Action Photography

Most amateur photographers have a portfolio of favorite photographs they like to call their “action shots.” They may feature the bulging cheeks of little Suzie as she blows out the four candles on her birthday cake, or Rover taking a flying leap to capture an airborne tennis ball.

Action photography covers a wide scope. To sports fans, the best action photography captures those special moments when a batter slides into first base or the gloves are airborne just after the goal that wins the Stanley Cup. NASCAR fans love their action shots, as do the many Olympic Games fans who count on a historical record of heart-stopping moments in sports.

Of course, action photography isn”t limited to sports. Action is all around us. The graceful movements of a martial artist backlit by the rising sun or the gentle swoop of an egret making off with a succulent fish are among the limitless possibilities for action photography.

Who”s a Good Candidate for Action Photography?

Being a talented technical photographer who knows his lenses, lighting and equipment is a great start. Most amateur photographers land a great action shot from time to time, particularly if they”re careful to set up a shot and have the patience to wait for the right moment.

Extreme sports photography requires more than just a good eye. It demands passion.

First, the successful sports action photographer must have better-than-average knowledge of the sport he plans to photograph. It”s easier to capture the action if you can anticipate what is about to happen. And some sports simply demand more stamina than others.

If golf is your bag, you can camp out in your cart and point a camera at a golfer as he or she takes a swing. Lying on your back in the snow as a boarder soars over the edge of the half-pipe, on the other hand, requires a combination of nerve and endurance.

If you don”t care to sprint along the sidelines as soccer players course up and down the field, you might consider a smaller, more controlled venue such as a basketball court or a gymnastics event. Predictable sports such as track or football might help you decide where to park your tripod and avoid the exertion.

You won”t have any trouble finding action to photograph. If you know a sport well, love to take shots of sheepdog trials, camp out in the wilderness or have the energy to follow a two-year-old around the house, your action photography adventure can begin right there.

Shutter Speed and Action Photography

Of all types of photography, action photography is the one that most depends on a good mastery of shutter speeds.

Professional action photographers invest in sophisticated cameras that allow them to control the shutter speed to get the effect they want. For instance, a fast shutter speed captures the subject without any blurring. A slower shutter speed, on the other hand, can capture a subject with some blurring. By combining a slow shutter speed with a flash, you can get pictures that have the subject in clear focus against a deliberately blurred background.

Many cameras come with a built-in flash, but high quality cameras have a feature that allows photographers to override the flash to get the kind of shot they want.

Other Action Photography Equipment

If you”ve been a hobby photographer for any length of time, you probably have most of the equipment you need to develop your interest in action photography.

Obviously, having the best quality camera you can afford is a good start. If you”re attracted to underwater photography or you like to take action shots in inclement whether, you should check out the waterproof models.

Technology has come a long way in the world of cameras. Don”t hesitate to explain to the vendor exactly what you have in mind and the conditions under which you”ll be shooting.

Your camera lenses are probably your most important investment after the camera. Pack a zoom lens and a wide-angle lens if you”re planning to take a wide range of shots. Clearly, focusing on an ant walking back to the colony with a mouthful of food is quite different from capturing an important field goal a few hundred meters away. Be prepared for the full range of action you plan to capture.

A lightweight camera and lenses are best if you anticipate a lot of fast or sudden movement. On the other hand, if you”re camped out in the end zone waiting for the field goal, you should take along a sturdy tripod and some sunscreen.

Even the best photographer occasionally misses a great shot because the camera memory is full or the batteries have run out of juice. Pack extras in a sturdy bag with a wide shoulder strap or in a comfortable backpack. You”ll run out of steam early if you”re hiking around with a bulky bag that slides off your shoulder just when you”re aiming your camera.

Some action photographers rely heavily on controlled lighting and carry an array of flashes to light up their subjects. Studio work done by model photographers or fitness photographers are examples of indoor action work that requires sophisticated lighting. If your specialty is long-distance daytime shots at the racetrack, though, you can leave the flash out of your budget plan.