Top 10 Techniques for Success with Action Photography – Ultimate Guide

February 21, 2024
kids playing soccer and kicking a ball

Action photography is all about capturing the moment. When you successfully capture that game-winning shot, the first prom dance, or lead in the play delivering the big moment, you will feel like you have captured lightning in a bottle. The right gear, techniques, and passion for the action will equip you to freeze split-second moments of athleticism, emotion, and excitement. In this ultimate guide, we have listed the top ten techniques for success with action photography.

Use the Right Camera

Choose the right camera body to capture the best action moments and pictures. You need a camera capable of fast burst shooting, quick autofocus, and fast shutter speeds to freeze motion. Select either a high-end DSLR or a fast mirrorless camera. These have high burst rates of 10-20 fps, sophisticated autofocus with tracking modes, and shutter speeds up to 1/8000s.

Advanced mirrorless cameras use electronic shutters to achieve silent operation and zero blackouts. If you are on a budget, some affordable options can still deliver decent speed and performance for beginners. Invest in the fastest model you can afford if you want to pursue a career as a sports action photographer.

Choose the Right Lenses

Your lens choice directly impacts the live-action photography you can capture. Telephoto zoom lenses between 70-200mm or 100-400mm are ideal for sports and distant subjects. Choose those options that provide excellent sharpness and fast autofocus. Prime telephotos like 300mm or 400mm f/2.8 lenses are highly prized by professionals but quite expensive.

For closer action, lenses with fast and wide aperture primes allow separation from backgrounds. Zoom lenses provide versatility to handle subjects at varying distances easily. Specialty lenses like fisheye and ultra-wide angle create dramatic effects well-suited for activities like skateboarding and surfing. Always use the fastest (lowest f-number) lens to maximize light and blur, and consider image stabilization for smoother handheld shots.

Learn the Focus Modes

Mastering your camera’s autofocus modes will help you capture the action in fantastic detail. Explore your camera’s continuous focus modes specifically designed to maintain focus on moving subjects. It prevents you from getting the subject back in focus and missing the shot.

Check the settings and customize it according to your shooting style and preference. You can configure the AF, such as zone AF, Dynamic AF, or Lock-on AF, for different types of action. Current trends in photography are to have a subject that stands out vividly from the background action; you can achieve this style with the right autofocus.

Shoot in Burst Mode

Use burst mode when shooting critical moments of impact or emotion that unfold in the blink of an eye. Burst mode allows you to record a rapid sequence of exposures, between 5 to 20 frames per second, depending on your camera model. It vastly increases the odds of you nailing the perfect decisive moment compared to single shots.

Just be mindful of your memory card’s storage capacity, as burst mode fills up memory cards faster. For storage, cloud-based platforms like WaldoPro provide high levels of storage for free and then additional storage is relatively cheap.

Follow the Action

Panning adds a sense of motion to your photos by keeping the subject relatively sharp while blurring the background. Practice to match the optimal panning speed as your subject moves for dramatic images. When you get it right, it gives the effect of a sharp subject against a dynamic blurred background. It excites motorsports, cycling, horse racing, and animals in motion.

Use Different Angles and Positions

Choose interesting angles to get a unique perspective when framing your shot. Position yourself to capture the emotion and intensity on an athlete’s face right after victory or defeat. Change your vantage point from shot to shot to add excitement. If you are shooting a major event, arrive early to find a spot with the best view.

Master Exposure

Learning proper exposure techniques can help you capture action under changing and challenging lighting conditions. Each situation requires a different optimal balance between shutter speed, aperture setting, and ISO level. Master the technique to take control and adjust your camera’s settings on the fly as the situation evolves.

Focus on Storytelling

The most powerful action image captures more than just the pinnacle moments. Context and emotions matter to weave a bigger story. Researching and learning more about the event you are capturing to take meaningful shots is helpful. Your images will be compelling and build a connection with the viewer.

Master Post Processing

The right amount of post-processing can enhance your action shots but with new real-time delivery models, you have to weigh the improvement in quality against the increased latency. If you’re going to run a post, try presets in your favorite photo editor tailored for sports and fast-motion styles to add impact in one click. AI tools have also made post-processing more accessible. You can add motion blur to accentuate motion and use content-aware fill to remove distracting backgrounds in a few clicks effortlessly. Employ batch editing techniques to process large volumes of images from a shoot efficiently. When done correctly, post-processing can turn great action shots into incredible ones.

Make the Best Use of the Latest Technology

Breakthroughs and advances in AI-powered automation platforms have opened new creative possibilities for action photography. Advanced AI, such as the WaldoPro, helps to sort and share your photos automatically to the mobile phones of those you capture with little latency, increasing sales and making candids a viable business.

Once you have captured that perfect image, WaldoPro will remove all the downstream work of getting your proofs in front of those you capture, selling them, and in the case of print sales, drop-ship delivery. WaldoPro removes all the time-intensive legwork of selling photography of all types.

For helmeted sports or where there’s a lot of action, WaldoPro’s combined face and jersey recognition automatically identifies athletes and delivers copyright-protected photo proofs via text. You can instantly share photos with every player and parent in near real-time when interest and enthusiasm run high. And you don’t have to worry about how to protect photos with WaldoPro’s FaceBlockerTM technology that prevents screen capture.

Being able to view and purchase their shots right from their phones conveniently increases sales conversions for photographers, while dramatically reducing labor. WaldoPro also facilitates seamless direct print delivery to customers. Consider combining your photography skills with WaldoPro’s automated sorting, proofing, and fulfillment capabilities to reach more potential buyers, maximize revenues, and do more of what you love.