by Caleb Goellner

How to Take an Action Shot

It’s been said that sports stars are made, not born. The same can be said of sports photographers. The greats got that way with one part inspiration, one part perspiration, and one part education.  Here’s a bit of that education, broken down into a basic approach to get you started taking better photos right away.

Anticipate


Successful sports photography means being at the edge of your seat, metaphorically speaking. If you see the bat hit the ball through your camera, you’ve probably shot too late. Practice anticipating the action. Have someone drop a ball and try to shoot at the moment it hits the ground. You’ll soon learn how late is too late— and how soon is too soon.

Dial In Your Speed

Should your shutter speed be fast or slow? Well, that all depends on what you’re shooting and the effect you want to achieve. A faster shutter speed stops the action and is ideal for sports like basketball and soccer. A slower shutter speed shows motion and gives a sense of velocity, which works well for motor sports. A car going 60mph shot at 1/1000th of a second will look like it’s parked. Try slowing the shutter speed and panning with the subject, following through until after you click the shutter, for a stunning result.

ISO, PDQ

Looking for a little stop-motion action? Increasing the ISO will increase your shutter speed. Just don’t take it too far or you could end up with a photo that’s grainier than whole wheat bread.

Front and Center

Zooming is great, but not without limitations. It lets in less light and causes a slower shutter speed, resulting in blurry shots. By moving to the front row or the sidelines, you can shoot with a shorter lens and keep the shutter speed higher. It’s a great alternative to buying “fast” lenses, which can quickly drain your wallet.

Pre-Focus

You’ve prepared.  You’ve anticipated. You’ve waited until the perfect moment to capture the perfect shot. You press the shutter button and…nothing happens. That gigantic pause as the camera focuses has caused you to miss the shot of a lifetime—or at least the day. The fix? By pressing and holding the shutter release halfway down while you’re waiting for the right moment, your camera will shoot almost instantly when you press the button the rest of the way. Done. And done.

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