I’m no sports photographer but I do love creating action shots when I see the opportunity. I probably prefer to use the art of implying or blurring movement in my work and I will talk about that another time but for now I want to give a few tips on freezing action.
The first thing that comes to mind when I want to freeze motion is that a super bright day is preferable. I know these days people tend to increase ISO in order to increase shutter speed but no matter what the so-called experts say I still believe cameras produce too much noise at higher ISO so personally I prefer to keep ISO levels as low as I can.
So winter or summer a sunny day or an overcast but bright day is for me a chance to exploit a high-speed shutter. If you are not sure how to achieve this you can put your camera to Action or Sports mode and it will do it for you. It may of course choose a high ISO but that can’t be altered unless you learn to do everything manually.
So we are looking for a shutter speed of around 1/500 second for an average action shot. Of course it’s not easy to know what average action is but the faster the action the faster the shutter that is required.
One of the fastest things I have ever tried to capture and failed miserably was a pair of house martins flying in and out of their nest in the eaves of our house. I achieved zero results.
A pair of bluetits coming in and out of their nest in a birdhouse was a little easier but that’s still required 1/4000 of a second, the highest my camera could record.
So if you are working in P mode you can increase the speed of your camera by increasing the ISO but be warned that this could result in images containing obnoxious noise.
If you are working in shutter priority S or TV then you can directly adjust your shutter. If the camera does prevent you from adjusting the shutter to the speed you want then you may be able to push it further by increasing your ISO as well.
If you are working in manual then you can increase your shutter to its maximum speed by first adjusting your aperture to its widest setting such as F2.8, F4 or F5.6. You can also adjust ISO to get the exposure you’re looking for. However if your aperture is very wide you will have to take great care with focusing on your moving subject.
If you want to freeze action indoors then popping up your cameras flash should instantly give you a shutter speed of 1/250 of a second. If it doesn’t then you might be able to change that in your flash settings depending on your camera.