As a professional photographer, my work involves working in a range of light conditions, including low light. One of the hardest aspects is photographing the action as it happens. When I take action shots I often need to freeze movement, especially when I am shooting sports. Sometimes I have to set my camera to a fast shutter speed but it can be impossible to get close to the action. If the action is moving too quickly I can’t rely on using a tripod, and I can’t control my exposure.
A friend of mine once asked me how I was able to freeze the action and get the perfect shot. I told him that I did the opposite of what he thought. Instead of setting my camera to a high shutter speed to freeze motion, I tried to lower the shutter speed. This is quite counterintuitive for most photographers. If you think about it, you want a high shutter speed so you can’t see the action and freeze it. However, by lowering the shutter speed you can see the action more clearly, which means you get a better shot.
The following steps describe how to shoot frozen action photography.
1. Set your camera to a slow shutter speed
When you set your camera for a long exposure time, the sensor records the light that is hitting it for a very long period of time. This means the light that is hitting your sensor doesn’t just drop off at the end. Instead, it continues on until you stop the shutter. For example, if you are taking a picture of a moving vehicle you can’t stop the vehicle as it drives past. Instead, you will have to wait until it stops.
This is different from taking a single photograph where you will have to wait for the shutter to open and the image to be exposed. You will only have to wait for the photo to be exposed if you are taking a single image.
2. Position yourself in front of the subject
When you take photos you normally place the lens in the front of the camera and point it towards the subject. This way you see the subject as it appears through the lens. This is fine when you are taking a single image of the scene, but when you are photographing the action, you will want to be looking through the lens at the action, not at the subject.
To achieve this, position yourself in front of the subject. This is where the action is happening. You will be able to see the subject from the same perspective as the action. This will ensure you can see exactly what is happening and you won’t be surprised by it.
3. Focus on the subject
To focus on the action, you need to place the lens somewhere between the subject and the background. You may think you will need to focus on the background to avoid blurring the subject. However, this isn’t always the case. Often, the subject will be closer to the background than you expect.
To work out how far away the subject is, look at the depth of field. This is the area in front of the subject where the subject appears sharp. The further away the background is from the subject, the smaller the depth of field will be.
4. Open the aperture
You need to open the aperture to make sure that the background is as blurry as possible. When you open the aperture you are increasing the size of the lens opening. This makes it easier for light to pass through and make the background blurrier.
If you aren’t happy with the blurred background, you can add a filter to reduce the amount of light. This will make the background a lot less blurred, but you will need to pay attention to keep it safe.
5. Set the ISO
You will need to set the ISO to a higher number to increase the sensitivity of your camera. This will allow more light to pass through the lens. You will need to experiment with the ISO to find the best setting.
6. Take the shot
Once you have opened the aperture, set the shutter speed to the fastest possible setting. The faster the shutter speed the less time there is between the action happening and the image being captured. In the example above, you would need a slow shutter speed to take the picture.
7. Reframe the image
If you are taking a series of photographs, you will probably need to reframe the images after you have taken them. You can do this by opening the frame and repositioning the lens.
Freeze Motion Photography Ideas