Action photographs can do a lot to pick up a page and give it life.
Unfortunately, a great majority of the pictures taken do not properly
present the action taking place. The typical reasons for this are:
The photographer decided that since the image didn't line up
with the horizon, thus defying gravity, he or she compensated.
The image did not cover enough of the scene to show where the
subject(s) were coming from, or where they were going to. The
essential elements of motion.
Whether for a business or personal home page, showing off your
action shots can add some real spice to your page, and help tell
a story. Let's look at a couple of real-life, homegrown action
photos and see what we can do with them.
What is wrong with this picture?
In our first test photograph below we have two people repeling down
the side of a rocky cliff. The photographer in this case, decided
that the camera should be tilted so that the line of action
crosses perfectly along the dead center of the film. As we discussed
in Photo Compostion #1, landscape
is the desired orientation for action pictures. Note: the original
photograph was in true portrait format!.
Looking at this picture can be somewhat confusing. You almost have
to wonder if they would have an easier time walking the crestline
of the rocks without the ropes. A strong wind must be blowing as
well, for some reason they seem to be leaning forward.
250H x 250W 13,984 Bytes
What can we do to fix it?
Well, a few things! The first step is to take the existing picture
and set things straight. In this case, we need to restore proper
perspective by rotating the image about 60 degrees to the right.
Remember, this is not lying. We are to the best of our ability
undoing the lie that was created by the photographer.
Look at the vertical lines formed by the climber's bodies. Now
things tend to agree more with gravity, and with why would be
expecting our friends to be using ropes.
Using our virtual crayon, I have marked the cropping lines with
blue, and for illustration purposes created an action line
following the (in this case) obvious direction of movement.
This cropping should result in an image that both accurately
depicts what happened, as well as an image that is pleasing to the
The resulting image contains our central action, and just enough
background of rock and sky to give depth to the scene. You can
almost feel tension waiting for the woman's feet to touch the
rocks again. Part of creating the sense of action in an image
is to well, leave things hanging.
Decide on a Subject: Action or Scenery!
Often when working with photographs taken from a distance, it is
tempting to forget the subject at hand when faced with a breathtaking
view. In our next picture shown below, we actually have two dirt bikes
and two ATV's speeding down a dusty gravel road. I know it is a little
hard to make that out.
240H x 300W 27,405 Bytes
Our first step in working with this image is to identify our
action line. You will actually find in a great many
pictures, that this line is created naturally by either a
road, river, waves, or even clouds. In this shot, the road
just happened to conveniently draw the line for us.
We still have the problem of not being able to make out the
actual detail of the action. A closer look shows that half
the picture is nothing more than a litter of rocks. Our
crop lines reveal that we are going to eliminate about two-thirds
of our picture. How is this going to get us anyplace?
We are going to take advantage of the fact that any photograph's
resolution is much better than that of any monitor we might own.
This image was originally scanned at about 72 dots per inch (DPI).
To make an enlargement, I rescanned it at 130 DPI and then
cut out what I wanted from the larger image.
202H x 344W 22,990 Bytes
The result is that I have brought the reader closer to the action.
I kept just enough of the background to preserve the diagonal
action line and give the reader an idea of where this was taking
place. You can tell we are not in a rain forest, right? The
dust raised by the wheels adds to the sense of motion, and you
can even see that the biker in the middle is looking back at us!