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Guide to shooting action shots

Whether you’re photographing your kids’ soccer game or just taking pictures of your family playing at the park, action shots can be difficult at first. By adjusting your camera settings and following these basic tips, however, you can take beautiful action shots every time.

Action shot of girl on swing

Do’s and don’ts

Erin Myers of Erin N. Myers Photography offers these pointers on taking action shots:

  • Do learn your camera, read the manual and experiment. Knowing how to use your camera will help you in the long run. Learn what settings work best when photographing high-speed targets.
  • Do practice. No one can take perfect photos on her first run. Action shots are difficult because losing sight of your subject is easy, and focusing on a moving target is difficult. Practice on your kids playing outside or even passing cars.
  • Don’t get discouraged. If you find yourself wanting to give up, take a deep breath and take a break. Come back and look at it from a different angle.
  • Don’t be timid. Have confidence in yourself, and it will show in your photos.

Tricks and secrets

Play around with your camera to find the optimal settings for action shots. You will need to adjust the shutter speed to capture clear photos. Generally, a shutter speed of 1/250 second or faster will allow you to take quality action shots. If your shutter speed is still too slow, increase the ISO level on your camera as well to improve the quality. When you are taking action shots, press the shutter button when your subject is at the peak of movement. At this millisecond, there is usually a brief freeze of motion.

Arieanna Schweber, mother of two-year-old Aiden, offers this advice:

“Take lots of photos! Since you’re shooting digital, there is no such thing as ‘too many’ photos. Even with quick cameras, some shots may be blurry or poorly lit. More photos equal more chances of getting the right shot. If I’m shooting an action shot of my son, I try to stay in a fixed position (as much as possible) so that my body movement is not another factor affecting the photo.

“I find action shots difficult to capture indoors because our lighting is not great. When the lighting is poor, the camera has to work harder to focus, and often the quality comes out a lot worse or the camera gets slowed down so I don’t even get the shot. For action indoors, I mostly use the flash on the DSLR or take video on my iPhone instead.”

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Tips from the pros

For the best action shots, consider upgrading your camera if you normally use a point-and-shoot. “If you are looking for a simple-to-use DSLR, I recommend the Nikon D3000,” explains Myers. “It’s great for beginners because it is pretty simple and it has a guide function that explains the basics for shooting in the non-auto modes. The image quality is very good, especially with upgraded lens options.”

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Watch: How to back up digital photos

There was one advantage to storing photos in a shoebox: You didn’t have to worry about a computer crash wiping them out.

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