Freeze Frame: How to Photograph Different Types of Events

A freeze frame refers to stopping a moment of time. You may think of a freeze frame as a crisp and clear photo finish, but this isn’t always the case. Depending on what you are looking for in the final product, completely freezing an action may be what you want or capturing motion blur might be what you are envisioning. While there isn’t a wrong way to capture a moment, knowing certain techniques can help you create interesting effects for the perfect shot. The following are some tips for photographing three types of events in different styles:



In a sports setting, like an indoor basketball game, it may be darker than you realize. Your eyes are more sensitive to light than a camera, so the overhead lights in a gym can look dark in a picture. Sports lighting doesn’t tend to be high quality, either. These lights generally act like spotlights and cause harsh shadows, resulting in a high contrast between lights and darks.

All of this means that sporting events generally demand faster shutter speeds to get the subject in focus. You should set your shutter speed at 1/500 of a second and faster. You should adjust your ISO to compensate and open your aperture as wide as possible. This freezes the action, which is great for capturing details.

However, letting the shutter slow down a little bit can introduce a bit of motion blur, which gives the sense of speed and action. If you want to add motion blur while keeping the subject relatively crisp, a slightly slower shutter and following the action with your camera causes the background to start to streak but keeps your subject focus. This panning technique requires some practice, but mastering it enables you to get a more interesting subject that draws the viewer in.



While the lighting in a sports arena is set and should not get brighter or darker throughout the game, photographing anything in a theater all depends on the production. However, you can generally count on the lighting staying on the principal actors and those lights being the brightest on the stage.

Because stage lights are set for the audience, all you have to do is adjust your settings so your main subject ends up sharp. There are not many reasons to introduce motion blur in a dramatic play or musical like “The Phantom of the Opera,” so you should concentrate on finding good angles and moments to capture. To get good results, have a sufficiently fast shutter speed (in the neighborhood of 1/125 to 1/250 of a second), an aperture for the depth of field you want and an ISO to match.



With a ballet or other dance performance where you want to capture its fluidity, some adjustments should be made. When adding motion blur, you need to set your shutter to the desired length and use the aperture and ISO to compensate. Any shutter under 1/25 of a second starts to add a noticeable amount of motion to your subject. The slower you go, the more motion that is added. Because of the increased amount of light your camera is gaining, drop the ISO to get a cleaner end result. Using a tripod is also a good idea, depending on how slow your shutter is going and your camera’s technology. This is especially true if you are using a longer lens because any vibrations on your end are magnified many times over.

Whether you want to add or subtract motion blur from your images, remember that one isn’t right and the other wrong. It’s all about what you want the image to convey to your viewers.

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