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Taking Action Photographs: How to Take a Great Action Shot

By Edited May 19, 2016 1 2

Action Shots

If you are struggling with how to take action shots on your digital camera then hopefully I can give you a few tips to improve your pictures.

It can be frustrating when trying to capture a great action photo only to discover that on review you've missed it, and the shot is lost forever. Whether it's your child's first soccer goal, a car speeding round the race track or even a nature shot of a deer mid jump, action shots need to capture the moment exactly or the results are less than desirable.

Hopefully this article will steer you towards better pictures and more enjoyment from using your camera.


Shutter Lag

The first thing that you are going to have to become aware of is the concept of shutter lag. Shutter lag is the time is takes between you pressing the shutter button to take a photo, and the camera actually capturing the shot. It is not uncommon on some digital cameras for the shutter lag time to be around one second whereas  a good camera has a shutter speed of 1/8000 of a second. This can be the difference between catching a stunt plane mid barrel-roll and a great shot of the empty clear blue sky.

It is common knowledge amongst professional sports photographers that if you see a shot in the viewfinder then you'll have already missed it. You have to anticipate the shot you want coming and time the photo so you press BEFORE the perfect action shot it there. This is where one part of skill comes in to being a good photographer.

You also need to get use to your own camera. Play around with it. Practice taking action shots of slow-moving objects like ducks swimming in a pond before moving on to that Nascar rally shot that always alludes you.

Write Times

Another aspect of photography that will need to be taken into account is that of write time.

The write time of the camera is the time it takes to store that image just taken in the memory of the camera.  Some cameras are like an old man climbing uphill on a hot day i.e painfully slow. They will clung and click and whirl and beep away in order to store a picture in memory each time you press the shutter button. While the camera is doing this your missing all the action.

If your camera is like this then it is going to be a disaster for your action shots. With this sort of camera you will probably only have one chance to grab the shot before the action has moved on.


One way to improve this is to get a device that allows continuous shots. With this sort of camera a certain number, say 5 shots, are allowed to be taken before they are all stored to the memory at once. So with this you actually take five photos in quick succession of your desired subject before being forced to stop which means that you have a greater chance of catching that all important action shot.

It's possible that four could have missed the action but there may be one in there that captures the moment perfectly.


In summary,

1. Get a camera with a low shutter lag time

2. Get a camera that has low write time

3. Get a camera that allows a number of continuous shots before saving onto the memory

4. Take five or six shots one after the other. Five of the photos may turn out horribly but the sixth might be a classic.

5. Practice

6. Don't give up



May 3, 2012 6:33am
Taking action photographs is difficult, but your article will be of great help. Thumbs up!
May 3, 2012 6:51am
Cheers. It is quite difficult. Usually you think you've grabbed a great shot and in actuality you've missed it, and when you think you've not got anything great you find you've caught a brilliant shot in amongst the average photos.
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