As featured in the Peoples' Post - 27 March 2012

Hanging out of the side of a helicopter taking photos for a client, or trying to get a steady pic from the window of a car while game spotting, you need to operate your camera at higher shutter speed. 

School in Cape Town taken from a helicopter at 900 feet 

Most cameras have settings that allow control of exposure time or shutter speed. This is the length of time, in thousands of a second.e.g. a common speed of 125 means one 125th of a second, or 1000 means one 1000th of a second. Do not confuse this with sensor or ISO speed, the direct analogy of film speed. They are however complementary.

  • Advanced cameras allow the exposure to be directly set, but even
  • Others, including basic digicams have a ‘fast’ or sports setting to be used when you want to freeze the action. Check yours out, often denoted by a running man icon.

Use the “sports” setting when you want to freeze the action or at any time that you are shooting from an unsteady surface. An important tip is that then using this feature, lens focus becomes critical. Where possible, set your camera to focus in the centre of the field of view. High shutter speed generally means large aperture and low depth of field (more next time).

If the subject is moving across your field of vision, it may be necessary to pan the action. This is when you gently swivel your body while holding the camera steady, to keep the moving object in the centre of your lens. When this happens, the object remains in focus, while the background blurs - creating the effect of movement in the photo.

This is the most basic lesson in sports photography. As with everything, there are other techniques available at a more advanced level.


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