Action Photo Tips - ICON Photo Tours & Workshops | Top Rated Dream Workshops

Our world is a beautiful, multi-faceted place with many excellent subjects and content to capture throughout our forests, deserts, mountains, and oceans. From animals like bears and foxes scurrying through the woods to eagles soaring through the skies above, photography can help to capture and immortalize a piece of nature’s majesty. Capturing Action Photos and subjects in motion, however, can be much more tricky than photographing a mountain or forest landscape which holds still. As such, there are tips and tricks nature photographers should keep in mind to ensure their photos come out as expected.

Action Photo Tips

Capturing Movement in Landscape Photography

A shore is pictured with large rocks on the left and a vibrant orange sunset while aqua blue waves kiss the shore.

What is Action Photography?

Action photography is just as it sounds: capturing a subject in motion rather than a still-life setting. Action photography describes various subjects, from a sporting event’s high-energy and frantic action to fast-moving subjects like ocean waves, birds in the sky or bears crossing a stream. Capturing a subject in motion takes a different approach and understanding of how to use your camera to its full potential. Careful planning, attention to detail, and a deep understanding of the subject ensure a crisp action photo.

Set of backlit waves breaking along the North Shore of Kauai Hawaii

The Different Types of Action Photography

While action photography describes capturing a subject in motion, the term can apply to various styles and methods of photography. The most commonly used form of action photography is “suspended movement,” wherein the photograph captures a freeze frame of a specific instance and immortalizes that moment. Suspended movement is one of the most popular forms of action photography, capturing minor details and split-second movements within an image that other photos may miss. These types of action photos are all about utilizing the appropriate shutter speed. Fast shutter speeds are essential.

However, other styles may also be optimal for photographers seeking to capture the speed and energy of a scene. For example, motion blur can be a popular choice for those seeking to add an element of speed to their photos, with many aspects of the shot blurred to emphasize one particular part of a photograph. Visual flow can also add three-dimensional elements to an image through its unique use of colors and perspective.

This brushed image of Aspen Trees was shot at iso 100, f22, 1/4 of a second brushing the camera up and down to achieve the motion blur.

Realism vs. Abstractism

One of the first points many nature photographers must consider is the style they are going for in a photograph. Realism and abstractism can each have benefits for different scenes and images, with neither being a “correct” choice. Realism can provide a more detailed and accurate depiction of the subject in motion, capturing a highlight of their specific actions. High shutter speeds should be a priority for photographers looking for crisp, realistic shots. Meanwhile, abstract photos may opt for lower shutter speed or lighting to create softer lines and a more surreal look to their images.

Abstract photography of the beach close up with the tan sand, shallow water and deep turquoise and blue water out further.

Lighting and Focus

Photographers who want to capture action photography should pay special attention to the lighting of their scenes. Lighting quality is paramount in determining how to properly shoot your photographs, with higher lighting levels more optimal for capturing suspended motion photographs. Low light scenarios may be preferred, however, for those looking to soften the look of a photo and leaning more into abstraction.

Focus should also be a priority for photographers, so consider how to best utilize the focus features. Many modern cameras come with auto-focus settings, taking the work of manually adjusting focal points away from the photographer. While many photographers choose to manually adjust their focus for photographs with specific appearances, auto focus technology can often make adjustments human eyes may not be able to perceive.

Understand Both Scene and Subject

One of the most vital pieces of knowledge for action photographers is an in-depth understanding of the scene they are photographing and the subject of their photos. For example, studying a landscape environment can help to understand different aspects of a scene, from the lighting levels to the angle of sunlight in nature photography. Test photographs can also allow photographers to better ascertain each environment’s quirks and understand how to manipulate elements like lighting.

Studying the subject more closely can help photographers accurately depict their ideal shot. Understanding the movement patterns of animals in nature and how they react to different external elements can help photographers carefully plan their photographs.

Questions to constantly think about include how fast is the animal moving, the distance from the animal, and how much light is in the scene.

This shot of the Iconic Bear 610 and her cubs was taken at a very fast shutter speed of 1/2,000 to ensure sharpness at a shooting distance of 483 mm . Canon EOS 6D

Tips and Tricks for Getting Clear Action Photos and Amazing Wildlife Shots

As mentioned before, shutter speed and aperture are paramount for capturing crisp action photography. Raising the shutter speed and adjusting the aperture can help to suspend the subject’s motion in your photograph. Turning on continuous shooting mode can also let photographers capture moving subjects, offering multiple results. Utilizing the center focal point will also help to keep focused on the subject, and shutter priority mode will allow photographers complete control of their camera’s shutter speed.

Action photographers should shoot for high shutter speeds to capture a crisp suspended motion photograph. Therefore, 1/500 should be considered the minimum for action photography, though speeds of 1/1000 and higher are preferred. Remember that you may have to adjust your camera’s ISO to accommodate the higher shutter speeds.

Astrophotography - Action Photos of The Night Sky

Are photographs of the night sky Action Photos? The answer is Yes! Absolutely! Few natural scenes can evoke more awe and inspiration than that of the night sky. Whether you’re capturing images of the Milkyway, the North Star, star trails, a comet, a full moon, and eclipse. or a wide-angle shot of the core of the Milky Way, night sky photography can incredibly exciting for both hobbies and professional photographers alike.

Because the Earth is constantly rotating, certain considerations need to be made when capturing images of the night sky.

What Camera Settings Do You Need for Night Sky Photography?

Your camera settings will vary depending on your subject. The exposure time, aperture, and ISO required for photographing stars is not the same as those required for photographing the moon. As a general rule of thumb,
these are the best settings for the following conditions.

Settings to Photograph the Stars and Milkway

Exposure time (shutter speed): 8 seconds to 20 seconds
Aperture (f-stop number): f/2.8
ISO (sensor speed): 3200-10,000
Manual focus

Settings to Photograph Star Trails

Exposure time (shutter speed): 32 minutes
Aperture (f-stop number): f/16
ISO (sensor speed): 400
Manual focus

Settings to Photograph The Moon

Exposure time (shutter speed): 1/250th of a second
Aperture (f-stop number): f/11
ISO (sensor speed): 100
Manual focus

Understanding Action Photography with Ryan Smith Fine Art & ICON Photo Tours and Workshops

For photographers looking to make the most of their photography, Ryan
Smith Fine Art has a unique opportunity to learn more about the camera.
Ryan Smith has nurtured a love and understanding of nature photography
and offers a variety of Utah photography workshops for all levels of
photography. Ryan Smith’s ICON Workshops have featured stunning scenery
from the Colorado mountains to the Kauai beaches. So if you’re sick of
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