Kids move around, a lot – making photographing your kids a challenge. They also like to climb, run, play, jump, and generally never stand still. As a parent and photographer it may become frustrating to try to get your child to “stand still” long enough to capture a good image, which is why it is imperative to learn how to take great action shots early. Here are some tips:
If you’re still shooting in automatic mode, now’s the time to get out. With action shots you are going to need to have more control over how fast your camera captures the image – in order to freeze motion (or blur it, if desired). Shutter priority mode lets you decide how fast of a shutter speed to use, while your camera adjusts other settings (ISO and aperture) to ensure a correct exposure.
If you’re not sure how fast a shutter speed to use, start at 1/500s, then go up or down from there. Keep in mind that you’ll need a faster shutter speed if the action is moving across the camera than towards or away from it.
Anticipate Action and Direction
In order to get those amazing shots that really grab your attention, you’ll need to anticipate where the action is going to be, and what direction it is going to go in. If you’ve watch hundreds of your kid’s soccer games or gymnastics competitions you’ll likely have a good idea and be able to anticipate which way the action is going to go.
When working with a telephoto lens it can be tempting to get “right in there” to focus on your child specifically, but it will be harder to anticipate action, as well as to keep the camera steady to avoid lens blur. Try pulling back a bit to give more room, you can always crop the photo later.
This is probably the most difficult aspect of action photography. For the most part when taking a photo we compose a shot, focus, and then shoot. Action photography can be pretty much the opposite – you focus, compose, and then shoot. In order for this to work you need to change your camera’s focus mode from “One Shot” to “AI Servo” or “Continuous Focus” – which continually adjusts the focus to ensure that the subject remains crisp.
Watch your Angle
The best location to shoot from outdoors is with the sun behind you, as it will illuminate your subject and let you use a faster shutter speed. However, you also want to ensure that you are close enough to capture the action (with or without a telephoto lens) and that you are at an angle where you can see your subject’s face – so move around to get the best angle.
Get used to using burst mode (or continuous shooting), where you hold the shutter release down and it takes a group of images (like the paparazzi) – it lets you capture those “micro moments” that you may not normally be able to get. Sure, you’ll have more photos to cull when you get them on your computer, but you’ll also increase the likelihood of capturing those perfect kid’s photos that you’ll keep forever.
Resist the temptation to stop after every shot and check out your LCD screen, just keep shooting. If there is a break in the action you can review your last set of shots to see how they have turned out, but if you check while there is still activity going on you may miss the opportunity for a great image.
Finally, practice makes perfect! Any time there is action going on you should try to capture it – so when those important action moments arrive you are ready to get them on camera!