how to take care of themselves (hunting, bathing, territory, protecting themselves, etc.). Baby cubs will remain with their mother for one and a half to two years of age, if they survive. The mortality rate of cheetah cubs is still extremely high. Ninety percent of cubs will die before they ever make it to three months old. Baby cubs often fall prey to lions and hyenas even though many cheetahs are countershaded so that as a young cub, it resembles a honey badger more. Honey badges are known for being very aggressive and seen as an animal not to mess with and aggressive in their attacks. If cheetah cubs do survive into adulthood, their lifespan is approximately 10 to 12 years of age.

And, lastly, as you photograph and observe animals, through education, photos, and discussions, we can work together to help fight to preserve habitats for our endangered species to help get them off of the list and ensure they become strong once again in population numbers for survival.

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