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Exploring the Sport mode on your camera

We are going to look at the “Sport” mode on your camera setting. This does not mean that you can only use it for sports! It is, in effect, a setting that enables you to “freeze” the action. For example, capturing a picture of a dog, in mid-air, jumping off a dock, or stopping a bird in flight.

This is my go-to setting in the summer. First off, Sports Mode is typically the little running figure. While exact settings vary from camera manufacturer to camera manufacturer, most of this description holds true no matter which camera you use. Sports Mode is a quick setting to adapt the camera with these typical settings:

  • Increase ISO variably to higher setting

    • Makes the camera more sensitive to light

  • Reduce f/stop for a shallower depth of field

    • Will tend to blur the background

  • Increase shutter speed to help stop fast action

    • Typically, 1/200 of a second or faster

  • Increase frame advance to the highest setting (measured in frames per second or fps)

    • Takes a number of images as long as you are holding down the shutter button

  • Adjust autofocus mode to adaptive or artificial servo

    • Helps the camera to keep the focus on the subject even when it’s moving fast

  • Turn off the Flash

Sports Mode works best with a long lens. Zoom in to your subject. This is because the decreased depth of field will render a sharper contrast between your main subject and background. The faster the lens (lower the f/stop number) the better separation you will gain from the background and the less light required for a sharp picture. Sports Mode typically forces the camera to use the lowest f/stop possible.

Also, you can drop the tripod. The increased shutter speed and ISO of Sports Mode will make hand holding the camera much easier.

Keep the action near the middle of the frame; this will help with focusing as most cameras have the majority of their sensors in a pattern around the middle. While you will sometimes want the action outside of the center, it’s best if it is first brought into focus in the center of the sensor.

Practice, practice, practice

In addition to tweaking camera settings, techniques such as panning can create dynamic-looking effects. Getting good photos of sporting events requires skill, so practice before photographing an actual event to better understand the capabilities and limitations of your digital camera.

So get out there and play a bit with this mode. The camera can many times capture the action that the eye just cannot see.

Have some fun!


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