Action Photography : A How To Guide
Action photography made easy! Every shutter bug has taken an action photo that has been returned with nothing but a colorful blur. Learn to take action photographs.
Even the novice can take a successful still life photograph. But the time has come for every shutter bug when a much anticipated photo has been returned to them with nothing but a colorful blur. Taking action photographs requires a little more knowledge than is needed for stills. You can begin by selecting the activity you desire to photograph. Try to see in your mind what will be occurring or research the action that will be taking place. For instance, if you are planning to take pictures of a track meet, visualize where and when the action will be at its peak. See in your mind the pole vaulter at the apex of his jump or the runner just as he crosses the finish line a step ahead of another runner. This will help you to decide how to frame the action that will fill your shot. Then decide from what viewpoint you could get the best picture. You might need to move closer to the action or perhaps you might want to pull the action closer to yourself by using a telephoto or zoom lens while shooting. If you are unsure which lens to use, remember that a telephoto lens is one that will take about a 2.5 degree immediate area shot but will pull in distant subjects. A zoom lens will adjust to various focal lengths which will widen or narrow the field of view.
Prior to the activity you plan to shoot, practice framing the areas you have chosen as peak activity areas in your view finder. When the event is under way you simply wait for the expected action and fine focus just before you shoot your picture. When you shoot an action photograph in this manner, it will free your mind to focus on the subject you wish to shoot and the action they are taking. It is also important when shooting action photographs that you completely understand about film speeds. The speed of film actually refers to the film's ability to respond to light. This is indicated on the film can or package by the ISO or ASA number. The slower films will be those with an ISO or ASA of 25 to 100. If you are shooting a normal activity under normal light this film speed works well. But for fast action shots or low light shots you will need the ISO or ASA to be between 200 to 1000. The best way to gauge what film speed you will need is again to focus on the action you will be shooting. A film speed of 200 would be fine for shooting children at play. But if the action is much faster, like say a football or basketball game, you will definitely need a higher film speed to get the best results.
When you are using an adjustable camera outside you will first want to measure the light. You will then need to set you shutter speed to no less than 1\250 of a second in order to stop such action as a person running. If you have a programmed camera that cannot be adjusted, chances are it will deliver around 1\125 of a second under most automated exposure programs. For normal activities such as people walking a shutter speed of 1\60 or 1\125 will work perfectly. With any action you are shooting inside a house or building you will most likely need an electronic flash. This will give a burst of light that will last around 1\500 of a second. This will freeze the action within approximately 12 feet of the camera. In situations such as this it is always wise to try to control the action by letting your subjects know you are about to take their picture. This can be done by using a count down so they will know exactly when the picture will be taken.
Panning is another form of capturing action. You would use panning when you are taking a photograph using slower than normal shutter speeds. To do this you will want to look through the view finder and follow the subject as they perform their action. Try to synchronize your movements with the movement of their actions. Panning, when done correctly, will cause the background to blur but the subject of your photograph will usually be sharp. The most difficult action to catch is a fleeting facial expression. Without a doubt this is the most revealing action anyone can catch on film. To take this type of action photograph you will need to set your shutter speed at 1\125 of a second and use a lens up to 100 millimeters. If you are using a telephoto or zoom lens, this will allow you to observe the subject you want to photograph from a distance. If it is necessary for you to use a longer focal length lens you will need to use a faster film such as ISO400. This will allow you to use faster shutter speeds. An example of this would be using a 200 millimeter lens with a shutter speed setting of 1\250.
When shooting action photographs you will always need to use a 35 millimeter camera. The new cassette and disc cameras are suitable for snap shots but do not have the needed speed or film capacity to catch actions. Most point and shoot cameras, even though more expensive, are capable of producing excellent prints and slides when you use 35 millimeter films. With these cameras the aperture and shutter speed are set automatically by a built in light meter. You can even find a few that have interchangeable lenses. The SLRs or single lens reflex cameras are by far the best for shooting action situations. The newer SLRs and even some of the new point and shoot cameras can be purchased with automatic film advance which is very useful when shooting sports or other fast action events. Some have automatic focusing, red eye reduction and a good range of automatic exposure control modes. One of the most important things to remember when shooting action photographs is to give yourself time to prepare and take all the time you need to shoot the perfect shot.