by ʇolɐǝz ǝɥʇ qoq

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I want to shoot a photo that freezes the motion in action. I have the aperture wide open, shutter speed is as long as I can have it and still freeze the motion, the light I cannot control (e.g., outdoors and the flash will not reach what I am shooting, etc.) and/or is as bright as I can get it, and I am shooting in RAW. With all of that done the photo comes out really dark.

Beyond boosting the exposure in camera raw and hoping enough data is there for the picture and no clipping has occurred is there anything else I can do to freeze the motion in a shot in conditions that are not the best?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Ignoring artificially increasing the light (flash, bounce cards, etc):

Exposure = Shutter + Aperture + ISO

You only factored in shutter and aperture. Your best bet at this point is to shoot RAW and increase ISO as high as you can tolerate. Depending on your camera, this may be anywhere from ISO 800 - ISO 12800. You can always try to reduce the noise later in post.

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If increasing ISO leads to unacceptably noisy images, you can also upgrade your equipment carefully. A fast lens in the f/1 to f/2 range can take in more light at the expense of shallower depth of field. A camera body with a larger sensor size (such as a 35mm sensor) will capture more light and so (typically) go to higher ISOs with less noise. Powerful studio flashes can throw illumination farther. Equipment with image stabilization can enable you to increase shutter time without motion blur.

If you're only concerned about freezing the subject, not the background, tracking the subject with panning at a longer shutter time might do the trick. Finally, if using a zoom lens, get closer to the subject if you can - a typical zoom lens will open wider at the near end than the far end.

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