Improving Sports Action Photos
Action photos are some of the funnest photos you can take but it takes a few tips to go from simple snapshot to something that really stands out. Usually the problem is with showing motion. As the image to the right shows, a fast shutter speed and the rear side angle doesn’t really do much for this shot. During this article we will look at other images that didn’t work, and others that did so we can learn how to improve our sports action photos.
Learning to Pan
Taking a shot similar to the one above but with a slightly slower shutter speed and moving the camera along with the bikers helps to blur the background and provide a better sense of motion. This technique takes some practice as you need to match the speed of the biker with as little up/down motion as possible in order to get a sharp image. When done well, you get an image that feels like its moving right along with the action. Definitely don’t expect all of these to turn out, you will take quite a few and hope that a few of them turn out good.
Find The Emotion
Sports always have some level of emotion that you can play off of. In this shot we can see the bikers faces that show the grit and determination to stay in first. Shots like this can really pull you in and give you a feel for the action. Using a relatively large aperture of f/5.6 separates the two bikers in front from the pack in the back. The short depth of field focuses the attention on the main bikers by blurring out the people behind them.
Pick The Right Angles
Some angles work well and some don’t work at all. This will vary depending on what sport you are shooting and what else is going on in the scene. In the next two images, you can see that the angle that was used can make a huge difference.
Leave Room To Move
This may seem odd at first, but you need to leave room for the subject to move within the frame. Using basic composition rules we can often just leave some white space on the side of the frame that the subject will be moving into. These two images demonstrate this. The first one has the biker heading to the right but is too far into the frame and it just “doesn’t feel right”.
In this next image I used a combination of the techniques above including picking the right angle, getting in tight, and giving room for the rider to go in the frame.
I am far from being the greatest sports shooter around but using a few simple techniques can really help improve the quality of your images. If you have some good sports shots, please share them in the forums.