Shooting Action (ISO)

In my last blog post we talked about how to get a sharp action shot. I mentioned how to get out of auto and set your camera to Aperture Priority Mode.

We learned that getting out of auto will help you tweak your images the way would would like them to be. Plus when you start making changes as you shoot you will learn more about how the camera works.

So today we are going to talk about the third element of getting a high shutter speed to freeze the action, and it is ISO.

ISO is the measurement of how sensitive your cameras sensor is. In the film days the films sensitivity was called ASA.

Instead of film in your camera catching the light our modern day cameras use a sensor. The lower the ISO number means the sensor is less sensitive to light, and the higher the number the more sensitive to light it is. For instance if you are shooting a event outside in the day light you will want to get as low as you can with your ISO setting. In the day light your camera does not need to be as sensitive to light because there is a lot of light available. Now at night time or inside in low light you will need to crank up your ISO to help bring in as much light as you can to your cameras sensor. Remember when I said with every change there will be compromises? Well cranking up the ISO will make your images noisier than if you had a low ISO.

homer vs westhill 2013-5641

The picture above is a good example of High ISO. I had to bump up my ISO to get a descent shutter speed to catch the running back without to much blurring. I think I was up around 2000-2500 ISO in this image. You can notice how the colors are starting to get muddy and there is some noise ( grain) in this shot. Cameras are getting really good at high ISO performance, plus editing software like lightroom 5 can get a lot of the noise out with a simple slider. So don’t worry to much if you need to bump it up to get the shot. I would rather get the shot than not at all.

Ok now that you know what ISO is we can start to teach you how to use it. Like I said if your are out side in Aperture Priority Mode it should not be to hard to get a fast shutter speed. If you are shooting at f-4 f-5.6 your camera will be able to get a shutter speed up around 1000-1600 to get really sharp images. Now your ISO will probably be around 400. If you can get it lower than by all means do it.

geezers reunion 2013-3003

This image was shot last year at the Geezers Reunion at Maple Grove Raceway. It was a sunny day in Reading so I was shooting at f-4, 200 ISO and was able to get a fast shutter speed to freeze the motorcycle as it left the line. Later on in the event I had to open up my aperture to 2.8 and crank up my ISO to maintain a fast enough shutter speed to stop the action.

Inside a school gym is a brutal place to shoot without a flash. If you are inside and can’t use a flash or don’t have one open up your aperture and crank the ISO to capture some shots of your loved ones to keep for years to come.

Ok a recap a fast shutter speed will freeze the action, a low F-stop will allow a lot of light to hit your sensor, a high ISO will make you cameras sensor more sensitive to light. So if your in a good lighting situation close down your aperture a little turn down your ISO until you have a fast enough shutter speed to get the shot. Now if your in a low light situation open up your aperture and raise Your ISO just enough to keep your shutter speed at 250 or above if you can. I try to keep my ISO as low as I can, I will crank it when I need to.  Pay attention to what your camera is saying to you as you set up the shot, and adjust accordingly.


Now that you have some idea on how to freeze the action, Next time we will start to learn how to get some nice blurring in your image.

So go out and try these different settings that we just went over. Don’t give up, it will click and you will be like WOW this is easy.

Stay with it and Just Shoot!

Pleas subscribe to this blog and check out some of my Action Shots at

Take Care John




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