Trick Shots: Action
Stop fast action with these tips on everything from shutter speed to lenses
From baseball to soccer, race cars to dance, flying birds to breaching dolphins, the world around us is filled with action that just demands to be photographed. In this article, we'll give you tips and techniques on how you can improve your action photography and increase your percentage of great shots. And while it can be frustrating—everyone, even the pros, have their share of missed shots—you'll get better with practice and experience, so hang in there if your first efforts aren't perfect.
Action means movement, and if you want to stop it in a photograph, you have to pay attention to technique. To be effective, a photograph that shows stopped action must actually show stopped action. Action that's only "sort of" stopped and has blur will look like a mistake. (Of course, you can blur action photos for creative effect; more on that later). Professional sports photography is strongly based on the frozen moment of a key play, a great catch, a blocked goal and so on.
We all know that fast shutter speeds stop action, but how fast a shutter speed do you need and what can varied shutter speeds do for you?
The shutter speed is highly dependent on the action of the subject and your angle to it. Obviously, the faster the action, the faster the shutter speed you need. But it isn't quite that simple. If action is crossing in front of you, you need a faster shutter speed than if it moves toward or away from you. In addition, as you get closer to the subject, you need faster shutter speeds.
To increase your chances of capturing the action, here are some tips to follow.
• Experiment with your fastest shutter speeds and high-speed action. This may mean you have to shoot with your lens wide open or with a higher ISO. Observe what sorts of things you can see with these speeds.
• Shoot high-speed action with a continuous-drive setting and hold the shutter down through the peak of the action. This uses up your memory card fast, but it can help get that special shot. Use a large memory card.
• Shoot high-speed action one shot at a time, watching and anticipating the peak of action. This is just the opposite of the previous tip. This can result in a lot of missed shots, but with practice, you may find you're more likely to hit the peak of action than with any other technique, especially if your camera isn't particularly fast.
• Take lots of pictures, and review them as you go, to refine your technique in capturing peak action. This helps with timing.