Capture the Motion in Photographs

Alpha Tutorial :21 - Capture the Motion in Photographs

Focal length: 150 mm / F-number: 4.5 / Shutter speed: 1/1250 sec

Focal length: 150 mm / F-number: 4.5 / Shutter speed: 1/1250 sec

In this chapter, you will learn some techniques to shoot moving subjects in sports scenes or railway photography with a sense of presence and dynamism. The α cameras have various functions to shoot moving subjects. As the first step, try the advice provided below.

How to shoot with the motion stopped

To stop the motion of the subject momentarily and capture it as the impressive best shot, you need to shoot at faster shutter speeds. The shutter speed can be set as you like in the S-mode, but use the "Sports Action" mode in Scene Selection (shooting mode) at first.

The "Sports Action" mode allows you to take a shot freezing the motion of moving subjects. With faster shutter speeds and the AF operation to continuously track the movement of the subjects, this mode is suitable for moving subjects. Also, as the continuous shooting mode is automatically activated in this mode, it is easier to capture the best moment of the scene. Note that the continuous shooting will stop if you remove your finger from the shutter button after the shutter is released once. Make sure you keep holding the shutter button all through the scene you want to capture.

How to shoot with the motion stopped

To shoot the above examples, the photographer pressed the shutter button immediately before the child jumped, and kept holding it until the motion stopped. The above 2 photographs are the best shots among the continuous shots. With the shutter speed set to 1/800 sec, the motion of the subject looks stopped.

As the "Sports Action" mode in Scene Selection is one of the auto shooting modes, you cannot change the settings of brightness and colour. To use the functions to change them, such as exposure compensation and white balance, shoot in the S-mode. When shooting in the S-mode, set the autofocus mode to AF-C (Continuous AF), and the drive mode to Continuous Shooting, so that you can shoot moving subjects continuously.

Deciding on the composition

If you get used to continuous shooting, consider the composition as well. As shown in "1. Shoot Impressive Portraits with People Highlighted" and "9. Let the Small Item Play the Major Role", the typical well-balanced composition is the "Rule of Thirds" composition. However, for scenes where you want to express the dynamism of the moment, the composition with the subject in the centre of the frame is also recommended. This composition is effective for expressing the power and theme of the subject clearly. When shooting sports scenes, by capturing the close-up of the main subject in motion in the centre of the frame, you can finish up your photograph impressively with a full sense of presence.

Focal length: 300 mm / F-number: 5.6 / Shutter speed: 1/2500 sec

Focal length: 300 mm / F-number: 5.6 / Shutter speed: 1/2500 sec

These examples are shot in the composition with the subject in the centre of the frame. By zooming in on the subject with a telephoto lens, the photographs convey the power and dynamism of the subject. Also, as the subject is in the centre of the frame, it is easier to bring into focus.

When you are shooting moving subjects, the situation can change dramatically in a moment, unlike when shooting motionless landscapes. Therefore, the top priorities are not to miss the shooting opportunities and to take as many shots as possible. First, get used to continuous shooting, and leave the composition until you have more leeway. You can also compose photographs by trimming them in the computer after you get home.

Focal length: 200 mm / F-number: 5.6 / Shutter speed: 1/1000 sec

Focal length: 200 mm / F-number: 5.6 / Shutter speed: 1/1000 sec

Pre-Decisive Moments

Even though a DSLR responds almost instantaneously the moment you press the shutter button, it still takes a spilt-second for the mirror to lock up and the shutter to open and close. The viewfinder goes black for an instant and you can’t see anything – yet that’s when the photograph is taken. All of this happens in a hair’s breadth, but it could be the difference between getting the shot and missing it.

When shooting action, you have to train yourself to anticipate the moment and react just before it happens. The more frames per second your DSLR can capture continuously the less your margin of error, but this ability to sense the pre-decisive moment, and when exactly to hit the shutter button is something you have to practice with your gear to get good at.

Photo by Goh Fujimaki.

Photo by Goh Fujimaki.

Panning for Motion

One effective way to show motion while keeping your subject in sharp focus is to pan the camera. Select a slow shutter speed, stand facing where you’ll want to shoot the subject, then rotate your upper body to face where the subject is coming from, while keeping your feet firmly planted. Keep your elbows tucked in, and smoothly rotate your upper body, moving the camera and keeping your subject in the same position in the frame. When your subject hits the spot you want to shoot, gently depress the shutter button, and keep panning with the subject as your shutter opens and closes. Done correctly, your subject will look sharp while the background will be blurry.

Rear Flashing Action

When set to Rear Curtain mode, your built-in flash adds to your action-shooting toolbox. In Rear Curtain (or Rear Sync), your flash fires only at the end of the exposure, just as the shutter’s about to close. This allows your camera to capture the background, and freeze your subject the moment the flash fires, creating action streaks which appear behind the subject. This technique is especially useful when coupled with panning, and can be used outdoors in daylight as well as in low-light.

Rear Flashing Action

Trying telephoto lenses

In sports scenes like the above examples, zooming in on the subject is effective for conveying the dynamism. Particularly in environments where you need to shoot from a distance, telephoto lenses are necessary. Telephoto lenses are highly recommended for those who often shoot sports games, birds and animals.

SAL70300G2
SAL70300G2

This 70-300mm zoom is an excellent choice for sports and action photography. Nano AR Coating technology enhances clarity, and an advanced optical design achieves high contrast and resolution throughout the zoom range. Fast AF tracking, aa new dust and moisture resistant design maximizes reliability.

SEL55210
SEL55210

The SEL55210 offers the reach you need for subjects such as sports and action. Built-in image stabilization reduces blur when shooting at long range or in low light.