Sequence photography is the technique of combining different shots of the same subject to present its course of action in a final single image. Capturing a subject in motion will provide you with images which, basically, have the subject at different moments of its movement throughout the frame, usually with the same background (in the case of the most popular type, where the camera is fixed but the subject moves). Combining the resulting images with this technique will allow you to show motion in a static image and the final result can be quite impressive. This is achieved by taking a series of frames at a high shutter speed and combining them later in a photo editing software.
Although the most impressive and the most used technique of sequence photography is usually used to capture sports’ events, there are other types of sequence photography.
- Sequence photography with a fixed camera and a fixed subject. In this type both the camera and the subject remain in their initial position throughout the entire shooting session. This is usually a technique used in photographic interviews. For this type of photography, a camera on a tripod is used and the lenses generally have a long focal length, because they are placed at a comfortable distance from the subject, so that he/she doesn’t feel disturbed. The long focal length is also good because it allows the photographer to capture only the head and shoulders of the interviewed subject.
- Sequence photography with a fixed camera and a moving subject. This is the most popular type of sequence photography, because it is also the most spectacular one. In this type, the camera remains in a fixed position and the moving subject is emphasized. The action is recorded at different stages, within the same frame. This type of sequence photography is usually used to capture events, mostly sports or anything where the subject is moving fast. It is usually taken with a camera using fast shutter speeds or even the burst mode. Although a tripod is recommended, many people hand hold the camera and still get good results because of the fast shutter speeds.
- Sequence photography where the camera moves but the subject remains in a fixed position. This is an interesting type of sequence photography and it is usually hard to achieve, because the camera has to move around the subject. Usually, this type of sequence photography is used to show different angles of the subject which can be, for example, a car, an aircraft or a building.
- Sequence photography where both the camera and subject are moving. In this type of photography the viewer must use his imagination to see the sequence as this is not as obvious as in the previous cases, but it can be more dramatic. This type of sequence photography is used to present a story, usually in photojournalism.
How to take sequence photographs?
Taking sequence photographs isn’t a complicated process, but there are some guidelines that will help you achieve good results right from the start. Since creating sequence photos of events filled with action is the most popular type. This article will concentrate on that particular technique. The camera should remain in a fixed position while the subject is moving. Because of that, a tripod is recommended, but it isn’t always a requirement, as most of the time, you will shoot with fast shutter speeds and if you use the burst mode you will get good results even if you hand hold your camera.
Depending on what you are shooting you might need many shots taken in the burst mode, but you still can use different single shots taken at a fast shutter speed. Sometimes, the burst mode will give you too many frames and you will have to delete some of them anyway. For example, if you are shooting a skater or a snowboarder, using the burst mode won’t give you the best results. In this case, 2 or 3 frames per second might be enough, but you should experiment to see what’s best for each situation.
Try to find the best position for taking your photos. You will have to edit them later to combine the frames into a single image, and because of that, you need to shoot from an angle that will make the editing easier. You will have to imagine the different positions of your moving subject in your frame, before you start shooting, to have a clear idea of how the final image will look like and if the chosen angle will give you the best results.
Use a medium aperture for your shots. Somewhere around f/8 and f/11 will be a good start. You will want such an aperture, because your subject will move fast and most likely, you will not be able to focus on it perfectly every time. Setting a medium aperture will provide you with a large depth of field and your subject will remain in focus, even if it moves away from the point where it was in the first shot.
You should continue shooting your subject until it gets out of the frame. But, you don’t have to follow the subject in this type of photography; the purpose is to have a single frame with your subject in multiple areas of the image.
What type of gear do you need?
Any camera that can shoot multiple frames per second should be alright for this type of photography. Although you may not need a high number of frames per second all the time, you may find the feature useful in some situations.
You should have a tripod. Although it is not always required, in some situations it will help you keep your camera steady.
After you take the photographs, you will have to use an image editing software to combine them into one final image.
How to combine the images to create the sequence effect?
Sequence photography with a fixed camera and a moving subject, the most popular type of sequence photography, requires an image editing software like Photoshop or something similar. With the help of the program you will be able to combine the images into a final picture that has your subject in many different positions across the frame. The shots you have taken must be opened in the software and layered on top of each other. They should also be aligned, but if you’ve used a tripod, it won’t be necessary. The first photo will be the base for the others and it should remain intact. From the other photos you will have to edit the subject by making a selection of it and its shadow and by deleting the rest. Then, re-do the same process with the remaining photos.
In the below image, the photographer took multiple shots of the same scenery while the subject was moving.
In this example the photographer created a sequence, but he/she didn’t stack the images to make them into a single photo. If he/she had done that, the result would have been similar to the example below:
You can easily produce such an effect. Considering that you had the images properly aligned one over the other, using the image editing software you should have a final image that consists of your first base image with the subject from all the other photos layered on top of it. Having the same subject in different areas of the image will give the impression of motion in your resulting image. This technique will create an interesting effect and with some practice you might get some impressive results.
Below are some great examples of sequence photography for your inspiration.
White Guardian Angel