EFC 68 MMA Championship in Cape Town, South Africa | Photography by David Lazarus

Quick Tips for Action Photography

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Anyone can and should become a photographer – but it takes time to go beyond the simple point-and-shoot. To capture images seemingly frozen in a split second, you need to understand the basics of shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Master any and all of these settings, and you will find yourself shooting faster and with greater clarity and intent than you thought possible. Until then, however, here’s a few quick tricks.

The first step is learning how to shoot with your DSLR in manual mode – this puts the photographer in charge, not the camera. You will, however, always be dependent on your choice of lens to get the composition you want. And while you should always use your camera in manual mode for ultimate control, most working photographers today also rely on their lens’ Autofocus (AF) mode and other tricks to keep their shots on time and in focus.

READ MORE: Choosing the Right Lens for Your Photography

Use the Autofocus setting on your DSLR

Photography is already hard AF – make it easier on yourself with your lens’ autofocus setting!

The intertwined concepts of shutter speed, aperture and ISO – the three keys to a harmonious exposure – are a little more complicated.

At a basic level, ISO is important for aesthetic choices such as film grain and texture. Your first priority for actions shots will be shutter speed. The shutter speed plays a major role in the motion of your subject – or the lack of it, also known as ‘freeze motion’; the faster or slower the subject is in relation to your shutter speed will the motion blur be greater or lesser in your photograph. A final setting that assists your desired result is aperture – also known as depth of field or F-stops – that determines the balance between foreground and background.

Pro tip 1: To capture quick movement with clarity and no blurring, you’ll need the larger apertures and faster shutter speeds (f/4, f/2.8) found in telephoto zoom lenses. (Sports will be well suited with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens; more experienced photographers can take advantage the 300mm f/4 or f/2.8, the 400mm f/2.8, or the 600mm f/4 lenses, requiring more care to track movement but offering greater close-ups.)

Pro tip 2: Keep the switch on the side of your lens to AF – autofocus – there’s no use making focusing any harder than it should be. Consider using Continuous Shooting (also called Burst Mode) so you can take several shots per second, for as long as your finger is holding down the shutter button. Even in Continuous or Servo modes, autofocus still keeps track of moving targets. With these in place for fast-moving subjects like sports and photo-journalism, you’ll be able to freeze the moment and subject immediately – and instead of attempting to track focus on a fast moving object, you’ll be able to redirect your focus to creating a composition and capturing the mood of a scene.

EFC 68 MMA Championship in Cape Town, South Africa | Photography by David Lazarus

READ MORE: Become A Photographer with DLPHOTO

As you can see, there’s a lot involved in becoming a photographer. With DLPHOTO’s Know Your Camera workshop and the Beginner To Pro short course, you’ll be able to move past the concepts and techniques needed to become a pro photographer – letting you focus on your art and profession with confidence.