Ready, Set…Action! | How to Begin Action Photography with Wildlife and AnimalsPosted by Sharon Billings on Mar 21, 2017 in Blog | 15 comments
First, let me say that I am certainly a work in progress when it comes to photography! I only became interested in photography a little over three years ago. This was mainly to appease my daughter who thought it would be fun for us to do a CY365 project…long distance…together. Suffice it to say, I am now thoroughly hooked.
The excellent hints, instruction, and classes through CY365 have given me an unbelievable amount of information since I purchased my first DSLR camera in late 2013. Following the daily prompts has prompted me to look at the world in a way I had never before done. However, having always been interested in nature, wildlife, and animals, I find many of my photos centering around these things.
When photographing nature, birds probably top my list! Having been an avid birdwatcher for many years, learning to photograph them is an on-going project.
Of course, birds also fly. Capturing one, or more, in flight is not so simple!
Two of the most important things things I have learned about capturing bird/animal actions are to know your camera and focus on the eye. With action, adjusting aperture, exposure, and ISO must be done quickly…all while looking through your viewfinder. It is also very helpful to set your camera in burst mode when capturing action.
Lighting, exposure settings, composition, and storytelling all play important roles in action photography.
While I love bird/animal “portraits”, I also love an action photo that tells a story. Although capturing this story behavior is very rewarding to me, it is also the most difficult. I have found it amazing to see the bird/animal expressions my camera has captured that my eye alone would never see.
Good light is extremely important because you will be shooting at high shutter speeds. For birds, I aim for a shutter speed of 1/1000 to 1/1200. With that speed, you either must have very good light or a high ISO. The best light for birds, as with most photography, is found either early in the day or later in the day. You will also find birds to be more active at these times.
For larger animals, I usually begin with a shutter speed of 1/500.
As the action increases, my shutter speed can increase to 1/800, or more.
When I am capturing bird/animal action, I have found it best to set my aperture 1/3 to 2/3 above the widest aperture of my lens. For example, if my lens has an aperture of f/4, then I would set my camera aperture to f/4.5 or f/5. Anything to let in more light!
Of course you cannot always have wonderful light to go with that high shutter speed, so a higher ISO comes into play. You will have to experiment with your particular camera to see just how high your ISO can be set without excessive graininess.
A camera good for action helps tremendously, as well as a longer lens, especially if doing bird photography. But, it is not so much the gear that captures great images, it is practice, planning, and proper execution. Beware…action photography can be very rewarding, highly addictive, and loads of fun!