Most photographers think of high-speed shooting as being the domain of sports and wildlife photographers, that is, shooters who are going for sequences where the action is unfolding rapidly and you want to be sure you capture the peak moment. Obviously, that's where high-speed photography is most commonly used. But think a little outside the box, and you may find that keeping your DSLR set to high-speed drive mode is a good idea in a lot of other situations.
Perspective: Digital Vs. Film.
When a camera held a 36-frame roll of film, shooting in high-speed bursts certainly was expensive and, in many cases, you easily could miss the shot because you spent so much time changing rolls of film. Think of NFL photographers who would travel the sidelines with multiple cameras and an assistant who would load bodies furiously as roll after roll was shot in mere seconds. Digital SLRs, on the other hand, have an almost unlimited number of frames available. An 8 GB card in a DSLR with a 15-megapixel sensor can shoot about 1600 JPEGs. That's the equivalent of about 44 rolls of film—and there are no processing costs.
One of our favorite cameras for high-speed work is the Sony SLT-A77. It has a 24.3-megapixel APS-sized sensor, and its fixed translucent mirror gives it the ability to shoot at up to 12 fps at the lens' widest aperture in RAW or JPEG while maintaining AF as you shoot. DSLRs with moving mirrors use a variety of tools and technologies to predict subject movement as the mirror flips up and down, but the A77 can stay locked on, which can be a significant advantage. The camera can shoot at up to 8 fps at any aperture.
High-Speed For Sharpness.
Many pro photographers have used high-speed drive modes to get sharper photos. This pro trick works because the point at which you press the shutter down is the point where the camera is most prone to sharpness-robbing movement. We all tend to snap a shot with a bit of a jerk of the hand. However, if you're pressing and holding the shutter button, your whole hand and arm become more steady following the initial jolt. The second frame will be sharper than the first, and the third frame likely will be sharper than the second. This trick works for handheld as well as tripod-mounted shots because even on a solid tripod, you tend to introduce some motion as you press the button. This is also why some photographers use remotes and mirror lockup with their cameras on a tripod. Vibrations kill sharpness, and pressing a shutter button creates vibrations.
High-Speed For Peak Action.
It seems obvious, but a lot of nature photographers don't think about setting the camera to high-speed when shooting action. It's partly because the mirror blackout can be disorienting, and it makes it difficult to see what's happening. However, if you think about it, if you can see the peak action, you just missed the photograph of it. This is another reason why we like translucent mirror technology. You never get a mirror blackout, so it's much more comfortable shooting at high speed. To catch the peak action, don't be afraid to move the camera as you shoot your bursts. Pros often pan with fast-moving wildlife and, depending on your camera setting, the results can give you a very cool blurred background and a sharp animal.
A monopod is an ideal support for high-speed shooting. The camera can easily follow with the action, but you still get some good support.
Fast Memory Card
You'll be shooting more images, so a big, fast card is a must. You can get a 64 GB SDXC card for $60. That's lots of RAW or JPEG files!
Nothing is more frustrating than shooting images and discovering your lens was dirty. That means a lot of time spotting photos in the computer. Always carry a lens cleaner, and check your lenses often.