"These pictures are great! You must have a nice camera!". I've lost count of how many times I've heard this. Usually people think that a nice and expensive camera translates into great images. Well, not always. Hopefuly, I'll show you why this is a misconception.
In order to make my point, I want to focus on a specific type of photography. Sports photography, more specifically, motorcycle racing photography. There's a type of skill necessary to get good images of motorcycle riders going extremely fast, sometimes over 200 miles an hour. These types of images must show motion whilst keeping the subject in focus. If you believe that anybody with a good camera can capture awesome images, handle a camera to a total beginner and send them to the track. I'm sure you'll be quite disappointed with the final result. But, what's necessary to capture good images of fast vehicles?
1 - Shutter speed: Watch your shutter speed. Too fast of a shutter speed, will freeze the subject to the point that it looks like the bike is just standing there, not moving. And too slow shutter speed, will get you a bunch of blurried images.
2 - Panning: It's a thechnique where you pan your camera along with the subject to get it in focus and at the same time blurrying the background. The key to successful panning is to pan at the same speed as your subject.
The combination of a correct shutter speed and effective panning technique, will give you some amazing images. Let's have a look at two images of my friend Jigar Patel on the track. Note the wheels on both images. The image on the left was captured with a much faster shutter speed than the one on the right. Notice how it looks like the wheels are not spinning, giving the impression that the bike is just standing there, not moving. This is because the shutter speed was too fast for the speed he was going. So, after reviewing the image on the back of the camera, I adjusted (decreased) the shutter speed and nailed the shot next time he came around, as you can see on the image on the right.
For a better understanding on panning, have a look at this quick video my wife shot while I was photographing the Indianapolis MotoGP in 2014.
Yes, I was cranky on the video. There were a bunch of people sitting on the wall, blocking my view, with their backs to the track. It was a fenced in area reserved for one of the riders guests and they weren't even watching the race. Yeah.. I get cranky once in a while.
And these are some images that came out from that panning technique.
If you looked close at the video, you'll notice that I was shooting behind a fence, but you don't see the fence on the images above. How's that possible? Well... that's because of the wide aperture I was using, but it's a subject to another post.
Hopefully I was able to shed some light on how a great camera doesn't translate into great images. Proper techniques, knowing how to use your camera, lots of practice and preparation is key for great photography.