Three Action Quick Tips

Three Action Quick Tips

Many photographers equate the word action with sports photography. It obviously applies, but it’s not the only aspect that’s applicable. Action is defined as, “an act that one consciously performs and may be characterized by physical or mental activity.” Action goes on in things other than sports. If there’s movement, action occurs. It’s with this in mind I share three quick tips to help you get better action photos. If you're lucky enough to photograph the Super Bowl, Indy 500 or the Final Four, apply the same principles.

Animals in Motion: It’s enticing to photograph a wild animal, but when it stands motionless, the image lacks impact. Wait for the subject to move, fly, run, yawn, preen or perform some sort of behavior to bring the photo to the next level. A fast shutter speed is necessary to freeze the moment. To obtain one in aperture priority, open your lens to its widest setting. The corresponding shutter speed will be the fastest possible. Be cognizant that the aperture covers the necessary depth of field if you need focus depth. Raise your ISO to obtain a faster shutter. Today’s technology allows cameras to perform well at high ISOs. If your camera has a full-frame sensor, you can feel even more comfortable using high ISO settings. If the resulting image appears noisy, run the file through noise reduction software to lessen it. Finally, use high-speed motor drive and continuous focus so the camera predicts the animal’s movement, especially if it’s erratic.

Three Action Quick Tips

Freeze Every Drop: There are two schools of thought to make successful water shots. One is to use as slow a shutter speed as possible to show movement. Typically, a shutter speed of one second is used to provide a cotton candy look to the flow. The other is to freeze every drop to suspend them in mid-air. Again, use a wide open aperture and raise the ISO. If you’re outdoors, you may have a polarizer on your lens. If so, remove it as it absorbs light and robs you of shutter speed. You may have to compromise depth of field for the sake of a fast shutter if the primary function is to freeze the action. Experiment using the best shutter speed/aperture combination to obtain a successful balance of depth of field to frozen water drops. Be sure you bring extra batteries.

Three Action Quick Tips

Capture a Moment: Wait for the decisive moment to press the shutter. One of my business mottos is “Edit Before Pressing The Shutter.” However, if the behavior isn't repeatable, a heavy shutter finger is beneficial. If you’re working with a pet and have more control, take charge of the lighting. Use a flash or a reflector to tame contrast and open up shadows. Action comes in many shapes and forms. Go out and seek it. Use settings that allow you to capture it at its peak and smooth it out panning the camera with a slower shutter speed. Keep your eye glued to the viewfinder and be ready on the shutter. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at capturing the decisive moment.

Visit for information about his nature photography tours and safari to Tanzania.

Photography is what motivates me to move through life in a positive way. Photography is ͞All About The Light͟ and it’s the first thing I seek out before I press the shutter. Optimally, I pursue great subjects in great light, but if there’s an ordinary subject in great light, I still press the shutter. I love to share the photographic knowledge I’ve accumulated and I hope my enthusiasm is contagious so I can motivate others to feel the same way I do about my photography.


    Great article, as always Russ. Wish I could send you an image, as I have one very similar to your Sandhill Crane image taken at Bosque del Apache showing motion and blur. I had entered it in a local camera club monthly competition and the brilliant judge scored it low because he said I did it all in Photoshop. Love what you have to say and would enjoy joining you sometime when you’re down near Albuquerque. Best, Jerry Goffe a/k/a The Bird Paparazzo

    Jerry – thanks for the kind words. I empathize with what happened to you regarding competitions. The unfortunate concept about CC competitions is the judges aren’t always as versed as they should be. I’ve belonged to numerous clubs and seen hundreds upon hundreds of competitions judged. Sadly, I’ve heard many erroneous comments from judges. PLEASE don’t take a judge’s word as gospel. The important thing to remember is you enter an image because YOU like it and that is what’s important. To gain recognition is fantastic but it’s not the BE ALL. Persist and enjoy the competitions knowing sometimes you’re just not going to agree with the judge! Hope to see you in Bosque!

Leave a Reply

Main Menu