Photo Tips: Shooting Close-ups

Barrel racer close up
This image was created by focusing on the stationary barrel. I used an f-stop of f14 to give a wide depth of field, and a shutter speed of 1/1250th of a second to stop the action. I had to push my ISO setting to 2000 to allow my camera to achieve these settings. Photo: Dusty Perin

Not every scene will have beautiful backgrounds and in spite of your best efforts to scout the perfect angle, you might not find it. When that happens to me, I start thinking in terms of a close-up. There are many creative artistic action photos that can be taken if you start looking closely through your zoomed lens.

To find them, zoom all the way in and start looking around through your viewfinder. You will be amazed at the world of horses in a close up view. Look at the parts of the horse, perhaps the galloping legs or the flying crest of a mane. Look for patterns like the ripple of braids or fluttering ribbons. Look also at the rider, the hands holding reins, or the swing of a lariat. Every moving part of the horse or rider is a potential close up image, you are only limited by your own imagination.

Also Read: Tips for Taking Show Photos

Close-up action takes a high degree of skill to shoot because being zoomed in on something in fast action makes it difficult for your camera to find and lock on a focus point. I suggest you look for a less active part of the horse like his chest or loin, or a stationary object like a section of ground that you know the horse will gallop over. Shooting zoomed in usually means your camera depth of field will be narrower too, which means the only object that will be in sharp focus is the one your camera has locked onto at the time you push the shutter.

If you have learned to operate your camera in manual mode it is your f-stop (aperture) control that dictates depth of field. The higher the f number (such as f16) the more depth of field you have. This means more parts in your image will be in focus. The lower the number (like f5.6), the narrower your depth of field. Objects even just a few inches in the background may be blurry with a narrow depth of field. If this is the effect you want, no problem. But if it isn’t, then you have to learn to balance the three main manual controls: shutter speed; ISO; and f-stop. Those settings will all depend on your camera and how much light you have available. Read your manual to understand how they work and where they are located on your particular camera. If you have a point-and-shoot or a cell phone camera, you will need to experiment with different modes and apps to find out which one creates the image you want. Zoomed action images are fun and interesting, so challenge yourself this week to find the beauty of close ups!

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