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Motion Photography Tips

On the Court with Chris Livingston

"I recently took the Panasonic L-1 digital SLR to the Notre Dame Men′s basketball game against the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL. Though it wasn′t my primary camera during the game it was one of the three remote cameras I used around the court to capture images I otherwise wouldn′t have been able to get. The L-1 was mounted to a simple tabletop tripod and placed on the floor directly in front of my courtside seat. I positioned the camera in the vertical positioned and aimed it at the basket as basketball players are generally tall and jump up. The Leica zoom lens was set to 16mm (the equivalent of 32mm for 35mm D-SLR). I had an assistant stand in front of the basket so I could manually focus the lens. One of the nice things about shooting basketball compared to other sports is you know exactly where the action will eventually be. One of the best tips I tell photographers who have never shot the sport is to zoom in on the rim, focus the lens (make sure to turn off the camera′s auto focus so that it won′t refocus later), zoom out and wait for the play to head to the basket.   Another tip to get good peak action in basketball is to wait until the player is about to shoot the ball to fire the shutter. Hopefully you can time it to where the ball is just leaving the shooter′s hand. I would also recommend shooting when a player misses his shot and the group huddled around the rim jump up to get the rebound. Wait until the players are at the height of their jumps to fire the shutter. This is for two reasons. First is that this is considered peak action as the person is usually stretched out trying to grab the ball. The other is that you don′t have to use as fast of a shutter speed in order to freeze the action.   My images from the game were captured with the help of using powerful flashes mounted near the rafters of the arena. This allowed me to use lower ISO (Mine was set to 200 ISO) and a smaller aperture (I had the lens set at f/5.6) for more depth of field. Try to use the fastest shutter speed and widest aperture combination that your camera and lighting scenario will allow in order to freeze the action. I would try to shoot above 1/250th of a second to limit motion blur. Play around with the settings to find what works best for you."

Kids in Snow

Kids In Snow by Russ Burden Wonderful Additions to the Family Album Birthday parties, family get-togethers, parades, kids on Halloween, weddings, graduations, cutting down a Christmas tree - these are but a few of the many events that make photography fun and rewarding. These preserved moments make for wonderful additions to the family album. Everyone has events that are special to them that make them run to a camera to capture the unfolding action. One of these for me is photographing my son when he’s playing in the snow. The following are some tips for capturing great shots of kids in snow. LET KIDS BE THEMSELVES: Try not to direct the action in that the spontaneous moment provides a better image. With this in mind, keep the camera up to your eye at all times to be ready to capture the fleeting moment. I acknowledge the fact that this may become tedious, but when you “nail it,” you’ll forget about the difficulties you endured. EXPOSURE COMPENSATION: Camera meters are calibrated to make all tones in an image have the same reflectivity as light gray. This means turning a beautiful field of white snow into a dull lackluster area of flat gray tones. In order to reproduce the snow as white, you’ll need to trick the camera’s meter to overexpose the film. Depending upon how much snow fills the frame and how bright it is, you’ll need to bias your exposure toward the plus side anywhere from one half to two stops. If the snow dominates the scene and it’s strongly lit by the sun, lean towards plus two stops. If there’s snow but also a lot of other elements that are not white, the plus one half stop should be fine. EXPERIMENT: Kids + Snow = Action! With this in mind, use techniques that portray motion. My favorite is panning the camera with the movement of the kids. If the action is very fast, start your experimenting with one sixtieth of a second. If it slows down, one fifteenth or even one eighth may produce more of a streaked background. Follow the action through after clicking the shutter as it will create a smoother effect. To learn more about this topic, join me on one of my Photographic Nature Tours. Visit and click on the NATURE TOURS button for more information. Also, pick up a copy of my new book, Amphoto’s Complete Book of Photography. You can purchase a signed copy directly from me or visit your local book store or Amazon. Contact me at to order your signed copy. Photos & text © Russ Burden, Denver DPA Instructor

Find the Less Obvious Source, and use a Tripod!

Don′t forget your tripod! Using a slow shutter speed (in this case, 3.2 seconds) you can allow the water to blur as it moves during the exposure. When you have a slowly-moving body of water, this gives you an almost glassy reflective surface, which allows for a wonderful reflection of the background, in this instance the rocky walls of an abandoned quarry. And, you can sometimes come up with a surprise, as the buildup of exposure time gives a view not seen by the naked eye. In this case, the river seems to be inhabited by a ghost who is watching me work! Can you see him? Images © Michael Hart, Houston DPA Instructor

Tips for Creating Active Summer Photos

Our contemporary lifestyles are anything but still, especially now. Summer can be the most physically active season of the year for many of us, so why not activate those summer-time photographs with a little motion-blur to convey those experiences to a viewer with a greater amount of expression? Using the property of implied motion in your photographs requires a bit more technical risk-taking in camera handling, but these images can be very rewarding. Excellent sharpness and stillness is something that most people expect to see, and what every camera manufacturer promises to deliver in a photograph. That makes sense, because as an image-saturated culture, we are conditioned to think that a still-camera is the tool for creating still pictures, whereas a motion-picture camera is the tool used for creating motion pictures. However, this rationale is just like telling a person that plays clarinet that their music sounds like a clarinet. Where in fact, if the artist knows how to control the instrument a clarinet is capable of playing in a very wide variety of genre, and a listener hears the music, not the clarinet. Musical instruments and cameras are merely high-precision, high-expense tools in which we invest time to get better at expressing ourselves with. For just a moment now, think of a recent time in which using a digital camera felt rather uneventful because the images downloaded didn’t convey the essence of what it felt like to be in the activity. Here’s my point… the next time out with the digital camera, put it into the Manual mode, and consider producing a few frames with some motion blur along with the reliable auto or program mode methods. Allowing yourself to twist the ideas of stillness and motion together, in creating a photograph, puts you on the path to creating a visual crescendo about the event. By the way, I am still looking very closely for the auto or program mode setting on my son’s clarinet. If you know where that button is, please let me know. Requirements: •  Digital SLR Camera •  Put the camera into its fully-manual mode, and have a good understanding of how the light meter functions. Being able to change the aperture and shutter speed independently allows you to control the camera, and provides an opportunity to be more creative. •  Choose the slowest-speed ISO setting available on the digital camera (usually 100). Consider Implementing One of These Techniques: •  Create motion-blur with naturally moving objects… —Tripod required. The movement of the palm trees was captured in the middle of the day by choosing a low ISO (50) and smallest-aperture opening on that lens (f/32). Using a Polarizer filter not only increases the image color saturation, it reduces the amount of light entering the lens, by 1.5 to 2 stops. Those three actions in reducing light creates the need to choose a very long shutter speed to achieve a normal exposure. In this case, the wind was strong and the exposure time was about 6 seconds long.

Fun in the Pool

Photographing kids playing in a pool can produce wonderful summer memories. If you want the images to have impact, however, crop tight, use a fast shutter speed and be ready for that decisive moment. Picking a more neutral subject with which to set your exposure is also a good idea so that the brightly reflective water and bathing suites don′t cause you meter to underexpose the shots. © Chuck Place, Los Angeles DPA Instructor

Get Great Halloween Pictures

Halloween is a great holiday for photography. Kids parade the streets in colorful costumes, decorative lights add an eerie glow to the neighborhood, festive decorations adorn houses, and groups of trick or treaters await the eager photographer ready to capture the festivities. Costume clad kids become the centers of attention as parents across the US help apply make-up, adjust a mask, engineer a make shift prop, or simply sit back and watch their kids undergo transformations from their normal beings only to be recognized by their voices. These are the moments for which photography was created. The majority of Halloween pictures are made after dark necessitating the use of flash or high ISO settings. Flash works well if the action is fast and you need to freeze the moment. If there′s a significant amount of ambient light in your home, setting the ISO on your digital camera to 800 will allow you to capture natural light shots. Light from a flash creates natural color while pictures lit with incandescent bulbs give the image an orange / yellow hue which may act to enhance the scary colors of Halloween. A photographic technique I like to use for Halloween shots is slow shutter synch with flash. In the accompanying image of my son next to the jack-o-lantern, I used a one second exposure to record the candlelight inside the pumpkin along with the lights inside the house. During the exposure I intentionally moved the camera creating the blurs of light. The reason my son is sharply recorded is I had him hold still during the exposure. The flash fired at the end of the one second exposure and recorded the sharp detail in the image.

Check Out Summer Attractions

Summer time brings plenty of opportunities for outdoor shooting. Check to see what special events are occurring in your area, such as this visit by the Columbian Navy tall ship to Baltimore, MD © Jon Canfield, DPA Seattle Instructor

Add Contrasting Elements to your Images

My husband and I went hiking in Oklahoma over the weekend and brought along the point and shoot. I was tired of lugging around gear, so we put this handy little camera in our backpack and ended up with some great images.  My husband shot many of them and he was actually pleased. He is not a photographer and is often disappointed with his results. Not this time--thanks to the great little Panasonic! All were shot on the easy auto mode... This image captures the sensory experience of a cold wind, stirring up a summer prairie. Normally, I would avoid a predictable bulls-eye composition taken at shoulder level above a fixed object—but in this case, the composition is anything but static and conventional. Why is this particular image so successful? Glorious movement! By placing the unmoving rock in the center of the viewfinder, nature’s force stirring among the flowers is magnified, as the rock anchors a whirlwind of movement and color. © 2007 Angilee Wilkerson, Dallas DPA Instructor The ambiguity inherent in an image lacking clarity and sharpness provides the viewer an experience of mystery and even a surreal intrigue. In most cases, a blurry image, lacking sharpness to serve as a resting point for the viewer’s eye, will often leave the viewer uninterested, due to an absence of visual entry into the image. This photograph’s static rock is the key to its success. This image also shows a keen eye for color: the rich greens and yellows of the moving flora are contrasted nicely against the flatness of the brown rock.  Instead of competing with each other—the flatness of the stone brings emphasis to the richness of the prairies color. We went back to the prairie the next day to find the cool wind gone: replaced with a humid heat and the  hum of honeybees collecting pollen.

Patience, Patience, Patience

Tip: Patience, patience patience. This shot began as nothing more than an idea while covering a bike race, and required waiting close to an hour for the riders to pass beneath. It was an hour spent second-guessing the decision to wait in a parking lot while the race action was going on elsewhere, but to leave would mean missing the shot. In the end it was worth the risk. After the first riders came through in a tight bunch, a second pack came along with more even spacing - perfect for adding to the symmetrical composition of the bright yellow tree against the blue sky. A pack of bicycle riders in the Tour of the Tucson Mountains pass beneath a Palo Verde tree, in its full spring bloom of yellow flowers, on Avra Valley road, north of Tucson Arizona: © 2007 Chris Richards, Phoenix DPA Instructor

Detail vs. Mood

Location: Central Park, NYC Tip:  Detail is important, but so is mood. This effect was created in camera, by choosing the right lighting, exposure & shutter speed. © 2007 Douglas Carver, New York DPA Instructor This photo was taken from the same location, minutes apart from the other Jogger 1 photo (above). Changing the exposure (less) & shutter speed (faster) yields a significantly different mood. © 2007 Douglas Carver, New York DPA Instructor

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