Action Shots

The beauty of action is it can be captured in many ways
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The beauty of action is it can be captured in many ways. It can be graceful and show lots of fluidity when slow shutter speeds are used or it can arrest the motion when fast ones are utilized. The first shows implied motion and the other freezes it. Each has its own virtues and required means of capturing the effect. Both make stunning images when properly handled. Incorporate both into your photographic repertoire to make you a more diverse photographer.

Arrest movement of fast moving subjects with shutter speeds of 1/250th and above. The faster the movement, the higher the required speed to freeze the motion. Additionally, the angle at which the subject moves dictates the shutter speed. If the subject moves toward or away from you, a slower one can be used than if the subject's action is perpendicular.

Fast shutter speeds are attainable under given conditions. First of all, you need a lot of light. Next, higher ISO's are used. Finally, fast lenses are a great asset. If you have all three working for you, you're ahead of the game. If the lighting conditions or your equipment won't allow you to get a fast enough shutter speed, bump up the ISO but know that digital noise will appear. As digital cameras advance, so does the quality of the image when higher ISO's are used. Another trick is to wait until the action reaches its apex or stalling point. The momentary pause allows you to shoot at a slower speed and still stop the action.

Implied action is achieved via panning or creating an intentional blur. With panning, you follow your subject as you make the exposure. The result is a sharp rendering of the moving object with a background that shows horizontal streaks. Intentional blur gives a painterly, impressionistic effect by using slow shutter speeds that record the motion of the subject. Panning produces a more predictable result, but it still requires you to develop the follow through technique. A tripod with a panning head is a wonderful tool to help you attain a high success rate. Basically, start to follow your subject before you take the image and continue to follow it after pressing the shutter. The smoother the pan, the sharper the subject.


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8 Comments

    Interesting ideas. Especially the vibrantly colored subjects on the “painterly effect”. Action shots are one of my biggest challenges, and I’m sure these tips will certainly help me improve.

    many thanks!

    Action shots always intimidate me. I believe I can now take these tips and practice at a nearby soccer field or next runner’s event and gain the confidence I lack today. Russ, your writing makes it all seem possible. Thanks!!

    I do take actions shots with my son in sports, I like the panning idea I was introduced to that in a class and this is a nice reminder, I like the blurred affect very much!

    I just purchased a Canon 100mm-400mm lens. I’m looking forward to attending several Rockie games and appling the insights to action photography that Russ provided.

    As a people photographer, I love using this technique to make my sports portraiture pop. It took me a while to master panning (it’s all in the photographer’s hip action!) but I appreciate how Russ has broken it down so it takes me and other new photographers less trial and error to nail this tricky technique. Hopefully everybody else will pick it up faster than I did thanks to Russ.

    I often end up with unintentional blurry images. Glad to be reminded that we should blur intentionally occasionally…something i need to practice a bit. Thanks for the reminder…great shots, btw..

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