I love motorsport and I love photography – so combining the two makes me smile. But when I first started to take shots of cars whizzing past at high speed, I wasn’t always pleased with the results.
The problem back then was I didn’t fully understand what was happening in front of me – and that meant the photos sometimes lacked that certain something. Let me give you some examples. Perhaps a GT car would go by at 150mph+, yet in the photo looked like it was parked, stationery on the track! Or a car or two would have a bit of an incident and leave the track, maybe having hit each other first and the shot would lack clarity and sharpness.
So what was going wrong? Well a couple of things perhaps. Shutter speed is all important when it comes to action shots – doesn’t have to be cars! In order to convey motion in the shot, sometimes you need to slow the shutter speed down a bit – and that means taking control, using the shutter priority mode. Using the sports mode on most cameras means a fast shutter speed is selected – and that freezes the action – sometimes that’s what you want, sometimes it’s not. By using shutter priority, you’re in control. You’ll need to experiment – a car going by at 120mph needs a different shutter speed to one travelling at say 40mph into a corner. The effect you’re looking for is to introduce some motion blur, maybe in the wheels, or the background.
If you’re trying to capture the action when things go wrong, often you’ll want a faster shutter speed so you can freeze the action and see what’s going on – for example gravel flying all over the place as a car hits the gravel traps.
The main thing I found, was to experiment, try things out. Take a shot, preview it on the camera and think what else could you change to improve the shot next time.
Shutter speeds, shutter priority, motion blur and freezing the action are all covered on our Getting Started course and further expanded upon in our Next Steps course.