5 Tips for Action Sports Photography

Today’s post comes courtesy of Josh Miller, a Columbus-based visual artist and marketing consultant. He was introduced to photography in 2002 through action sports. He has taken photos for Guitar Center, Zumba Fitness, & Wal-Mart Soundcheck via Lunchbox to name a few. When Josh isn’t shooting commercial work or directing music videos he can be found in the Grandview Heights area spending time with his wife and 5-year-old son. You can follow Josh on Twitter and Instagram. The original post can be found here.

Action sports is what got me into photography. I owe everything about my career to the 20″ bicycle. I began shooting with disposable cameras in 2002 as a way to get photos of my friends to put up on a website that started as a free Geocities site, originally at LostBmx.tk, then .net, and finally .com. Eventually I upgraded to a Nikon FM10 film camera and a Kodak EasyShare point-and-shoot digital camera. Over the years I experimented a lot with lighting, shutter speeds, and framing. Below are a few photos I’ve taken, followed by 5 tips and techniques to help you out when shooting action sports.

Photo by Josh Miller
Photo by Josh Miller
Photo by Josh Miller
Photo by Josh Miller
Photo by Josh Miller
Photo by Josh Miller
Photo by Josh Miller
Photo by Josh Miller
Photo by Josh Miller
Photo by Josh Miller

#01. Framing: I always try to position my subject so that they aren’t getting lost in the background. If you are getting a shot of someone doing a gnarly trick in the air then it might be safe to have them frozen in the sky, free from trees and buildings. A lower angle will help with this and will also make the subject appear to be going higher. You also want to think about where your subject is going to be when you take the shot. Keep everything balanced.

#02. Lighting: Lighting is extremely important in all aspects of photography and video. Without light you have no image. Riding in the Ohio summer is a little easier to do at night. Humidity here can suck so we rode in the evenings and late into the night quite a bit. Lighting was definitely something I started experimenting with early on. My favorite lighting set-up is a 2-3 point lighting system with a key light (main light that illuminates the subject), a rim light (light from the side/behind the subject to separate them from the background), and a fill light if needed to help with some of the dark areas of the overall image. Also, pay attention to your flash duration. The amount of time it takes for a flash to fire completely can affect those high speed action shots. Get a flash that has the quickest flash duration you can find. I use a pair of older-style Quantum flashes with their battery packs and they work great. I also just purchased two LumoPro LP180s and I’m excited to get them out for a few action sessions.

#03. Know your sport: I didn’t start out timing my shots perfectly. You have to give it time to get a feel for the sport you are shooting. After a while it will be obvious when the best time is to hit the shutter on certain tricks. So read up on your sport before shooting it.

#04. Analyze where you are going to be shooting: I always pack light when I’m riding. If you’re shooting an action sport then you will more than likely be traveling from spot to spot. I ended up on the other side of a lot of “No Trespassing” signs and bringing a huge set-up of studio lights and modifiers wouldn’t have been wise when the police started showing up. Not to mention you definitely don’t want to be trekking up a mountain with 5 cases of gear to shoot some snow sports.

#05. Don’t forget to capture the good times: The action shots are what people love, but you can’t forget about the moments in between. You’ll notice above I have a shot of my dude Rob doing a footjam on a little street quarter. The very next shot is him just taking a break, enjoying the day. Those are the shots that help tell the story: searching for the perfect spot, having fun with your friends, and the determination it takes to land something you’ve never done. So keep shooting, before and after the action.

Want to write for the MPEX Experience? Email Michael with some article ideas!

Midwest Photo

What Do You Think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s