Sports and action photography – Gästbloggare Anthony Cake

Anthony Cake is a freelance photographer from the UK. Read more about him in this earlier post or on his own website. Read earlier guest posts with photo tips from Anthony here.

Capturing an epic sporting moment of your child is one of the occasions when having a more advanced camera does help. Firstly the most important thing is get your camera set up correctly. Most compact cameras will have a sports mode setting, which is normal a picture of a person running or similar athletic pose. Setting your camera to this mode will make the camera only use faster shutter speeds freezing the action. On some cameras it will also set the ASA (film or sensor speed) to a higher setting. Personally I would manually set the ASA to at least 400ASA to ensure that the shutter speed will be fast enough, on a bright summers day you may be able to use 200ASA. If you leave your camera on Auto or program than the camera will use an exposure that it feels will produce the best photograph under the circumstances, this may and very often mean a shutter speed of around 1/60 or 1/125 which will usually result in any movement being a blur.

Photo Anthony Cake

More advanced cameras will let you choose the shutter speed that you wish to use, aim for a shutter speed of 1/500 or higher depending or the sport your child is partaking in, if you want to stop a tennis ball in mid air then shutter speeds of 1/1000 to 1/2000 are needed.

If you have a very basic camera then if you can set the ASA to a higher rating 400-800 (the same rule applies for using film) and this will force the camera to use faster shutter speeds to get a correctly exposed image.

Follow the action with the camera, don’t just wait for a great shot to run / swim / jump into the frame. Use a zoom lens the get close to action and follow action. Think about where you are going to take your pictures from? If it is the school running race then stand near the finish line, that way you capture all the action as they run towards you. If you were to stand at the start then yes, you may get one great picture of all the participants at the start line but that’s it, the rest of your photographs will be of the backs of heads rapidly getting smaller and smaller. Similar for a football match, stand near one of the goals as that is where everybody is trying to get the ball so everybody will be looking / heading in that direction at some point.

Photo Anthony Cake

Right this is the technical bit. Remember the faster the shutter speed the faster the aperture will be, or a smaller number the f stop ie f2.8 or f4.0. Those of you with DSLR may be familiar with apertures or f stops. With most compact cameras it’s taken care of for you. But if you have a low f stop number of say f3.5 then you will have a smaller amount of the picture that will be in focus – maybe only 10 – 20cms where as if you have an f stop of 11 then 2 – 4 meters may in focus. Confused yet? Basically it means that you have to make sure that your subject is in focus as there will be very little room for error. If you have a DSLR set the focus to servo or continuous.

Don’t expect miracles straight away, watch what is going on around you. Your subject may be repeating the same action again and again and again. This will help you to be able to time your photograph, capturing the moment!

Good Luck!

This weeks photo competition theme is ‘Sport / action photos’, read more about the competition here.

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