Sports Photography Tips - Shutter Speeds.

Sports photography example of white water canoe action. The shutter speed is one of your most powerful creative tools. You can select a slow speed for enhancing your composition with blur or you can select a fast speed to freeze the action. For a sports photographer a fast shutter speed begins around 1/500th second and can extend up to and beyond 1/8000th of a second. To ensure the sport is caught completely without blur then anything above 1/1000th of a second is required. Amazingly even at 1/500th the arm of a table tennis player hitting the ball would be blurred so freezing that requires a much faster speed nearer to 1/1000th.

As a sports photographer you should ensure you are able to explore the possibilities of the opposite end of the shutter speed scale too. You can get most creative with slower speeds. The lower speed will induce blur which brings an element of movement to your photograph. A typical slow speed might be 1/60th or less but ‘slow’ can depend very much on what you are photographing. For example if you are photographing a runner from the side of the track, pan the camera with the subject and use a shutter speed like 1/30th of a second. (We will come to panning again later.) The subject will be reasonably sharp and the background will be blurred. It looks great! However if you are panning with a racing car then your pan will be a lot faster and therefore a faster shutter speed will be used such as 1/60th.

Sports photography example of panned sports car. There is nothing to stop you going really slow, down to say 1/10th for the racing car, or even slower, however this is a very hit-and-miss technique so you will take lots of pictures that look awful.

The motorsport image here is a great example of a panned image shot using a slow shutter speed. See how the background streaks in line with the direction of the pan and the subject remains reasonably sharp. The shutter used here is 1/13th of a second and an aperture of f32 in order to exploit that large pan and blur.

Get this technique right and it looks brilliant but prepare to keep at it as practice makes perfect. As an example I might shoot ten images and one will be sharp. For the effect to work the subject has to be really sharp from front to back and the panned background blurred. (Although sometimes a little blur in the subject can also look good.)

Quick Tip
Practice with different shutter speeds to see how each one give you a varying amount of blur. About 1/125th is a good place to start and work down to say 1/10th of a second. Use shutter priority on your camera to allow you to set the shutter speed and the camera to set the aperture. You may have to check your camera's manual to see how to do that.

If you enjoyed this article why not take a look at our next article, Know Your Sport - Click Here.

Remember to always think safety first when you're out shooting sports. Never put yourself or others in danger and always observe all safety notices and instructions.

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