Action photography is something that many of us will need to come to terms with at one point or another. Shooting your kids playing, friends playing sport or a great sporting event you attend are things that most of us want in our own photo collections. Getting good action shots though is not always easy and requires a bit of preparation. Hopefully these tips will help you get some memorable ones.
1. Shutter Speed
You need to know how your shutter speed is going to affect your images. Generally this means that a fast shutter speed will freeze the shot, whereas a slower shutter speed will lead to some blur and the illusion of movement. However, you are going to need to know your exposure triangle well to get the effect that you want. A more open aperture allows faster shutter speeds, but decreases the depth of field. A higher ISO also allows faster shutter speeds, but you may run into problems with noise. Knowing how these three interact with each other is imperative.
While other types of photography are more forgiving in allowing you to manually focus, in many action photography situations that may not be an option – by the time you mess around with focusing, the shot will probably be gone. Try to practice using your camera's continual auto-focus capabilities so you are familiar with them when you need to use them with action photography. It will save you a lot of heartache.
3. Creative Blur
With action photography, there is a lot of scope for getting creative with the blur. You can try panning for some interesting effects like the images below. Alternatively, you can let the action go straight past you with the shutter open (without moving the camera) to show that it is moving. Have a think about what effect you would like as you will probably be able to get something interesting.
4. Shoot Lots
It's very difficult to control everything with action shots. Oftentimes people will close their eyes at the wrong time or some other part of the shot won't turn out quite how you imagined. You can save a bit of frustration here by shooting in continuous mode so that you increase your chances of getting that perfect image. If your camera has a drive mode then don't be afraid to use it.
If you're going to be using drive mode then don't forget that you are going to run out of power and memory. Pack a few extra batteries and some memory cards so you don't fill up too soon.
6. Get Your Flash On
To capture a sharp subject on a dark or blurry background can be a very cool effect in action photography. It's achieved by using a flash in slow sync mode.
In a lot of sporting situations there are many places where you can predict the action will take place. At a tennis match, the server will always be in roughly the same spot many times during the match. In soccer, there will be corner kicks. In basketball there will be layups or slam dunks. These predictable situations allow you to pre-focus your camera and set the settings to achieve your desired outcomes without the stress of trying to change things on the fly. Think about these situations and prepare for them as they are kind of like a free shot that gives you a better chance of going home with a great image.