May 4, 2013

Sports Photography Tips

Out of all the posts and blogging efforts, I have never yet put up any sports photography... which is ironic because that is what I primarily shoot, having four active guys and all.  Photography started for me by being the yearbook editor for the grade school... taking scads of sports teams in action.  On a point and shoot. A very basic point and shoot.  It was a bit rough, but with tons of practice I was getting better at following subjects, anticipating shots, and trying not to blur out the speedy action.  When my husband bought me my dslr camera a couple years later... eureka!  What an amazing difference!

Here are some tips that I found by trial and error, along with a few recent soccer photos of my sons.
*Note:  Readers, you know I am just learning photography.
These are just my thoughts.  Nothing professional here.

1.  When first getting to know the dslr, use the shutter speed priority mode.  Personally, I like to crank it up... 1/ 1000 at least.  I have a need for speed lol!  It freezes motion this way, which is my preference. Then take a look at the settings the camera calculated for the aperture and ISO to get  an idea of the exposure balance.

My son, Justin, playing up at Huntington University.
I like the Huntington  sign in the background to establish the setting.
That, and he just blew by the other guys :o)

2. When switching to manual, I still crank up the shutter speed.  My guys are really quick (!), and I still hope for 1/1000+  if I can.  It freezes minute action in the athletes, grimaces, ball movement, even sweat beads (ewww).

3.  When I'm outdoors on a sunny day, I keep the ISO 100-200, then check the lcd feedback screen to see how the exposure is looking, adjusting as necessary.   If it's cloudier/darker, turn up the ISO so the shutter speed can remain fast.

My son James, a sophomore at HU, playing center midfield.

4.  Indoor ISO -  yikes.  Most gyms have awful lighting.  Yep.  Hopefully your camera likes high ISO's, because it will need to be cranked pretty high.  As Jessica Cudzilo from The Define School instructs, it's better to have noise than blur.  I also found that if photos turn out pretty noisy, converting to black-and-white makes them look better with that newspaper/grainy look from the sports section :o)

5.  Aperture.  Because I'm usually light challenged, I keep the aperture wide open as possible, which is usually around 5 with my 55-250mm zoom kit lens.  That isn't very wide-open as lenses go; so in one way, that helps with DOF to keep the whole subject in focus. However, if the lens allowed for a more open aperture, the background would blur more and potentially pop out the athlete.  But too wide open, and it would be more difficult (for me) to nail the whole person in focus - until I get really good ;)  Although one of these days, I would love to rent a lens that would allow me a wider aperture while zooming. Ah, those would be great sports photos... a quick shutter speed with plenty of light  coming through the lens, and an awesome blurred background to isolate the athlete.  saweeeet!

Love the athletes' angles as they attack the ball.

6.  Using the AlServo mode and/or tracking your subject helps keep your subject in focus as they move.  Panning can create great movement effects by speed-blurring the background while they stay in focus.

7. I find the most interesting sports photos have the athlete in contact with the ball (or whatever).  This takes some anticipation.  Using continuous shooting mode can help catch that moment.  I don't often remember to use that feature because years of my point-and-shoot taught me to anticipate that contact moment for most of the time.

I love watching the vigor and strength of youth as they play...
This shot I particularly like because of the contact with the ball, the awesome angle James is in (how they keep balance is amazing),
and I can feel the strength and intensity of the play.

8. The best photos show the face along with the action.  Sometimes that can't happen because of where I am positioned as a spectator. Yet, I found that the athletes still like seeing themselves in their great moment, even if it is from behind. It's a great memory to relive.

9.  If you are bolder than I am (and I'm learning to grow in this area), you can just ask for a better advantage photography seat to get better angles, if possible.

To me, this is a strong sports photo because of  capturing Justin's eyes and expression, the action of the feet manipulating the ball, the angling of his body,
the leading lines of the other athletes, and the overall placement on the canvas.

10.  Using a gray card for indoor arenas has been helpful.

11.  Using the central focal point has been best for me.  The sports players can quickly move part of their body off of the view just with follow-through motion.  Cropping can be done later.  I know, I know... others may say to get it right as you take the photo, but athletes are very quick. Sometimes recomposing can be done as you take the photo if action has slowed; for example, during a basketball free throw, a serve in tennis, a golfer.

And then there are other photos I just like because I'm the mom, and I think it's great I can see both my sons in the photo.

Here's something I've been thinking about after watching the diligence of these men, considering all their devoted hours, highs and lows, accountability, discipline, coaching, drills, intensity, conditioning, teamwork, communication... coupled with these few Bible verses I've read during my quiet time this week:
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to win a crown that doesn't last, but we do it to get a crown that lasts forever.  Train yourself in godliness. For physical training has some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.  (1 Corinthians 9:25, 1 Timothy 4:8)

They are a living example of how I should be training in godliness.  

"And that's something to think about...."


  1. WOW - WOW and WOW..... Action for 1 millions ... The sport photos trains you to do a lot of things with your camera - I am proud to "know" you as we can online ;) -

  2. Incredible action shots! And I say Amen! Amen! to the Bible verses.


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