You will probably recognize it, I also suffer from this, so you are not alone: if you are going to take pictures you actually want different pictures than everyone else is taking. You always want to keep growing and always getting better.
Last days I was a photographer at a training camp for football players with the aim of laying the foundation to reach the first division. Given the high ambitions, things went fast in the matches. And I wanted to capture that.
I chose to shoot parts of the game with a low shutter speed and not to freeze all the action, but to give the action much more dynamics and speed. Photos that are different, that stand out. And that give you a feeling of speed in your stomach.
Because photography is emotion, just like sport. And that combination is strong.
In this email I explain what I do and how I achieve the dynamics in the photos. Unfortunately, photography is not just applying a few settings to your camera, but it is trying, experimenting and then achieving real results.
We start with a basic principle of photography. Because we are going to work with blur and there is 1 rule that is essential here: if you have blur in your photo, you must also have sharpness somewhere in your photo, where your eye can go. If there is no sharpness in your photo, your eye has no rest and the photo is often seen as a failure.
On the other hand, if you have action in your photo and everything is frozen, that is sometimes very nice, but sometimes the photo is not good.
Do you ever look at the Perfect Picture? Both this season and last season photos with a helicopter (this year at the rescue brigade and last year at the army mission) were seen as less successful, because the blades were frozen and showed no movement.
I used this principle with the football players, but then we go a step further than with the helicopter photos.
Let me explain how I went about this:
First of all, I set my camera to autofocus continues or AI servo. I have fast running football players where the distance from my subject to my camera is constantly different. So the autofocus really has to keep following the football players when I half-press my shutter button.
I would like to shoot a number of photos at the same time/one after the other during an action. So I also set my camera to continues high (taking pictures in quick succession when I hold the button).
In addition, I have to determine how fast the shutter speed is. I have to find the 'golden' shutter speed here: fast enough to freeze my subject, slow enough to blur the rest with movement. However, there is no standard shutter speed for this, but this is pure trial and error.
Here's how I did it: I used my telephoto lens (70--200) to get a little closer to the action. Of course I can't go into the field. Then I went to look. I want to apply the technique of pulling along. What this is?
With panning you follow the movement of your subject from left to right or right to left. I know this doesn't work if a subject is moving towards or away from you. Angled towards you is also very difficult. So preferably from left to right or vice versa.
I started with a shutter speed of 1/100. And first start to see for myself how it feels. I've set my autofocus to 9 points here, 1 main point and 8 assist points around it. And I try to keep the main point on the football player on the ball, I half press the button (back button focus is also allowed, but if I have to use 2 fingers during fast sports then I get an error in my head).
And I notice that my camera gets a workout, keeps adjusting the focus and keeping my subject sharp. That's going in the right direction.
It is essential to precisely follow the speed of the player with the camera. So I keep my focus point right on this player (challenge). However, if the player suddenly jumps, then I know that I am getting movement because I do go from left and right, but also going up at that exact moment, that does not work, then I am always too late.
And then it's time for the first series. I look around and wait for a player to speed up from one side to the other and...click..click...click..click..click. The first series of photos is on it.
Now it is important to check the sharpness. I look at the player the focus was on. I see blurry, blurry, sharp, blurry, sharp. I know I have to throw away most of the photos because the players don't have fixed patterns and are therefore quite often out of focus,
In my All About Photography workshop I show this technique extensively in the video lesson at Schiphol and at a car race. There the planes and the cars always have the same route and I can predict exactly how they will go. There I know that I will come home with many more perfect photos.
I always check the sharpness at 100% zoom in on my display, because without zooming in everything is sharp... until I get home and then everything is out of focus. Recognizable?
The solution: zoom in and check.
I repeat the series one more time with 1/25 and the result is almost the same. If I go faster then I have more sharp footballers but much less dynamics of movement. If I go slower, I don't have a single photo sharp. So I quickly found the sweet spot of 1/100 or 1/125.
I keep shooting series and I'm happy with the result. I don't have to supply 10,000 photos, if I supply 10 photos for the football magazine that contain a lot of dynamics, then the client is satisfied.
I apply this technique alternately in a number of competitions, so the magazine has the choice between completely frozen or very dynamic photos. Mission accomplished.