Photography has evolved so significantly in the last few years with the arrival of the digital influence. Now it is possible to take a large number of photographs and publish them over the internet. Cost factors like film and developing no longer hold you back. When considering personal photography, the family gatherings and holidays are still common, but another form of capturing daily, impromptu events has also begun to emerge.
Photographing fast paced action is now also becoming a popular trend. Because of digital photography, it is now possible for people to experiment with these types of shots with no fear of making a mess of the shot. While experimentation is good, it also helps to learn the basics. This article will outline the salient points that can help you get started in taking great action shots.
When going for action shots, you have a choice of two approaches:
You can follow your subjects along with your camera as you wait for them to take some action.
You can focus your camera in one specific spot where you anticipate some action to occur. For example, the basketball hoop in a game. For this approach, always look through the viewfinder, but keep your other eye open as well so that you’re aware of the approaching action.
Work on reducing latency and lag time
Lag or shutter lag is the term used to refer to the time from when you press the shutter button to when the picture is actually taken. During this period, the camera is making minute corrections and settings regarding exposure and focus. When you’re after quick action shots, even the slightest delay can ruin your shot. To combat this computation time, it would be a good idea to ‘pre-calculate’ or ‘pre-focus’ on the area. In many modern cameras you can do this by half pressing and holding the shutter button. What happens at this point is that exposure, focus and timing are all calculated. When you want to take the picture, you can simply press all the way down. This way, you will save time in performing all these additional calculations.
Latency is the time taken for the photographic data to be written to the memory card. During this period, most cameras (except for the very high-end ones) are unable to take any more pictures. This is a bottleneck that you do not need when you’re taking action shots. One way to counteract this latency is to get memory cards with quicker write times. Additionally, you could shoot at a lower resolution, but make sure its not too low that the image quality becomes sub-par.
Panning or following the action is another technique of action photography. Panning is when you track a subject’s movement horizontally as it passes you by. You will need to use a slow shutter speed for this so that your subject is in focus, but your background is blurred. This is a good way of showing your viewers that there is some action taking place. Panning may not be appropriate for all situations, but is a good method for showing movement occurring. The following steps are followed when panning:
- Tracking of the subject is first started before pressing the shutter button
- The shutter button is then squeezed gently to avoid any vertical movement of the camera
- Continue to track for about 2 seconds after the shot is taken.
Using Burst mode
Burst mode is ideal for capturing a series or montage of photographs of the action taking place. Modern digital cameras have the burst feature which allows for the sequential capture of action or movement. How this works is the camera first focuses on the subject for the first photo and then continue to use these settings for the subsequent shots. This allows for rapid capture of the action taking place.
Action shots can and have been taken from a wide variety of angles. If you want to give a sense of movement, however, you may be better off staying parallel to the action. This lets you pan if you need to.
To recap, faster shutter speeds will freeze the action and will greatly reduce blurring. While striking sometimes, it may be better to use a slightly slower shutter speed to demonstrate the blurring effect which depicts action or movement. It largely depends on the type of shot you’re after.
Practice makes perfect
Action photography is something that takes a great deal of practice to get right. Initially, amateurs will find that they are not achieving the desired results. The more you practice, the better you will become and your shots will improve. The fact that you’re shooting digital and will not spend a small fortune on film will help you a lot in your quest to becoming a good action photographer.
I looked around and I think this guide (link below) is the best piece of instructional content for action sports photography at the time of writing this. I noticed they are prepared to be contacted for extra assistance too. Not many suppliers will go to those lengths these days. Also, they have an extract you can download which gives you an idea of the content you would receive after purchase. If you’re considering making a business from sports or action photography or just improving existing skills, you should read this specific and dedicated guide to sports photography which you can purchase and download now.
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