How to shoot action photography

Fast-moving subjects are hard to photograph, whether they be running children or racing cars. Follow these four simple steps to increase your success rate at action photography.

How to shoot actionAction photography: Get in close or use a zoom

To convey the dynamism of motion in action photography, you need to get in close – either physically or using a telephoto or zoom lens.

With fast-moving sports such as motor racing or football, where the spectators are kept well away from the action, you’ll need to pursue the latter option, but if the subject is your kids or your dog, there’s no reason why you can’t get right in among them.

Action photography: Use a fast shutter speed

By selecting the fastest speeds on your camera you’ll be able to stop action dead: ‘freezing’ people in mid air and recording moments too fast for the eye to see.

In conditions where the light is too low to use a fast speed, you could try increasing the ISO rating or, if your subject is close enough, you could use flash instead.

Action photography: Use a slow shutter speed

Shooting action: carsThe problem with ‘freezing’ movement in action photography is that if your subject is an inanimate object such as a car, it can appear stationary.

To convey the sense of movement in your action photography, use a slower shutter speed. This will introduce an element of blur to your subject to indicate that it was moving.

To blur the background, rather than the subject, move the camera with the action – keeping the subject in the same position in the frame (‘panning’).

Or, combine a slow shutter speed with flash. The precise speed to use depends on the speed of the action and the degree of blur you want, but try speeds between 1/60th sec and 1/4 sec.

Action photography: Take lots of shots

How to shoot action: montageCapturing the optimum moment in a fast-moving event is extremely difficult, as a fraction of a second can make all the difference between success or failure of your action photograhpy shot.

Pro sports photographers overcome this with the use of fast motordrives, which take several shots per second, to make they get a good one, but most digital cameras don’t capture quickly enough for that.

The only alternative is to take a lot of shots. Don’t be afraid to fill your memory card – you can always delete the failures after the action is over.

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