Sunday, April 27, 2008
Photography Tips Part 2: Action
Actions shots. I get a lot of people asking me how to get good shots of fast-paced movement. Part of this is is technical--camera settings, lenses, etc., part is timing-- waiting for the "decisive moment" and just nailing it when you see something about to happen, and part of it is creative--how much action should be stopped vs. how much blur do you want?
First of all, the camera settings. You're going to want a relatively high shutter speed for action. The more action you want to stop, the higher you want the shutter speed. The baseball player here was shot at 1/2500th of a second at f/4 ISO 400. It stops him in mid-lunge and you can see the ball falling just beyond his glove. Timing was really important in this one to get the ball in the frame.
To accentuate movement, use a slower shutter speed with a panning action for laterally moving objects, like the girl in the go-kart. To get the blurred background, I moved the f-stop to f/22 and shot this at 1/13 second at ISO 100. By panning at exactly the same speed as she was moving, she stayed in focus, and it looks like she's going really fast.
I shoot martial arts photos frequently, and I find it really challenging. The first challenge is that it takes place in a dojo that's relatively dimly lit. The second challenge is that the lighting is with fluorescents, which means that the color and intensity can shift from light to light. The third challenge is that there's also a window which offers some diffused light, but of a totally different color. The fourth challenge is that these people are doing things very quickly. The fifth challenge is that I don't want to use flash and distract them from their dangerous moves. Yes, I find it challenging. That being said, I choose lenses which are f/2.8 or faster and use either ISO 800 or 1600, depending on how much blur I want. The one of the young man seen from the back with his adversary being thrown (upside down) was shot at a relatively slow shutter speed, 1/80th of a second at f/2.8 and ISO 800. The "thower" is sharp, while the "throwee" is a blur. This emphasizes the speed and motion.
To get crisper motion in the same location, I changed to ISO 1600, f/2.0, and was able to get 1/320 sec shutter speed, which allowed me to get the gent on the ground kicking his adversary overtop of him without much blur.
So, I think you can see that the main difference in these pics is the shutter speed, but in order to get the shutter speed you want, you have to manipulate the other two variables, ISO and f-stop. Once you get a handle on how these three factors work together, you'll be far along towards getting the shots you want. Remember, YOU are in control.