Tutorial for Action or Sports Photography

In order to avoid blury photos when shooting sport or fast moving action, pay attention to the shutter speed you are using. It is the length of time the shutter remains open. If it is slow, your subject will be blury. You need to have a plan. Being familiar with the sport will help you choose the best place. You need to know in advance what and how you are going to shoot. When choosing your location, keep the sun behind you. To get closer to the action a telephoto zoom lens is very helpful.

Set your camera to a Sport mode or dial the right shutter speed manually in the shutter priority mode. 1/500 of a second should work for most sports. In low light situations use higher ISO (the sensitivity of your camera) but be aware of grainy images that may result from high ISO settings. Also it is a good idea to use a continuos shooting mode to capture a series of frames at a high speed.

Another useful technique for photographing fast moving objects like racing cars is panning. You move your camera steadily as the subject moves. Jasin Boland gives advice to prefocus your camera on the ground, in place where you expect the subject will get to. Set the manual focus for that. Stay loose but hold the camera as stable as you can trying to avoid any vibration.

Another tip is to shoot in horizontal orientation of your camera.

How to Shoot Portraiture with One Light

Studio photography can get quite complicated. Using just one light source for your portraits will make it simplier. You can place a large soft box close to the wall so that some light is reflected from the wall to the model. The aperture setting is set to f9 or f11 because the photographer is using a 200 mm lens. This aperture will allow the model to be in focus.

With one light what you see is what you get. If you place the soft box at 45 degrees and install a reflector on the other side of the model, there will be no harsh shadows on her face. Another way is to use a diffuser which softens the light coming to the model and leaving the intensity of light on the background. Also add a big reflector and you will have three lights portrait with just one light source.

Everything You Wanted to Know about Lenses

First of all there is no such thing as a perfect lens. If it were, it would have been too heavy to carry around and too expensive. So you must understand what your needs are and choose your lenses accordingly.

The main characteristic of any lens is its focal length, which ranges from really wide angle to telephoto. Also lenses can be zoom or prime ones. A zoom allows to change the focal length from wide to narrow angle. Prime lenses are usually less expensive and have a fixed focal length which means that if you want your subject be bigger in the frame you have to physically move closer to the subject.

Another point for consideration is image stabilization feature. If you do not plan carrying a tripod, a lens with built-in image stabilization (IS) can serve you a good job by reducing micro shaking of your hands. However please note that this technology fights with your own movements. If you are shooting a fast moving object, it will not help to get a sharp image.

For fast moving objects you need a faster shutter speed to freeze your subject. For this and for low light situations you need to use a lens that opens wide and allows more light to hit your camera sensor. It is called aperture and it can be 2.8 or even less. If you compare Canon 70-200 f4 to 70-200 f2.8 you will see that the latter is significantly bigger, heavier and more expensive. Prime lenses' aperture can be as low as 1.4 or 1.2.

Another important point is to pay attention to the material the lens is made of. Some cheap lenses have the plastic mount ring that is attached to the camera and it will not last long if you keep changing lenses. More expensive lenses feel much more solid and partly are made of metal.

Speaking of quality, some lenses come as weather sealed which will enable you to use it under rain for example.

Check the speed of lens focusing as some lenses may focus faster than the others. Every maker has an ultra sound range of lenses which means their motor rotates much faster and thus faster focusing.

For portrait photography bokeh is important. Bokeh is the shape of the blured light in out-of-focus areas of an image. It is affected by the number of lens' aperture blades and their shape.

Lens Focal Length*TerminologyTypical Photography
Less than 21 mmExtreme Wide AngleArchitecture
21-35 mmWide AngleLandscape
35-70 mmNormalStreet & Documentary
70-135 mmMedium TelephotoPortraiture
135-300+ mmTelephotoSports, Bird & Wildlife

*Note: Lens focal lengths are for 35 mm equivalent cameras.

3 Tricks to Correct White Balance

White balance (WB) is the process of removing unrealistic color casts, so that objects which appear white in person are rendered white in your photo. Proper camera white balance has to take into account the "color temperature" of a light source, which refers to the relative warmth or coolness of white light.  Our eyes are very good at judging what is white under different light sources, however digital cameras often have great difficulty with auto white balance (AWB).

An incorrect WB can create unsightly blue, orange, or even green color casts, which are unrealistic and particularly damaging to portraits.  Performing WB in traditional film photography requires attaching a different cast-removing filter for each lighting condition, whereas with digital this is no longer required.  Understanding digital white balance can help you avoid color casts created by your camera's AWB, thereby improving your photos under a wider range of lighting conditions.

Color TemperatureLight Source
1000-2000 KCandlelight
2500-3500 KTungsten Bulb (household variety)
3000-4000 KSunrise/Sunset (clear sky)
4000-5000 KFluorescent Lamps
5000-5500 KElectronic Flash
5000-6500 KDaylight with Clear Sky (sun overhead)
6500-8000 KModerately Overcast Sky
9000-10000 KShade or Heavily Overcast Sky

Photo by dear Edward

  • Most digital cameras contain a variety of preset white balances, so you do not have to deal with color temperature and green-magenta shift during the critical shot.

  • If you shoot in RAW you can always change the white balance in post processing of your image in Adobe Camera Raw for istance.

  • There is an option to use a so called gray card. You place a piece of photocopy paper for example where your subject will be located. It is important because you need the card to receive the same quality of light as will your subject. Then you shoot the card, focussing is of no importance here, and then go to your camera menu and instruct it to sample the color temperature from this image. So your custom whitebalance is set and all your next shots will have right color temperature.

How to Improve your Portraits

  1. Use at least a 6 megapixel camera

  2. Always shoot in FINE mode and save images in Jpeg or RAW if you have a DSLR

  3. Ask your subject to wear solid colors. Pattens can be distractive

  4. Shoot against a white background

  5. Lighting is very important, shoot in the room with lots of natural light coming from large windows (use them as softboxes)

  6. Edit later, spend all your time shooting and trying to get the best result with as little post processing as you can

  7. Do not move

  8. Experiment with different poses and emotions, be creative

  9. Shoot as much as possible. The more images you produce, the better chances are for good pictures.

  10. For better quality of lighting use a bounce card.