Are you just as in love with action shots in food photography as I am? Do you struggle with catching the right moment and have problems with perfect timing. You’re in the right place!
I’m going to help you with some short tips and tricks that will help you create beautiful action shots.
Action shots are one of my favorite types of photos when it comes to food photography. They tell a story, they are… well, actionable, they have this human element in them and they have such a distinct dynamic.
Have you heard the saying ‘Practice makes perfect’. I couldn’t agree more. The more you’ll try to do action shot the easier it will become.
But first, let me guide you through some tips that will help you grow your repertoire in food photography by adding action shots!
1. Get a tripod
Unless you have a helper on hand (if you do, great for you!), you’ll need a tripod to hold the camera.
I find a tripod very useful for one other reason too. When taking action photos things, usually get quite messy. Even though you clean, I usually find that I missed a spot and it ends looking awful in the photo. I usually take photo of the scene before I even take the action shot. That way you’ll have a ‘clean’ photo which you can use in Photoshop to fix the mess that you might have missed. You couldn’t do that without a tripod since your composition would move if you handheld the camera.
2. Shoot in manual mode and set shutter speed first
Shutter speed is everything in action shots. It’s the most important setting, so you need to adjust it first. If you want a crisp sharp pour or sprinkle, you need to increase your shutter speed. If you want a blurry pour or sprinkle you have to decrease it. I try to use shutter speeds at 1/160 or above for crisp pours.
Second, adjust the ISO. I try to stay under 800, but since a lot of my photography is very moody and dark, I need to go up a little more.
Then, adjust the aperture. Unless aperture is really important to the story, I tend to adjust that last.
3. Focus manually
I never use auto-focus for action shots. It’s just too unpredictable and I would end up with too many unusable photos.
My tip for setting the focus point is to either focus on the spot where the moving food will hit the non-moving food or if it’s possible, place an object about as tall as the pour/sprinkle will be and focus on that object. Lock the focus and remove that object and take a photo.
4. Adjust your food to movement
Sometimes some foods are too small to see or too dense to flow smoothly. When I’m shooting a recipe, I don’t want to stray too far away from what real food will look like. Sometimes I need to adjust it, anyway. Like adding some water to a sauce, so it has a smoother spill, or using coarse sugar instead of icing sugar to make the grains more visible.
5. Remote control vs. Timer
There are a few options here:
- Remote control: I don’t often use it for action shots. I suggest using it only when you don’t need to be as precise about the spot where the moving food hits the surface. Otherwise, there’s too much to think about and it gets very messy.
- Self-timer: This is the setting in the camera, where the camera will take one photo after a few seconds after you push the shutter button.
- Continuous mode: I use this one the most. This setting takes multiple photos in a burst but with a delay, so you have time to prep for the action shot.
- Interval timing: Not all cameras have this, but it’s quite useful to take photos of a process that takes a long time. Like, if you wanted to take multiple photos of kneading bread. You can set the interval timer to shoot one photo in intervals that you set. It can be a second, or it can be minutes or even hours.
6. The right angle
Think about which angle will show the action best. You want an angle that really reflects the beautiful action. Also, think about the background. Is the background contrasting enough so the action will be visible and if there are any distractions in the background?
7. It doesn’t have to include movement
When thinking about action shots, we usually imagine something moving in the frame, but that doesn’t need to be the case. Have you heard of implied movement? That’s when nothing is really moving in the frame but there’s something that tells us, that it’s not a still image and there’s some action going on. Like in the photo below, where I’m cutting oranges. Nothing’s really moving but the knife and the orange wedges let us know that there’s movement in real life.
Action shots are fun. And messy. And the most beautiful pieces of art! They take practice and sometimes they take some ingenuity. But anyone can create beautiful action shots! If you happen to create some action shots I’d love to see them! Tag #useyournoodles and @useyournoodles!