"Always try to fill the frame with the action you are trying to capture – this way the pictures will be more dynamic."
Bob Martin shares his Top Tips for shooting Action & Movement Photography:
Always try to fill the frame with the action you are trying to capture – this way the pictures will be more dynamic. Obviously you don’t want to crop off the edge of your subject or miss the ball or even their fingers or toes! You will find if you practice shooting pictures really big in the frame you will improve your ability to compose quickly whilst under pressure.
As a basic rule try to use a shutter speed of no less than 1/1600th second if you want to really freeze the action in your pictures. If the action is coming straight towards you, you can in most cases drop down to 1/800th.
Shoot with the widest aperture your lens has - your Nikon camera has an amazing autofocus system that can handle this and you will find the subject will stand out far more using limited depth of field.
If you need to shoot in bad light or indoors don’t be afraid to use a high ISO the latest Nikon Cameras are amazingly good in low light. I frequently shoot in excess of 4000ISO with my D4s. In full sunlight as well, if I need a really high shutter speed or loads of depth of field on occasion I have shot at up to 800ISO.
Follow the action in your viewfinder and shoot the pictures gently, continue to follow the action after you press the shutter it will improve your framing. If you try to grab a shot you will miss the shot, Sports Photography is not all about instant reactions, it is far more about timing.
Get a telephoto or long zoom lens! A telephoto will get you closer to the action, the 400mm is the most used lens for most professional sports photographers. This is mainly because it gets you closer to the subject out on the field.
Don’t feel you have to take every shot on a telephoto; if you can get close to the subject practice shooting filling the frame on a wide angle - it can really produce dramatic pictures! I ended up using a fisheye to shoot Bobsleigh at the last Winter Olympics - the crowd was leaning in towards the course so to crop them out I had to be close and the distortion of the fisheye accentuated the curve of the track which helped the picture.
Don’t forget “sense of place” or your surroundings; so many Photographers only shoot clinical action with neutral backdrops , these pictures could be from anywhere or in fact from nowhere! For instance the best pictures from the Olympics illustrate Usain Bolt winning at the Olympics, not just winning a race.
When shooting sports like tennis, try to time your shot as the ball arrives into the frame rather than as the player hits the ball. You will get far more frames with the ball in your pictures and the best frame is either just before they hit or as they hit!
Backgrounds! The final tip and the most important: when you choose where to take your picture from, choose either a neutral clean or dark background or a backdrop that complements your subject, shoot an action picture as a moment in a landscape! At some football matches I look at the photographers sitting behind the goal and despair, “because that is where most of the action is...” Not if the stand behind is ugly or in the sunlight when the match is in shadow! Less is more unless your background choice is good you will never have the chance to produce a really “great” picture, so why shoot it!