Sunday, July 25, 2010

Shooting For Action

There’s nothing more thrilling in sports photography than nailing the climactic moment in a still image.
By Dave Willis Published in Shooting
Shooting For Action
A telephoto zoom... also gives you compositional freedom when it’s easier to move your framing to follow the action instead of running through the crowds.

For sports with movement that’s less predictable, by using Zone Focusing, you can set up your aperture and focus to cover an area where your subject will most likely end up. Then you wait for the subject to appear at the spot and snap the shot!

The more frames per second a camera can shoot, the better the chances of catching that one-in-a-million shot. Two things matter with burst modes: how many shots can be fired off per second and how long the camera’s buffer will be able to maintain so many frames. The fastest cameras currently top off at 10 fps when shooting full resolution, and buffer rates will depend on whether or not you’re shooting JPEG or RAW. A top-of-the-line memory card with fast read/write times and a big capacity is necessary in order to keep up with the camera, too.

There are a lot of situations that involve shooting in gymnasiums, arenas and at night. This means less light to work with, which also means slower shutter speeds. A high ISO increases sensitivity to light, but increasing ISO increases noise, so learning the ISO capabilities of your camera lets you know how far you can push sensitivity before your images start to show unacceptable levels of noise.


The first rule of action-sports photography is placement. Your lens should have a direct and unobstructed sightline to baskets, goals and end zones. It’s important to be close to the action, as well, even when you’re often restricted to the sidelines. Telephoto lenses with a big focal length are an absolute necessity for sports photography, and the wider the aperture, the better.

A telephoto zoom is an even better choice because it also gives you some compositional freedom when it’s easier to move your framing to follow the action instead of running through the crowds. It’s true that these lenses are expensive, but for detailed shots from long distances, good glass is often more important than your camera. Teleconverters are a good way to add to the focal length, too, extending the reach of your lens by up to three times the range.

Lenses with an image-stabilization feature are a must. Shooting sports often is done handheld, and even when using monopods or tripods, there’s a lot of tracking and panning. Most image-stabilization lenses offer between two to four stops of shake reduction, and this translates to much crisper shots, even at fast shutter speeds.
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