Action Photography | Inspiring Art of Capturing Movement
Take your action photography up a notch with these tips
“Of all the means of expression, photography is the only one that fixes a precise moment in time.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Since Henri Cartier-Bresson defined the photographic moment in photography, we have all chased the perfect moment and tried to freeze it in time.
Many of us can see when that moment is happening but freezing the exact moment you are looking for takes quite a bit of skill and foresight. Action photography is a fun and exciting type of photography filled with moments to capture – and there are so many ways you can do this, as we will explain below – but if you don’t understand how to get the shot, it can be a bit frustrating.
So how do you take your photos from your everyday to something more spectacular? Below, we go into some of how you can do this and a little more on action photography.
But first, a few photos to demonstrate how we use movement in many ways to add drama and flair to photos. For example, in Dillan’s boxing profile, we see action poses photography when he punches towards the camera. Its a dramatic shot that commands your attention.
We see action moment photography at the precise point where he hits the punching bag and flicks the ropes, and we see frozen movement with water droplets and powder suspended around him. All of these use the techniques we discuss here, and how we use the elements available to really add drama and the feeling of movement in a moment that is frozen in time forever.
1. What is Action Photography
2. Types of Action Photography
3. How to improve your action photos
4. Where to find an action photographer
1. What is action photography
Action Photography is the process of photographing a subject in movement. Whether it is freezing, blurring or panning, it is a photography genre that you can take your photos to the next level once you understand how it works. Movement in photos adds a lot of drama and flair,
So how can we go about creating it? Let’s start with the basics of action photography, the different types of action photography and how we can take our action photos to the next level.
Types of Action Photography
There are three types of action photography.
- Suspended movement or freezing movement that is otherwise not visible to the naked eye – the camera can freeze for a split second; for example, things like water droplets are suspended in the air. It gives the sensation of movement and action or high energy even though the moment is frozen.
- Motion blur, such as panning motion photography – a good example is in Motorsports – where movement is used to enhance the photo. This is another way to add the feeling of movement in a frozen moment.
- Sequence photography or visual flow takes a series of photos of the real action from start to finish. This is rather a photo series than one photo on its own, so shows the full movement or action from start to finish, but in many ways is less dramatic than a single shot.
Whichever type of action photography style you are going for, you need a good understanding of how capturing works in your camera with shutter speed and other manual settings. Knowing how your camera works at the split second it takes to get these types of shots is crucial to getting the most from your action photography.
SO we will go through the basics of this below.
2. Basic Tips for Action Photography
2.1 Freezing Action Photography
This requires high shutter speeds – If you are trying to achieve this without a flash, it will depend on how fast the action is. For instance, spraying water will require a faster shutter speed than a horse jumping, so your settings may differ.
A reasonably universal shutter speed of around 1/800 of a second should freeze most movement unless it’s very high-speed photography like little birds in flight. This is the basis for freezing movement.
I won’t go into all the details of how to freeze or blur motion – you can see more on that in my photography tutorial on the Renphotos Club ≫ website – controlling movement in photography with shutter speed ≫. Once you understand these settings, you can freeze, blur and get more creative and dramatic with your shots!
2.2 Panning Motion Photography
Let’s talk a little more about panning motion photography – Once you know how to get a certain amount of blur in your photos, you can use this while panning your subject to create the feeling of motion in your image while still freezing the subject.
The idea is to follow the subject with the camera and keep following through – By doing this with a slow enough shutter speed, you will be able to freeze the subject, such as a moving car – so long as they are moving in the same direction as your camera.
2.3 Flash and Movement
Flash can also be used to freeze movement and is often used in product photography – this is because, firstly, the settings indoors aren’t fast enough to freeze the action.
But the flash – depending on its duration – fires for a very short, strong burst of light that fires at much faster speeds – so you can freeze the action even though only firing at 1/200th of a second with the camera settings.
It can be very technical, but once you understand all this is really cool – here is a link to a perfect video explaining all of this – Freeze Action Photography with Flash ≫
Whichever method you are using, they will all take a lot of practice to perfect, so dont expect to get it right on the first shot, or even the hundredth shot for that matter. Practice practice practice is all you can do to get better. It requires many hours of trial and error until you develop this skill so dont give up!
3. How to further improve Action moments in photography
Now that you know the different types of action photography and the techniques you need to follow to freeze, blur or pan the action, How can you take your photos from a standard shot to something eye-catching and a picture to remember?
Here are some tips to help you do just that.
1. Look for the right moment – Watch whatever action you are photographing and think to yourself, if you were to freeze it, where would you freeze it to best define that movement posed photo? Then wait for that moment before pressing the button.
2. Elements like dust, sand, and water can all add some drama to your photos, so use them as much as you can for a dramatic effect.
3. Where there aren’t any of these elements, think of using a technique like panning to add more drama to your shot.
4. With people and animals, you can consider hair flying a certain way to show the movement.
5. Use a wide aperture to make your subject stand out from the background and blur out any distractions.
6. Take a lot of photos – much more than you think – action moment photography is so quick that you can’t always be sure you get the shot, so just shoot as much as you can.
4. Where to find an action photographer
If you have an upcoming sporting event, be sure to get in touch with us at Renphotos ≫.
We would be happy to capture action photography shots like the ones above for you. Contact us ≫ for more information or to discuss rates as this will depend on the type of event and how many people are involved.
But this can be as little as R 200 per person for 5-10 photos if 10 or more people are ordering and competing at the same event. Large sporting events may also require more than one photographer, so every situation will be unique – We cant wait to hear from you!
Once you know how to harness the power of manually setting your shutter speed and understand the different effects this can have, you can create some theatrical action moments in photography. This opens up so many doors to really getting creative with your photography! But it does take a lot of hours behind the camera – think of it like learning to throw and catch a ball – anyone can tell you how to do it in theory – but it will take a while for your brain and hands and eyes to make the connection – then suddenly everything will click into place!
Remember that practice makes perfect, so get out there and photograph as many action poses as possible. Before you know it, you will be an expert!
Check out our Event Photography Portfolio to see more fantastic action shots! You can also get more advice from Renphotos in our Tips For Photoshoots ≫ blog section to enhance your photography skills.