My photography started as a hobby, which became and passion and led to me becoming a professional. Mainly being self-taught, I was one of the first in my field to use portable lighting, and I now light all my subjects; from nature, portraits to architecture and of course motorbikes!
I cover Motocross race meets throughout the UK and provide track days for amateur photographers to learn how to light and shoot fast moving motorbikes. I also make tutorial videos on lighting.
I undertake projects for one of the largest lighting companies in the UK and have published a book called ‘Light, Shoot, Capture’ which gives full details on lighting setups and what you can expect to gain from lighting your subjects.
Here are my best seven tips for action sports photography…
1. Know your sports
The best and the most important advice that I can give is; watch the sport. Before you take a shot, spend 10 minutes and watch. Look for the where the competitor is in his best position. For motocross, it is where the rider has got the bike leaned at the lowest point or where the rider is accelerating out the corner with the mud flying everywhere. For jump shots, it will be where they are at the highest point or just showing a bit of style…
2. Low = good
For motocross always shoot low, it gives a better angle, brings in the texture of the track, gives the rider more stature when shooting corners and more height when shooting jumps.
3. Variety of lenses will let you get a variety of shots + mud
This is not unique to sports photography, but there is something to be said about focal length and mud. Try a range of lenses. My main workhorse is the 70-200 f2.8, but this doesn’t stop me getting a 10mm fisheye out and getting into the action, so long as you don’t mind getting your gear a little muddy. Each lens will have its own attributes and results.
4. Know your shutter speed, match it to the details you want
Motocross is one of those rare motorsports where it can be shot frozen, but all options work. For moving wheels, set shutter speeds between 320-500. For frozen whatever you want. When I’m using lighting I am able to shoot all the way up to 1/8000th, but also sell a lot of shots lit at 1/40th… so try everything..
5. The riders have good tips. Listen!
Get to know your sportsman. It is always great to chat to the guys and girls and useful to get ideas from; they are always up for trying something different!
6. There is an ISO sweet spot. It’s 200-400, sideways.
If you are planning to use lighting, then ISO’s set between 200-400 has always worked best – the sweet spot. I always use my lighting from the side, never straight on at the rider.
7. Tomato soup is your friend
On a cold winters day shooting… Tomato soup is definitely a winner…
About the Author
Colin Brister is a photographer based in London. He mostly shoots motocross. For the last eight years, Colin’s ran ImageMX Photography. Colin is also a brand ambassador for Pixapro in the UK. You can see more of his photos on his website, Facebook page, and ImageMX.