Hi, I’m Kira DeDecker (“key-ra dee-decker”) and I’m a pet photographer serving Arizona’s greater Phoenix Metro area. Welcome to my blog! This is where I share not only my most recent work but also my life with you. Client sneak peeks, Facebook recaps, announcements, updates, awesome new offerings and the occasional (okay, frequent) story about my crazy but amazing life with my three dogs – Sox, Bixby and Waffles.

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December 17, 2012

Shooting Action and Moving Subjects

050212_0934-Edit I would say the three most frequent questions I get asked is 1.) How I post process 2.)What lenses do I use and 3.) How do I shoot action. I see the same things pop up when people ask about capturing moving subjects — What camera settings, Shutter speed, etc etc etc. There is no one setting to getting those great actions shots but rather it’s a matter of having your settings right, a firm understanding of photography basics and lots and lots of practice.

(Note: These techniques work best for those who know how operate their cameras and have a firm understanding on shutterspeed/apature/ISO dynamic as well as focal planes. I don’t say that because I’m sort of elitist but because this particular technique rely on the user using a mode other than Auto. If you are you just starting out in your photography journey and don’t know how to use manual mode on your camera, I suggest starting with the Action mode on your camera.)
041312_2163-Edit-Edit

My first step is to change my autofocus mode to AI-Servo. I typically shoot in One Shot but change it over to AI Servo when working with action/moving subjects because it keeps the focus active so it can track a moving subject.

I make sure my camera is set to High-Speed Burst Mode. This enables me to hold down my shutter and take multiple shots in a row to capture the ongoing movement. This lets me to a get a series of images of my subject moving, the end result is kind of like a flip-book.

I pick my focus point, usually the dog’s eye/face. I NEVER EVER let my camera choose focus for me. I also don’t focus and recompose, the action is too fast for that (plus, I’ve never been a big fan of that technique but that probably has something to do with me starting with macro photography and having to deal with very narrow focal planes).

The key to freezing the action, is of course, shutter speed. For action, I don’t even begin to feel comfortable until I’m around 1/1000 sec with the sweet spot usually being in the 2000-5000 range.

Then I focus with my Back Button (AF-ON), I keep holding it down to focus (this is where AI Servo comes into play since it will keep the focal point active) while pressing my shutter button to take my photos. Back Button Focusing separates the shutter release from the focusing mechanism. I love BBF, so my camera is always set to BBF for my day to day work.

I anchor myself someone where with good light and catch the action around me. I only move in-between a series of shots. I don’t move with my subject – running while trying to photograph a moving subject is a recipe for disaster – for me at least. Safety first.

When choosing a lens for shooting action, I need to keep in mind how fast it focuses. For instance, I love my 50mm 1.4 lens for portrait work, but it’s not quite fast enough for action – for that I use my 85mm or 16-35mm 2.8L lens. When choosing lenses, it’s important to choose what works for you and your needs.

As for aperture, I like to shoot pretty open but that’s just how I like to shoot. For a single subject, I will be in the 1.8 – 2.8 range, for multiple subjects, it will be higher/narrower. When starting out, sometimes it helps to start with a narrow aperture (bigger DOF), since you will have less room for error.

Keep in mind that every lens has it’s own Minimum Focal Distance. If a subject gets to close to the lens, it won’t be able to find its focus and things in that range will be blurry (every lens has a different min focal distance).

And there you have it. Those are the basics of how I shoot action. As you can see, action shots are the perfect union between equipment and photography skills. I realize that all the lingo and jargon I used was Canon so if any Nikon users want to chime in with Nikon terms, that would be awesome. Curious about something? Feel free to ask – leave a comment or contact me.

  1. Reena

    December 17th, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Great tutorial!!!

  2. Amy Gahan

    March 16th, 2013 at 5:21 am

    I love your photography and your blog so much!

  3. Kira DeDecker Photography | For the Love of Dog

    March 19th, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    Thank you! Stop by anytime!

  4. Lisa Prince Fishler

    September 24th, 2013 at 1:57 am

    Sheez, Kira, that pic of the dog shaking off the water is beyond spectacular!!! Nice shot!!!

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Kira DeDecker is an on-location lifestyle pet photographer specializing in one-of-a-kind fine art and modern portraits. She works exclusively with dogs, cats and all other four legged creatures to create vibrant, quirky and soulful works of art.She also photographs needy animals pro-bono for non-profit animal organizations (like Cavalier Rescue USA).

Kira DeDecker Photography is a editorial and commercial pet photographer based in Glendale AZ and serves the Metro Phoenix area (Scottsdale, Peoria, Phoenix, Suncity, Surprise, Goodyear, Avondale and Tempe) and beyond.

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Kira DeDecker | info@kiradedecker.com | Arizona Pet Photography