Masterclass: Shooting Moving Objects with Smart Phones,Tablets and Cameras
In this article you will learn how to shoot amazing images of moving objects, use perspectives, tell a story, freeze action and create blur regardless of which smart phone, tablet, Gopro or Camera you use. I’ve chosen cycling as a theme, but the same rules can be applied to all moving objects, from a race car to a child playing in the park.
Dealing with a moving subject need not just mean capturing it whoosh by; there’s a lot more about motion which you can capture just making the right connections in your mind, and then apply to any moving subject.
With cycling (and most moving objects), there are two main perspectives. The first is the traditional spectator, the second is a point-of-view ‘participant’s view’.
Do you want your viewer to be a spectator or to feel like an active participant? What do you want to tell your viewer about; is it a product, a lifestyle, a race or the thrill of riding?
Take a moment to stand back and think about it and a whole new world of possibilities exists. Once you’ve decided on the story your shot will tell, only then think of ways to capture that standpoint, and be creative.
These days cameras and camera phones are small and light; I always ask myself where could I put a camera that I haven’t tried before? I’ve even been known to mount my phone to a kite to get a different perspective (though experience teaches that a very good protective case is needed).
Vary your angles:
Don’t always shoot from standing; if you vary your position you will achieve much more professional looking photos. Think about getting very low down to the ground, or using a ladder (or a tree) and shooting down. Use your environment; if the route goes through a city try and find a building or bridge to get up really high.
Vary your perspectives:
Continuing with the cycling example, if you were trying to photograph a race or event see if there is any opportunities to
wander around to get close ups of bikes, and riders.
Try to position yourself on the inside of a bend, it’s the classic spot for great cycling pictures, as the cyclist wants to go the shortest route round the bend, so they will come much nearer.
Top Tip: Why not see if you can become a marshal or get involved to gain access to positions you wouldn’t normally have access to?
Generally, try to check out a few different perspectives and don’t be afraid to experiment!
The same applies if you’re in control of the situation, for our bike shoot we visited a town, countryside, shot from a low angle, panned passing bikes, visited a cafe, shot abstracts, shot details and a lot of hanging out of the back of a moving car on a private road.
Using all these different perspectives gives an excellent overview of a situation and helps the photographer tell an interesting story.
Think of any good movie where someone drives a car at night.
Every few seconds you’ll get a different perspective: the camera starts inside the car from the rear, cuts to driver in side profile, cuts to rear view mirror, cuts to driver from outside the car, cuts to driver passing by, cuts to car from the rear, etc, etc.
Next time you watch a movie or TV count the perspectives in each scene, and be inspired by them.
BLUR v FROZEN:
Controlling blur means understanding shutter speed. The easiest way to is to imagine your camera is your eye, and your eyelid is closed until you press the shutter…
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…It opens, for an instant, and closes again.Watch the road out of the window and open and close your eyes as fast as you can; if your eyelids were shutters these “photos” of the traffic would be frozen in action—the image would be sharp. The second time, open your eyes five times longer and you’ll see the cars moving (unless you live in LA)—this image would be blurred.
The amount of time that the shutter (your eye) was open is called the shutter speed. It’s measured in fractions of a second. If your camera has an ‘S’ or sports mode, it will select the highest speed it can: given the amount of light you have available.
The second half of that last sentence is a really fundamentally important point about photography, by the way—all cameras need a certain amount of light to take a picture. The faster the shutter speed, the less light gets into your camera. So, for a camera to be able to use a fast shutter speed and therefore freeze action, you need to take pictures on a bright day, with lighting or with flash.
Some devices or apps let you set the shutter speed and some don’t. For the purposes of this next exercise, it doesn’t matter too much, but it’s always useful to know what’s going on.
For those with devices where you can set the shutter speed, here’s a couple of ground rules: even with a stabilized lens you can only really hold your camera still at speeds above 60th of a second, and to freeze action you’ll need to be roughly higher than 500th of a second depending on the speed of the action.
Cameras often want to set speeds like 30th sec or perhaps even slower, so keep an eye on the settings.
For me, cycling is about the sensation of movement, freedom, speed, etc. and to convey that I do like some blur.
These next few images are shot on a camera phone with a lomo app to give them a toy camera / Instagram feel. I’m cycling and holding the camera phone at the same time (not very clever I know), but what is interesting is that on an autumn morning in the woods (in low light) you don’t need to travel very fast to get this kind of feeling on motion. The app doesn’t allow you to set the shutter speed, so all I can do cycle faster or slower and experiment.
Try it in bright sunshine and you’ll need to travel much faster for the same effect, so to control the amount of blur with a simple device you simply need to experiment with the brightness of the day verses the speed of the motion.
An exciting option is to mount a smartphone to the bike (a quick internet search will show you how to do that for free), then with a time lapse app such as Time Lapse for IOS or Lapse It for Android you can take high speed images without even touching the device. When the ride’s over you’ll have plenty to pick from.
Scale up the idea of using motion and you can mount the camera to a motorbike, skateboard, car, kite — whatever you use the same rules apply…just use your imagination.
CREATING BLUR FROM A STATIC POSITION:
To create blur and give a sense of motion from a static position you have a few options:
Panning is a simple technique where you move your camera or device, effectively tracking the track the passing object in a smooth sweep whilst pressing the shutter. The aim is for the object and the camera to stay in a fixed position with each other and that causes the background to blur out and exaggerate the sense of speed. The horse below was shot with the standard iPhone 5 camera app.
My son adores pictures of him on his bike where I exaggerate the speed by panning faster, again it works really well in wood or other low light situations. If you experiment with moving the camera whilst pressing the shutter, you can get some really create and fun shots. For those of you with the ability to control your shutter speed, 1/60th of a second and below is your playground. Below is my sons favorite “epic” shot, I moved the phone forward with a slight twist to the left as I pressed the shutter which also helps guide you eye down the path.
The second option is to fake blur after the photo (post production) with an app like After Focus for Android or AfterFocus on IOS. Below you’ll see a static shot I took on my smartphone and how you can use an app to add different types of blur, the second example is more effective and is called a motion blur.GETTING CREATIVE:
As with any subject, there are so many creative ways to capture it, these are only limited by your own imagination.
Here are a few suggestions for you to experiment with:
Reflections are a great way to capture things, be it in puddle below or reflections in glass, here’s an article called 6 Creative ways to exploit reflections for better images on that very subject
Playing with shadows provides a world of opportunities.
This was shot whilst cycling one handed a little faster than walking pace with the pool of light coming from behind me.
I love pools of light and again they provide great opportunities (see above) and in the shot below. I saw the light while cycling past, went back and just played with lighting sections of the bike, but you could light anything in this way.
Most of all think, experiment take lots of pictures and have fun!
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