December 18th, 2017
by Michael Ryan
Do you have an artistic eye and want to share those unforgettable moments you see through your photography? There’s nothing more frustrating than realizing that your pictures didn’t turn out as you imagined them to be, especially if you’re photographing runners during a race. To help you out, here are six great tips for getting perfect pictures the next time you want to capture your runner in action.
Using the right shutter speed is the primary factor you need to consider when photographing runners. If your shutter speed isn’t fast enough, you’ll click blurry shots that no amount of editing will be able to fix. Begin by putting your camera into ‘Shutter Priority’ mode and then choose a shutter speed of 1/500 of a second. This should be fast enough for most races and activities.
Ideally, you should practice ahead of time using different shutter speeds on moving objects to determine the sharpness of the image before you start photographing the event you want to capture. If you can’t practice, check your pictures periodically as you’re taking them. If you spot any blurring, increase the shutter speed until you get a sharp image.
If you’re planning to photograph one runner, don’t get too ambitious and take the photograph as soon as your runner appears. Instead, wait until he or she is almost on top of you. If you get down low and wait patiently for your runner to properly fill your frame of view, you’ll have the best chance of capturing him or her in a great photo.
Since you’ll be using a fast shutter speed, your camera may have a hard time properly exposing the action to light even when you’ve fully opened the aperture. In such a scenario, the only thing you can do is increase your ISO speed, which increases the sensitivity of your camera to light. The higher the ISO speed, the less light you need for your picture. Keep in mind that you should use the lowest ISO setting you can get away with because higher ISO speeds can often lead to a noisy or “chunky,” poorer quality image. There will be instances where you should push the ISO speed higher than you would normally like, but a noisy picture is better than a blurry one.
Runners in marathons and other races can move rather quickly and may become difficult to keep up with, which is why you should use your camera’s burst mode. This is a mode that continuously shoots five to seven shots in rapid succession. This will give you a much better chance of capturing a perfect image. Just make sure you have plenty of storage on your current memory card or bring an extra card just in case because shooting with burst mode will fill your memory card much faster than taking single shots. If you find yourself running out of space, use any spare moments to get rid of the bad shots.
In most races, you won’t be able to get too close to the runners, which is why pros use such long lenses. Being far away from your subject means your flash will be useless and won’t do anything but sap your battery life, so turn it off before you start shooting. The only time your flash might prove to be somewhat helpful is if you somehow manage to get close to the action. In general, though, it's best to keep the flash off.
If you’re using your smartphone to capture shots of your runners during a race, keep in mind that smartphone cameras are not designed to capture motion and action very well. If you don’t have the option of using a high-quality camera, consider using your smartphone to capture video of the race (to get the full action) and take regular shots of your runners before and after the race.
Keeping these tips in mind, it’s time to start practicing a little so you can get the hang of taking action shots. By preparing your camera settings ahead of time and brushing up on your skills, you'll be ready to get that perfect race-day photo the next time you're out on the course.