How To Create Action In A Photo

Action photographs are amongst the most compelling. Without much forethought on your part, you can create an image that has drama, movement and a little story in it. Instead of having to plan and set up a shot, you ostensibly just show up and snap away. That is somewhat true but a gross simplification, too. Taking action photos does take some forethought, but you don’t have control over the final outcome. In many ways, this makes it much more exciting and challenging.


In fact, it is so exciting that photographers have developed two distinct ways of creating photos that have action in them.


Single photographs of an action

This is the traditional action photograph that lends so much vibrancy to newspapers’ and websites’ written coverage of sport and other events. To create great action photos you need knowledge of the event you’re capturing, solid photography technique and pure dumb luck. You need to know the event you’re covering well because you actually need to start taking the photograph before the event happens, to give your camera time to react. You also need to have solid photography techniques down, so you can prepare your camera settings – and yourself – before things get started. After all, if you are covering a horse racing event, you don’t want to have to look away to change things on your camera or bring it up to your eye after the horses start running. If you do, you’ll miss everything.


Ultimately, though, it is down to a combination of luck and experience. You have to get your camera set, be ready to go as soon as the action starts, then take hundreds of photos and hope some of them work. As you get more experience photographing action, though, more and more of them will work. You will begin to have a sense of where the right places part of the equation is. You will also get an idea of when things are about to get interesting. Finally, you will have a good instinct about whether to use a fast shutter speed to freeze the subject in place or a slow shutter speed to blur the image and give a sense of quick movement. You can also get a crisp shot of the subject but a blurred background by lowering the shutter speed and turning at the waist to track the subject with your camera. If done right, the subject will be crisp and clear, whilst the background reflects the speed of its movement.


Layering a series of photos into one image

This technique creates an image that shows how the subject has moved through the space, like a time lapse video but as a static image. To do this, you need to know how to use photo editing software like Photoshop or GIMP, an open source program, and you need to take a series of photographs using your camera’s burst setting. This setting will take a series of images rapidly, so you can capture all the movement of a particular event.


In your photo editing program, create a canvas that is twice the height of your images and as long as all of the images in the sequence lined up next to each other. Then start placing the images, with the first image in the first layer, the second in the second and so on. Line up the images using the horizon or other fixed points as a reference. The easiest way to do this is to place all the images down. Make the first layer completely opaque, then set the second image to 50% transparency and make all the other images invisible. Line up the first and second image to your satisfaction, and repeat until all the images are aligned.


Now it’s time to cut and assemble the image. Set the second image to 50% transparent, the first to opaque and the others to clear. Cut away from the second image, sticking as close to the subject as possible while also ensuring there is no empty gap between the images. You can also set your eraser to 50% and blend the images together. Repeat the steps until all the images are blended together, and play around until you get the look you like.


With both of these techniques, you too can create photographs that simply explode with action. You can see some more examples of some great action photography below:


My author bio can be found below:

Claire writes for Print Express, a leading printing specialist based in the UK. Claire is a budding photographer, and enjoys experimenting with Photoshop.


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