HOW TO... set up your camera to photograph action sequences

Shooting sport with the Panasonic G9: Rugby

With ever-changing light and the sheer variety of subjects and scenes, photographers are accustomed to shifting their camera settings between shots to get the best possible image.

But one setting we often leave static is our camera’s Drive mode. If you shoot landscapes or still life or portraits, you probably keep your camera set to its single shot mode most of the time.

As well as preventing wasted shots and extra clutter, shooting in single shot mode preserves battery power and helps you hone your composition before pressing the shutter button.

If there is any movement in your scene, however, you’ll want to shift to your continuous shooting drive mode.

Why use continuous shooting mode?

As its name implies, your continuous shooting, or burst mode, will keep the camera firing at its designated frame rate as long as you keep your finger on the shutter button. This is handy when shooting fast-moving subjects where a decisive moment might happen in the blink of an eye, and your finger wouldn’t be fast enough to capture it in single shot mode.

Continuous shooting is the first setting sports photographers and most wildlife photographers dial in, and it’s also quite handy for portrait shoots.

If you’re photographing children, for instance, who’s expressions may change quickly and abruptly, your camera’s burst mode will enable you to capture those fleeting moments.

What frame rate should I use in burst mode?

Most cameras now will let you customise the speed of your continuous shooting rate, but the rate you choose really depends on the speed of your subject. If you’re shooting a portrait of a child like we mentioned above, choose one of your slower frame rates. A speed of 3 or 4fps is ideal.

For busy street scenes, people are moving a bit quicker. There’s more going on. So try a frame rate of 5fps.

For wildlife, it can depend on the animal. Dogs, deer, horses, big cats, for instance, a frame rate of 5-6fps will serve you well. Birds and other animals prone to sudden, quick movements, you’re better off shooting at your maximum frame rate.

For sport and any fast-moving action, dial in your maximum frame rate. There will be a lot of clutter on your memory card, but so will that one, great moment.

What shutter speed should I use in continuous shooting mode?

When shooting at higher frame rates, such as 8fps, you need to use a shutter speed that is fast enough to freeze the action. Ideally you want to shoot at 1/500sec or above.

At slower frame rates, such as in your portrait shoot, you can get away with a slower shutter speed, but you need to be careful.

Which file format should I use for action, raw or JPEG?

If you can shoot in short bursts then raw format, or raw and JPEG format is the best option. Raw files have more data and give you the best chance of correcting any colour, white balance or exposure issues.

However, if you want the maximum burst depth from your camera, JPEGs are the way to go.

Which memory card should I use?

Check your camera’s manual or specification sheet to find the rating of the card port. Picking a fast card that matches your camera’s rating will enable you to get the maximum burst depth.