Better Pictures Project: Taking Action Shots


Inspired by Cashmerette, this month’s Better Pictures Project homework is to take a series of pictures to capture movement. Jenny’s pics often show her moving: walking, spinning, hair blowing in the wind. I wanted to see if I could find any tricks or camera settings to help with action shots, so I headed down to one of my trusty local parks to experiment!

throwing leaves Collage

Tossing fall leaves: It’s a classic autumnal shot, right? Not so easy though! I got a lot of wet leaves in my face and down my dress. For these shots, I used the remote and 3 second timer function. I’d click the remote, watch for the light on the camera to flash, then I’d count to two and throw the leaves.

spinning Collage

Spinning: I’ve been working on the perfect spinning shot since my Jalie Bella dress. Here are my top tips!

  • Don’t put the camera too low – it’ll show your knickers!
  • A gentle spin is all you need. Especially in a full circle skirt – look how much of my slip you can see when I’m really twirling fast!
  • If you don’t have a photographer with you, use the remote and timer function. For my 3 second timer, I press the remote, wait a second, then spin. With a bit of practice, it’s easy enough to time it so you are facing the camera when the shutter goes off. I’ve tried using the remote while continuously spinning, and far less of the shots are nice!
  • Shoot wide, and crop later. It’s easy to stumble out of shot while spinning (ask me how I know!) so give yourself some wiggle room by shooting from further away.

jumping Collage

Jumping: The most difficult of all!!!I figured that using the Sport setting on my camera would result in a clearer, sharper picture while taking action shots, but I have to say, I couldn’t see any difference between Sport and Portrait in these shots.

I used the remote and timer function again, but this is when it would be really useful to have a photographer taking continual shots through each jump! (iPhone people, did you know that if you hold your finger on the camera button, it will take continual pics until you release?) Instead, I got a lot of shots of my take-off and landing, and just some actually in the air! Here’s just a few of the outtakes:

jummping outtakes Collage

I had a LOT of fun taking all these pics – I felt really silly at first, but then I totally forgot about being in public! I’m not sure how to avoid my skin being so over-exposed though – Any suggestions? I’m really pale, and I notice that when my clothes and background are dark, I tend to get washed out. (It was mid-day but overcast, for what it’s worth!) Oh, and in case you were wondering – the dress I’m wearing is a ponte Lady Skater bodice + circle skirt that I made last Christmas. The fit isn’t perfect, but I wanted to wear a good skirt for twirling!

Do you have any tips for taking action shots? Like, how to take walking pictures that are in focus and not horribly awkward? Or how to have wind in your hair without it being a wild mess?

P.S. More awesome pics from your guys, including Katie taking pics in the park, Marianne trying out Portrait mode, and Meg doing THE MOST AMAZING jumping in her new jumpsuit!!! ❤


34 thoughts on “Better Pictures Project: Taking Action Shots

  1. I LOVE these pictures. You look like you’re having so much fun and the dress looks great. I’ve nearly finished a new dress and I’m quite looking forward to having a go at this month’s homework when I photograph it.


  2. Spot on, grasshopper!
    That first spinning one is MAD GOOD. I only ever get one or two good ones spinning, but they’re usually the best! The leaves one is also so happy and dynamic. I’ve never quite mastered the “pretty jump” but I love looking at photos of them anyway 🙂


    1. Hehehe – my favourite part about spinning photos is the drunken-stumble to the camera after to see how they turned out! Though I bet I looked even stranger scooping up leaves to throw over and over again! Thanks for being my inspiration this month! 🙂


  3. You ended up with some lovelies here, particularly the leaf photos!! I agree about twirling yourself off camera… that’s definitely been a problem for me! For my jumping pics, I used the tripod and set it on the timer (I don’t have a remote) in sport mode and had it take 10 photos in a row. I ended up with a ton of crap (awkward liftoffs and touchdowns), but a ton of the usable funnies you saw. I also realized that I don’t jump very high, but it looked like I had more ups if I kicked my legs up (like you did in your first jumping pic)


    1. I wonder if I can get multiple exposures with the remote too? I tried to set it that way, but the mult exp option was greyed out… it would be really handy if I could get it to work! I figured your Mr had taken the pics for you – now I’m even more impressed that you managed those yourself!


  4. Oh my lord this was so much fun to look at. Those throwing leaf shots are my favorite! Thanks for all the tips too. I’ve never used the 3 second delay which is silly now that I’ve got a remote. Might try that the next time I try to take some spin pictures.


    1. The delay is so good for spinning pictures – plus then you only have to spin once for each pic, not around and around until you fall over! 😛


    1. Would you believe that that was my first leaf pic? And then I took 25 more than were worse. Beginners luck! 😛


  5. Wow! Your photos turned out so fantastic Gillian! I love my photos to have movement in them, but I think I move too much most of the time. That translates to appendages like hands looking either ghost like or alien. And my jump photos are pathetic. My husband keeps saying jump, but I literally can’t seem to get off the ground, LOL. You look so high in your pics!

    I am fair skinned also, and find midday photos to be the most challenging, even if it is an overcast day. For what it’s worth, I think you look gorgeous in the pics, not washed out at all, but I haven’t met you in real life. I do try and take photos in the golden hour. I recall you mentioned being orange-y then, and I have had that too. It usually means the sun is a bit too high still.


    1. Teeheehee – ghost hands! Now I want to see if I can get ghost hands! A Hallowe’en photo theme, perhaps? “Move so fast you lose a body part!”
      Jumping, man. I felt like I was barely getting off the ground! As Meg says above, it helps the illusion if you kick your feet up with the jump… and maybe a low camera angle would make the jump seem higher?


    1. Thank you! I”m glad I wore the slip and leggings though, or I would have given the busy street nearby an eye-full! 😉


  6. How fun! The outtakes are pretty great in their own right, shown in a series like that. Hopefully I can finish the current project soon so I can see what I can do for some photos. But the deck isn’t all that big, so spinning might be a tough one! (Oh well, at least I’m getting lots of practice on phone action shots, thanks to Mr. Likes-to-be-in-constant-motion.)


  7. my last 2 point and shoot Canon cameras had a setting for a custom delay shoot ; you can select the delay before the pictures begin AND how many shoots it will take. So I usually use this and a tripod to take pictures of myself. I select 10 seconds and 10 pictures so I can just rotate at each picture to get a shoot head first, side, back, etc And I do not need a remote! 😀


    1. OOH! I’m going to check and see if my Nikon can do the same! I tried to set it to multiple exposured and that option was greyed out, but maybe if I changed some other settings that would become available? Thanks for the tip!


  8. These are such fun photos. I smiled the entire time that I was reading. You look impressive.Yes, I like the dress, too. I’m wondering if I can fit a full skirt into my sewing schedule. I do have a question. I know how to take “selfies” on my Iphone, but how do you get pictures that are not too close.


    1. That’s a tough one! A couple options:
      1. Use the timer, then run and get in shot.
      2. Get an iPhone remote – I’m getting one soon and I’ll definitely blog about it! I think they are about $20-30?
      3. Enlist a friend to take your pics?
      4. Master the art of the mirror selfie, which I have never done! 😉

      I’ve asked my dad to write a couple posts on iPhone photography, and I’ll be getting him to take some pics of my this weekend – is there anything in particular you think phone photographers might want to know about?


      1. Thanks. I added my question in the comment section for your dad. Your suggestions should prove helpful. An iPhone remote is going on my birthday wish list! Yea! I have more exciting things to try.


    1. Thanks Heather! I don’t know why the bodice of this dress is so tight and the waist so high… did my boobs get bigger since I made it, or was it poorly fitted to start with? Mysteries of a sewist’s life. Maybe for your motion pictures you’ll show us a walk with the pugs? I feel like that would make for great photos! 😉


  9. Looks like fun! I will have to give some action shots a whirl. It’s often windy where I live, so I have faked some action shots thanks to the wind blowing my dress/hair. 😉


  10. I love these pics!! (I shuddered sympathetically at the mention of wet leaves getting down your dress–yuck!) The fabric of your dress is gorgeous and it twirls so beautifully. And ugh, totally feel you on the #pastypeopleproblems. Usually I just decide that IDGAF and use the “so white I’m glowing” shots if the garment or scene looks good otherwise–I just tell myself they’re “artsy” photos! 😉

    I really ought to work on action shots next; by now, everyone knows what I look like standing around like a dork, LOL. Thanks for sharing these tips!


  11. For some reason the timer on my iPhone only seems to take bursts when I use it (where it takes a zillion photos really quickly.). I should try it for action shots—it’s really annoying for static poses though, where the only motion it catches is a stray blink. 😉


  12. Stunning pictures! I love the leaf throwing ones! I may have to use this when I go to get some pictures tomorrow. Gillian, this series is so helpful, thank you for sharing this with us! You are so sweet to do this!


  13. Ooh, nice! 🙂 I’ve done my fair share of jumping pics, it’s always an adventure to get the timing right!
    As for walking forward pics, I seem to remember that in some cameras (I think in my Canon dSLR, but it may have been an earlier compact) there is a (sport?) mode where you can turn on the “continuous burst/multiple pictures” mode and focus on an object, and when you press the button it keeps the object in focus even while it moves, while taking several pictures. (I just googled and apparently it’s called servo auto focus…)


  14. I’m not sure how I found your blog, but I’m loving it 🙂

    For the record, I’m ridiculously pale too and I photo best in the late afternoon, in shadow, not in full sun. I definitely don’t photo well when it’s overcast at midday. Of course, I live in the tropics. Slight difference in light intensity I’d imagine! But yeah, even overcast, the camera picks up far more light than my eyes think there is.

    My favourite is the first leaf-throwing picture, but the wet leaves everywhere made me smile. Nature. So messy!


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