Thinking before you shoot can give you better pictures
ction photography needs instant reflexes and gives you no time to think – if you pause to ponder, you’ll miss the shot (and probably the ones that follow it, too). You might think, then, that this is the one time when auto exposure will always be best.
That’s not necessarily the case. You can get the same kind of exposure problems in a sports stadium as you do in a portrait shoot or a landscape. Quite often you’ll be shooting players in bright sunlight against a background in shadow, or vice versa.
Your camera’s exposure system may be able to cope with fast-moving subjects, but it won’t always be consistent. The camera will recalculate the exposure for every shot, even in the split second between frames when you’re capturing a high-speed burst, and if you leave it on auto you will often see differences in exposure between the frames, where the size or position of the player against the background has altered.
If you switch to manual and measure the exposure carefully before you start, the
Avariations between shots as your subjects move around won’t happen. As long as the lighting conditions don’t change, the player will always be correctly exposed regardless of what’s in the background.
The situation is different, of course, if the light on your subject is changing during the sequence. Your subject might move from light in the centre of the pitch to shade closer to the stands, say, and in this instance autoexposure may prove the better option. The important thing, though, is to assess the conditions before you start. The camera doesn’t always know what’s best, and manual mode may be the smarter option.
Your camera’s exposure system may be able to cope with fast-moving subjects, but it won’t always be consistent
Check your speed
There is another good reason for shooting in manual – it gives you direct control over the shutter speed, and this is important. A fast shutter speed can ‘freeze’ any movement in your subject so that every detail is crystalclear, but you can also use slower shutter speeds to ‘pan’ with your subject and blur the background, creating a sense of motion.
You could take control of the shutter speed by switching to S, or shutter-priority mode, but most pros prefer manual because they can control exactly how the subject will appear from one shot to the next and they aren’t relying on the camera’s interpretation of the lighting conditions.