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The Olympic Games in London will bring together photojournalists from around the world vying to document the best athletic moments on camera, but most people don’t realize the challenge in capturing a great action shot.
“Whether you’re planning to photograph the London Olympics or capture sporting events at home, action shots can add an engaging perspective to your collection that can’t be seen with static photos,” says Gail Fisher, former senior photo editor for National Geographic and the Los Angeles Times and current department chair of visual journalism at Brooks Institute, a leading provider of higher education for film, graphic design, visual journalism and photography. “Action photos bring images to life by providing a dynamic visual, drawing the viewer into the event as if they were seeing it live.”
Fisher offers these six tips to help capture memorable action shots:
* Invest in quality camera equipment. High-quality digital cameras can be purchased new or used at reasonable prices, making professional-grade equipment accessible to amateur photographers. For action photography, use a telephoto lens (300 to 600 millimeter) on a monopod or tripod to add stability and to follow the focus of quick movements and fast pace during a typical sporting event.
* Location, location, location. If you have the opportunity, check out the event site in advance to find the best angles and lighting. While this isn’t always possible, get to the event early and find an area that has a clear view of the action, a captivating background and good lighting for your photos.
* Take many photos and bring extra memory cards. The more photos you take, the better odds you will have of getting a great action shot. Sporting events can last long periods of time, so plan ahead and bring extra cards and batteries. You don’t want to get caught during a key moment without your equipment. No matter how fast your shutter speed is, stay alert and keep your eye on the action to capture the best images.
* Use a wide-open aperture on your telephoto lens. This will allow for a faster shutter speed and will make the focus of your photo stand out against the background. Keep in mind distracting background objects like benches, bleachers, signs, poles and people, as they may make it hard to distinguish your focal point from the background “noise.” If these are unavoidable in your shot, work with different angles and focus to help separate them from your subject.
* Practice. Capturing great action photos can be tough in a crowded setting. Take time before you plan to photograph action events to practice with your camera using different angles, lens speeds, focus and backgrounds. This will give you a better feel for how to navigate congested events, identify the best locations and pinpoint the right moments in the events to capture the best images.
* Reaction shots. Once the action is over, keep your camera trained on the subject and be ready for reaction shots that can be emotional, decisive moments and story-telling images of the event.