Month: February 2015

4 Mistakes New Photographers Make and How to Avoid Them

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Cameras are complex machines and to get the most out of them you need to know how they work. When you’re a new photographer shooting with a sophisticated camera for the first time, the complexity can be overwhelming. There’s just so much to learn! Now that I’ve been shooting for more than ten years, it’s interesting to go back to my early days and see the mistakes I made.

In this article we’ll have a look at four of my first DSLR photos and I’ll share what I know now that I wish I knew then, so hopefully you can learn from these mistakes.

Mistake #1 – not using exposure compensation

1/250sec f10 ISO100

1/250th of a second,  f/10, ISO100

The camera’s exposure meter will try to make the exposure “middle grey”. Since the camera has no way to tell how bright the subject is, middle grey is a good average bet. But when the subject is much brighter or darker, like the sky in this photo, it ends up getting it wrong. Today if I see a shot like this on the back of my camera, I know why it is under exposed and will adjust it by dialling in some positive exposure compensation. That would have made the clouds much brighter, and brought out details in the dark tree-covered hillside.

Mistake #2 – afraid to increase the ISO

1/30sec f5.6 ISO100

1/30th,  f/5.6, ISO100

Towards the end of an overcast day, we arrived at a rocky shoreline while on holiday. I liked the texture of the rock, the white dead tree branch, and churning water. However there wasn’t quite enough light. At this stage I didn’t even know how to change my ISO, but even if I had, I’d heard that increasing it made your photo noisy. This was certainly true, especially of DSLRs 10 years ago, but 1/30th of a second at 200mm focal length just wasn’t fast enough. As a result there’s enough camera shake to ruin the photo. Today, even if I was still shooting with the old Sigma SD10 I had then, I’d know that it’s better to increase your ISO to get a shorter shutter speed, even if it results in more visible noise. A noisy photo is better than a blurry one.

Mistake #3 – not exposing for the highlights

1/200sec f10 ISO100

1/200th, f/10, ISO100

If some parts of the image are very bright, such as the sky and clouds around the sun in this photo, they can be “clipped” by the camera. This means that there is more brightness than the sensor can differentiate, and as such, whole areas of the photo are rendered as white with no detail. Once part of a scene is clipped, nothing can bring that detail back, and it can ruin a shot. Clipped highlights are unattractive and draw the eye in a negative way. In high contrast situations it can be really tricky to capture detail in the highlights and shadows at the same time, but because they draw the eye so much, it’s preferable to preserve detail in the highlights.

While the sun is always going to clip in a photo, preserving details in nearby clouds is possible. For this shot I should have dialled in some substantial negative exposure compensation. Even if this made the rest of the photo too under-exposed, because I was shooting in RAW, I’d still be able to bring out a lot of detail when processing the photo. That way only the sun would be clipped and the clouds and water would look much more natural.

Mistake #4 – not controlling depth of field

1/200sec f8 ISO100

1/200th, f/8, ISO100

I wanted to capture the gorgeous texture on this interesting rock, but still show enough of the background to give it context. The background however, is too in focus and ends up being a distraction, competing for attention with the rock, which should be the star of the photo. I was shooting in program mode (auto), and there was plenty of light. The camera realized this and chose an aperture of f/8. This was narrow enough to increase the depth of field so that the background wasn’t nearly blurry enough. If I was taking this shot today I would put the camera into aperture priority mode with the mode dial, and open the aperture wider. Possibly to its full width, which on this lens was only f/5.6. This would have blurred the background more, letting the rock get all the attention.

If I could go back and tell myself something when I was starting out, I’d emphasize the importance of shooting as often as possible, not to worry about making mistakes, and keep looking to other photographers (both online and in person) as a source of inspiration and learning. Finally, I’d tell inexperienced me that you will never ever stop learning.

How about you? What are the biggest things you learned (or are still learning about) to improve your photography?

pnbvideo_box.pngNeil is so invested in helping others to become confident with their cameras that he has created dPS’s very first online video course Photo Nuts and Bolts. From shutter speed, to aperture and exposure, Neil explains clearly so that you can start shooting with confidence…

The post 4 Mistakes New Photographers Make and How to Avoid Them by Neil Creek appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

5 Things You Should Know About Lightroom Before Starting

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So you just installed Lightroom, now what?

You could spend some time just playing around and learning through doing, but if you’re looking for a nudge in the right direction here are a few simple concepts that I wish I’d thought about before starting my own Lightroom journey – hopefully it helps you! Five things you should know about Lightroom before you start:

#1 Your organizational strategy

organize-in-lightroomThis might not seem important at first, but Lightroom is an amazing organizer of your photographs if you choose to use it as one. So before you start haphazardly uploading photographs into your Lightroom catalog try to come up with some sort of basic organizational strategy first.

Some ideas for organization include:

Organizing by date, by location of shoot, or by specific events. Think about your style of photography and the subject matter you plan on shooting. For example a wedding photographer would probably want to organize by date/bride-groom name, where as a wildlife photographer may organize by location/animal.

Lightroom has many different tools for organizing your photographs from colors, star rating and flags. You could for example use flags as a simple yes/no option to quickly cull images, while colors could be for various states of post production workflow (i.e. blue is for images that need to be processed and green is for images that are finalized and shouldn’t be touched).

This might sound overwhelming at first, but if you get into this habit early on, it will simply become a part of your Lightroom workflow, and trust me an organized Lightroom library makes things a lot easier when you’re dealing with thousands of photographs.

#2 How you want to import photos

This is a simple question, but one that you should know the answer to before you get started with Lightroom. When you first open up the import dialog box you’ll be asked whether you want to Copy as DNG, Copy, Move, or Add. Knowing the difference between these four options will help you make the best choice for your workflow. So here’s the Cliff’s notes version:

  1. Copy as DNG – Converts the file type to Adobe’s .DNG format. Read all about Adobe’s DNG format here.
  2. Copy – Retains the original file type of your image (on your computer or memory card) and copies it to a new location on your computer or hard drive.
  3. Move – Moves the image from one place to another on your computer (or from the memory card).
  4. Add – Adds the image to a Lightroom catalog without moving its physical location on your computer or copying it.

For a more detailed look at importing photographs in Lightroom check out: Quick Tip: Importing to Lightroom Made Easier

#3 How to use the Lightroom Develop Module

lightroom develop moduleNow that you’ve got your organizational strategy situated you’re starting to get into the fun stuff, before you go all hack and slash post-production on your first photograph it does help to learn some basic fundamentals. Here’s three quick points to get you started.

  1. Learn what the basic tab does – The basic tab is the workhorse of Lightroom it is what will bring your image to life. At a minimum master these five Lightroom sliders and you’ll be on the road to successful image processing.
  2. Learn the art of local adjustments – Once you’re comfortable with Lightroom’s basic tab you’ll probably want to move onto learning things like how to apply adjustment brushes, graduated filters and radial filters to your images. These tools function in much the same way as the sliders within the basic tab, however, they allow you to have more isolated and local control over your images.
  3. Learn the finishing touches – Finally within the develop module you’ll want to learn a bit about the finishing touches that Lightroom is capable of providing. Things like the clone/heal tool, sharpening, and noise reduction are a good place to start. You may also want to learn about how to remove chromatic aberrations and correct for lens distortion as well. These types of tools are subtle, but powerful, and really will bring the entire image together as a final printable work.

#4 What are presets and how you should use them

While you may be tempted to start with presets it’s better that you learn your basic tab and various other tools first – why? Simply because all presets are created from these settings so once you learn those settings not only will you know a lot about the presets you’re choosing, but you’ll also be able to create your own.

When it comes to presets think of them as a starting point, not a finished product. Learn how to use them to speed up your workflow by creating your favorite looks within a preset, then applying what you know about the various sliders in the basic tab to fine tune the results.

For more info on Lightroom presets: A Concise Guide to Lightroom Develop Presets

#5 What your export settings should be

Here you are, ready to export your first photograph from Lightroom, and just when you thought you had everything figured out, this screen pops up. What do you do now?

Lightroom Export

First you’ll want to remember that Lightroom doesn’t save your processed images, only the instructions of how to process them, that’s why you need to export (export = “save as”) a file out of Lightroom. This image is separate from the original camera RAW file, and as a result will need its own name, and place of organization.

You’ll want to determine what file type and size you’re going to export, and whether or not you want Lightroom to automatically add a watermark to your photographs. These things are all going to be preferences for your own work and there’s no right or wrong way to go about doing it, but you should learn about the implications of each before you start exporting hundreds of photographs.

What Else?

What else would you tell someone who’s just getting their feet wet with Lightroom? Leave us a comment below and let us know!

The post 5 Things You Should Know About Lightroom Before Starting by John Davenport appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

7 Uncommon Tips for Winter Sunrise Photos Near Water

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There are few things in photography that people love more than dreamy sunrise shots full of bold oranges, big suns, washing waters, and burnt horizons. The dawn of a new day is a spiritually significant event as our past misdeeds of yesterday are forgotten under the promise of fresh beginnings. Sunrise also affords us some of the best light to work with in photography.

However, if you live near the coast and you plan to get up early to take some sunrise shots that involve you being in or around rocks on the water’s edge, there are some key things you must remember, especially in the cold, winter months.

1. Set the alarm earlier than you think.

This is stage one. You’ve calculated that the sun rises at 6:00 a.m., you want to get there by 5:30 to set up, it takes you 10 minutes to get there, so you set the alarm for 5:10. But be honest, it never works like this does it? The alarm goes off at 5:10, it’s cold, you’re snug in bed, it’s dark outside, you were in the midst of a dream, and you roll back over. Missed sunrise. How often do you ever jump straight out of bed at 5:10 to take photos, in the midst of winter? By learning this mistake, I set the alarm for 4:40 then give myself three hits on the snooze button to take me to 5:10. It never fails (unless it’s cloudy!!)

2. Make sure you have shoes with spikes on the bottom.

Think about it – you’re an avid photographer who has set up a kit to your liking with lenses, filters, batteries and your camera. You put it in your bag, put your shoes on, head to the wet, rocky location then bammo, you fall over on the freezing, slippery moss. Either you or your bag gets wet, and neither is a desired result. There’s nothing scarier than trying to keep your bag on your back and out of the water as you slip around the rocks on ill-equipped shoes.

I have fisherman’s boots that cost $40. They have small metal spikes on the sole, perfect for getting across the rocks, and for scurrying to new locations quickly. They’re waterproof too. Alternatively, you could try the little clamp-ons that hikers use in icy conditions. They work well too, but your shoes will get cold and wet.

3. Use a head torch (headlamp).

The first time I brought mine I felt utterly ridiculous, like I was a miner heading down into the pits. Now, I wouldn’t dream of not having one. The convenience of having both hands free to see where you’re going, to open and close your bag, and set your camera up in the dark is without comparison. Especially if you are trying to get filters and holders attached to the ends of lenses.


4. Have at least two lens cloths and other lens cleaners or pens.

Imagine this scenario: you are changing your lens out on the rocks and you put your cleaning cloth down to free your hands. There is a little bit of residue on the rocks so when you pick up your cloth and started wiping the lens, it gets coated in a film of goo. You may be able to clean the lens with different parts of the cloth (depending on the type of rock goo!) but it will likely leave most of the cloth dirty. Therefore, you will be unable to clean other lenses later on when they inevitably get hit by sea-spray.

How can I picture such a scenario? Sadly, I have lived it, and there is nothing worse than getting up early to a prime location, only to have your single cleaning cloth ruined before your shooting appetite has been satisfied, leaving you unable to do anything with other lenses that need cleaning. Now I always carry at least three cleaning implements in my bag.

5. Study the tides.

Ideally, you should know exactly what you want to shoot, so you can frame the shot before you go and know where the water will be. This is not always possible, but at least you should know what the tide will be at sunrise. You might go somewhere the day before and see a perfect shot in your head, only to return at dawn the next day and find those beautiful rocks covered in two metres of water. There’s no point setting the alarm for 4:40am if the subject you want in your shot is submerged like a sunken ship.


6. Know where the sun rises. This may seem ridiculous – east you say! Well yeah, the sun rises in the east, but exactly where on the horizon will it rise for you? The angle changes every day. I once woke at 4:00 a.m. to get a shot in at sunrise only to realize after setting up that even my Sigma 10-20mm couldn’t get the sun and subject in my frame. East isn’t just east. Know exactly where the sun rises on the horizon in order to frame the shot you want.


7. Mittens not gloves.

In the wintertime, near the coast, you need something to cover your hands. But not gloves. Mittens are those cute, little gloves that have all the tops of the fingers cut off. The very reason you need mittens is to keep the tips of your fingers free to play with the camera and to get everything set up. This is very difficult with padded, woolly gloves on. Also, don’t make the mistake of buying woollen gloves, then cutting the tops off yourself. This leaves threads hanging that get longer and longer every day, and more and more annoying.


The joy of getting those early morning shots makes a perfect start to the day. Follow these tips and all you’ll have to worry about is framing that perfect shot.

The post 7 Uncommon Tips for Winter Sunrise Photos Near Water by Iain Stanley appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

10 Common Photography Mistakes and How to Overcome Them

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You’ve got your DSLR and you are excited to test it out. You might have gone out for the first few days or perhaps weeks and then all of a sudden the excitement wears out. Why?

Because you don’t seem to get what you want out of your mighty DSLR, right? You may have spent countless hours in your college, office, or at home in search of a best DSLR that can take the best photographs you want. All your efforts have gone in vein and you have a frustrating backlog of your actual work.

Next time you feel such frustration about your photography remember this quote:

“You will only fail to learn if you do not learn from failing.” – Stella Adler, The Art of Acting

So, get ready to learn about the 10 common photography mistakes that you may have committed and how to overcome them.

1. Wrong White Balance (WB)

The first and foremost mistake is setting the wrong White Balance. We see white as white under all lighting conditions, but the camera doesn’t. You have to guide the camera to know the light source of the current scene you are photographing.

Say you are shooting in daylight; if you set the camera’s White Balance to Cloudy then the scene will have orange cast. On the other hand if you are shooting in cloudy light and the camera White Balance is set to Daylight then the scene will have blue cast.

Here’s an easy way to remember this:

  • White Balance Temperature (K) setting = Actual light source = No Cast
  • White Balance Temperature (K) setting < Actual light source = Blue Cast
  • White Balance Temperature (K) setting > Actual light source = Orange Cast

Solution: Set the correct White Balance in the field or shoot in RAW mode. If you shoot RAW, you have a choice to set the correct White Balance in post-processing.

1 Common Kingfisher blue bird Bokeh Effect Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary Keoladeo National Park Nature Wildlife Bird Photography by Prathap

2. Overexposed Highlights

Remember that the dynamic range of your eyes is far greater than the camera’s dynamic range. Dynamic range is the ratio between the brightest elements to the darkest elements in the scene.

You might see the details in both brighter as well as darker regions, but the camera wouldn’t be able to record those details. As a photographer, it is your responsibility to make an exposure that is pleasing to the viewer’s eyes.

Humans are more sensitive to the highlights than the shadows. Overexposed highlights (white patches in a photograph) are more unacceptable to our eyes than underexposed shadows (black patches).

Solution: Expose for the highlights so that nothing gets overexposed, unless you are doing it intentionally. Almost every DSLR will have a blinking indicator (highlight warning, also simply called The Blinkies) that shows overexposed regions in your photograph on the LCD monitor during image playback.

2 Magnificent Swiss Alps Switzerland Mountains Nature Landscape Wildlife Bird Photography by Prathap

If there are blinkies, then go ahead make exposure compensation (underexpose the scene by the required amount) to get that right.

3. Subject in the Center

It is a common tendency of a beginner photographer to keep the subject in center of the frame, which yields a boring, static composition. The viewer has nothing else to look for his/her eye goes straight to the subject and is stuck there.

Solution: Use the Rule of Thirds and keep the subject out of the middle of the frame. An off-centered subject makes the photograph dynamic and uneven negative space creates interest.

3 Jungle Babbler Shallow Depth of Field Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary Keoladeo National Park Nature Wildlife Bird Photography Prathap

4. Wrong Focus

No matter how good your photograph is technically, if the focus is not sharp enough, then your photograph doesn’t work. The main subject of interest needs to be in sharp focus, otherwise viewers will get distracted and will not find a point to rest on in the image.

We see objects sharp in reality so we expect them (at least one) to be in sharp focus to make any sense.

Solution: Make sure you check the focus by zooming in on your subject after you take a photograph (zoom feature in playback mode). Make sure there is enough light or color contrast between the subject and the background so that autofocus is able to lock the focus properly.

4 Perfect Reflection of Frog submerged in Water Nature Wildlife Bird Photography by Prathap

If you are making a portrait, then focus on the eyes of the person (or bird or mammal), because the viewer needs to make eye contact.

5. Breathing Space

It is quite common to fill the frame with your favorite subject so that it looks big in the frame. But how often does it feel that they are squeezed in the frame? They look suffocated because there is no place to move, forget about the movement there is no place to breathe!

Sometimes there will be enough space around the subject, but in the wrong direction – which is no good either.

Solution: Rule of Thirds is the best composition technique that helps you to give enough space around the subject. Think about the image border as a concealed box where there is no ventilation, you don’t want your favorite subject to suffocate.

5 White tailed Kite Taking Off in Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary Keoladeo National Park Best Bird Sanctuary Rajasthan Nature Wildlife Bird Photography by Prathap

6. Cluttered Background

This is probably the most common mistake of all. Why? Because, it’s a common tendency to take photograph the moment you see something beautiful or interesting. So, what’s wrong with that you may ask.

Nothing. But have you paid attention to the background? Probably not. You are so overwhelmed by the subject, that you hardly notice anything around it.

A cluttered or distracting background plays the major role in ruining photographs.

Solution: The real photography starts after you choose your subject. Once you’ve done that, forget about it. Pay attention to the rest of the scene; include only those things that complement your subject and exclude everything else.

6 Painting with Light Art in Nature Backlit flowers in Golden Hours of Sunset Nature Wildlife Bird Photography by Prathap

The background makes the picture. Cleaner background makes the subject stand out making it the primary focus for a viewer.

7. Skewed Horizon

Another mistake that I see quite often is that horizon is not perfect. This is such a simple thing to notice but still a whole load of photographs have skewed horizons.

How can you miss that? Viewers feel uneasy when the horizon is skewed. It also indicates that the vertical subjects should be perpendicular to the ground. A person, building, bird, or tree tilted to one side makes them vulnerable to fall (unless of course they are tilted in reality like the Leaning Tower of Pisa).

Solution: Use the grid overlay while composing in the field, or correct the horizon using the Crop and Straighten Tool in the post-processing stage. Find a subject in the scene/photograph that should be horizontal or vertical in reality, and use it as a reference when you straighten the image.

7 Beautiful Sunrise in Indiana Dunes State Park Beach in Golden Hours Nature Landscape Seascape Wildlife Bird Photography by Prathap

8. Lack of Depth

Remember, Photography is two dimensional medium but we see everything in three dimensions. Photographers often miss the depth that is inherent in photography.

You saw that most beautiful scene in 3D and you captured it, but you wonder what went wrong as you stare at your monitor, right? Something is missing. This is not what you saw.

Why? You didn’t realize that you are capturing a 3-Dimensional scene in a 2-Dimensional photograph.

Solution: There are lots of ways to create depth – include a foreground object, use leading lines, use perspective distortion, change the point of view, and so on. But the most important thing to remember when you are out in the field is that a photograph is 2-Dimensional.

8 Beautiful Fall Foliage on the way to Agate Falls in Upper Peninsula Michigan Autumn Colors Nature Landscape Wildlife Bird Photography by Prathap

9. Too Much in the Photograph

Too much of anything is bad. When you see a scene, you see it as whole, which is natural. But if you try to include everything that you saw in one image then you end up with a photograph that has too much.

When you looked at the scene, were you really looking at the entire scene at once? Think about it. If you do this exercise of how you actually consume a scene you will know a whole lot more.

Solution: Try simple compositions. Instead of making one photo of the entire scene, ask yourself what interests you the most? Then pick that subject and make a photograph that emphasizes only that subject.

9 Backlit Flowers in Golden Hours in Sunset Rollins Savannas Forest Preserve Gryaslake IL Nature Macro Wildlife Bird Photography by Prathap

What is in a photograph is just as important as what is not in there. Once you master these simpler compositions you will be able to take grand landscapes in a much simpler, but more interesting ways.

10. Bad Light

Photography is all about Light. No light means no photography. But light has quality and direction. The best photographs are normally done in the golden hours and just few hours before and after sunrise and sunset when the light is at its best.

Many photographers don’t seem to care about the direction and the quality of light at all. Either the light is so harsh that there are multiple patches of light and shadows in the scene, or the subject’s eyes are in dark shadows, or light is just flat making the photograph 2-Dimensional, and so on.

Solution: Remember that photography is all about Light. More you learn to see the light better photographer you will become.

10 Double Crested Cormorant Golden Hours Sunset Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary Keoladeo National Park Best Bird Sanctuary Nature Wildlife Bird Photography by Prathap

The best way to appreciate light and its amazing qualities to transform a scene, is to go to the scene before sunrise and stay beyond sunset.

Final Thoughts

Still waiting to hear more?

Go ahead and correct the mistakes now. You will see yourself becoming a better photographer when you take control over these common mistakes.

Good luck!

The post 10 Common Photography Mistakes and How to Overcome Them by Prathap DK appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

How to Take Better Action Photos

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141005 Semper Paratus 4022There are many sports photographers. We generally hear about those who specialize in a specific genre of sports photography like motorsport, tennis, golf, or surfing.

If you are just starting out and want to gain some experience and build a portfolio, what can you do to take better action shots?

What separates a true sports photographer from an amateur?

A sports photographer will get the shot they want as they see it, of the action they need to report on, every time. Their ability to pick the correct exposure, composition, focus, and amount of blur in the background comes down to their knowledge and understanding of the elements covered below.

Know your equipment

Your camera, whether it is an entry level or top of the line DLSR, has the ability to take amazing action shots.

You need to take control of your camera so that you get the results that you want from it when you push the button. You will need to adjust the way your camera focuses, allow continuous focus tracking, set the focus point on your camera to be focusing on the right spot, and set your camera to take multiple frames per second. Controlling the shutter speed and aperture so that you can blur the background or freeze action, allowing you to get the shot you envisage.

Understand your sport

Before you even pick up your camera, you really need to understand the sport that you want to capture. You need to know where the action is happening, and when it’s likely to happen. You will also need to know what will make your pictures amazing in the eye of the competitor, or their sponsor, (your customers).

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With motorsports, for example, it may be a spot on the track where accidents happen or a corner that will show the skill level of the driver. You need to know which part of the racetrack the drivers use, and which angle would suit that section of track.


In understanding drag racing, I know that the moment the driver puts his foot down on the green light, the car will lurch forward and the front wheels will lift like this by using a fast shutter speed I have been able to freeze this action.

With surfing, it may be which wave in a set will deliver the best surfing and allow the rider to get the most out of the wave. You must be able to pick out which are the good surfers and which are the amazing surfers, just by seeing how they interact with the waves, how long they will stay up, and if they are doing tricks.

In short, you need to be aware of what is going on where the action is. This allows you to plan your photo so that you can adjust the composition to suit.

Compelling composition

I personally prefer an action shot where the athlete has space to travel into, making sure that he/she is the main focus of the image. With this in mind, picking the correct focus point so that objective is achieved may mean not using the centre focus point. By using a different length lens you can change your composition without having to move to another location. Longer lenses can get you too close to the action, which sometimes means you may miss what is happening around the athlete – so experiment with a few different focal lengths.

Shooting fast action 04

In this image I have used the right most focus point and given the rider room to “ride into” by panning and blurring the background. Thus, I have been able to make the rider stand apart from the crowd.

Make what’s important stand out

By setting your composition, you can then decide if you need to blur the background or make it part of the drama in the shot. You can do this by controlling the shutter speed; slowing it down to blur, speeding it up to freeze, panning with your subject, or by using a large aperture lens and shallow depth of field to blur the background.

Why blur the background at all?

Generally, you need to blur the background to separate the athlete or the subject from the background; ideally, they are the main focus of the shot. With spectator sports, the spectators in the photo may distract the viewer of the photo. By making them out of focus or blurring them with a panning motion, you make the athlete stand out.

Shooting fast action 03

By using a small number aperture I have been able to separate the rider from the crowd.

If you are going to use panning to blur the background, make sure that you have a focal point in the shot that is sharp. That spot needs to be the pivotal place in the photo. If it is an athlete for example, you usually need to make sure their face is sharp. With motorsports it could be one of the sponsor’s logos or the racing number, but could easily be the driver’s helmet. This is important as without one thing in sharp focis, it tends to be more of an abstract art piece than an action shot. As artistic as these blurry pans are, if the sponsors can’t see their logos or the competitors can’t see their faces, you may have a tough time selling the pictures.

Aperture priority versus shutter priority mode

With this in mind, you need to make a decision to either use aperture priority and a large aperture to blur the background, or shutter priority mode and slow down the shutter speed and pan to blur the background. If you are looking to do slow shutter speed panning, make sure you have taken enough sharp frozen images of the event before you practice this. At least that way you will have some images for your portfolio.

Now that you have your camera settings sorted, you need to anticipate when the action is going to happen. This would also include following the path of the athletes as they pass you. If you have set the shutter speed and picked your composition, you lastly need to use tracking focus.

Using continuous focus

Start focusing on your subject BEFORE they are in the right spot for the composition, and continue to keep tracking them after the shot. More unexpected action may happen after, so it’s best to be prepared to photograph it. Knowing how your camera will act, and react, when you push the button with shutter lag (the time between pushing the button and the picture being taken) and multiple frames per second, you can start to follow your subject well before you intend to take the picture. But be ready to shoot at any moment’s notice as the action happens.

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By continuing to shoot after “the shot” I caught the car hitting the ground and the sparks flying even though this was happening quite fast I didn’t use burst mode, instead I took every frame.

Burst mode

If you have the luxury of multiple frames per second, and lots of memory cards to fill, you could follow and just continuously shoot, then cull the images you don’t like. Memory cards are cheap, but is it the best use of your time? Both while at the event and after the event?

Photograph the whole event, not just one aspect

When you are going to an event to take pictures, plan it. Make sure you are aware of where you can stand and how that will affect your pictures. Change your locations to get a mixture of angles. Change your focal length to get a mixture of wide and long shots. Change your shutter speeds to get a mixture of freezing action and blurring the background.

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By using a mixture of vantage spots, you can get some very different angles of the same event.

Step by step checklist:

  • Make sure the camera is set to: Multiple frames per second (as high as it can be), continuous focus, the correct shutter speed or aperture setting
  • Set up your shot compositionally by using different focus points
  • Track your target for as long as you can before you take the picture
  • Keep tracking your subject after you have taken the shot, as there may be more action
  • Use the multiple burst modes sparingly – be decisive about what you want and take one or two shots either side

So what are you waiting for? Get out your manual, make the changes to your settings and take a few risks (with the settings of course) and push yourself to take better action photos.

‘s photography journey started in the late 1990’s when he bought a film camera and started motor sport in the mid 2000’s, published in various car magazines. He enjoyed capturing a mixture of the cars, and people. Contracting to an event company doing school formals, he worked on posing and getting people on side quickly. Building on the above he started No Green Square, teaching you how to get the best out of your camera.

The post How to Take Better Action Photos by Michael Coppola appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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