So, your kids have reached that age where they need to burn off energy, so you get them in to sport. They have a lot of fun running around the field, track or court, and you start to wonder if you can get a photograph of them to show the family what a great player they are. It’s another aspect of their life that you want to capture, but for some reason you can never seem to get the shot right. They’re always blurry, bits are cut out of frame, or someone gets in the way.
At Ted’s we hear this story a lot, and believe it or not you don’t need to be a professional to get a great, dynamic sports photo.
Firstly, assess your gear. If you have a basic compact camera, odds on it won’t be overly fast at focusing or shooting, and the zoom on the lens probably won’t be that crash hot either. All is not lost, however. In general, most cameras will have a ‘sports mode’ which optimises the camera for taking pictures of fast moving objects. Newer compact cameras tend to have faster response times and larger zoom lenses. This, in conjunction with the sports mode, tends to give you some nice easy pictures.
If you happen to be using a DSLR or a camera with manual settings you already have more control over your pictures than most. For sports shooting, shutter speed is very important. When shooting fast-moving subjects you want the shutter speed to be faster than 1/60th of a second so the picture can be sharp. Anything slower and the photos tend to be blurry when the subject moves. Photographers proficient with a DSLR camera who shoot on Manual mode should have no problem with this, however if you’re still a beginner try putting the camera on Shutter Priority mode (Canon’s call this “TV” on their settings wheel, most other brands label it with an “S”). This allows you to set the shutter to a fast speed and lets the camera do the rest.
When shooting with a DSLR you should always remember that lenses are very important. This may seem obvious, but the more suited the lens is to the situation the better the shot will be. Sports photographers typically use lenses with a long focal length and an aperture which lets in a lot of light (such as f/4 or f/2.8). This allows for a fast shutter speed and for the background to be blurred, which brings more attention directly to the subject. These lenses, while producing terrific results, tend to be an expensive investment and are probably more than you want to spend on shots of your kids. In this case, an all-inclusive lens seems to be the ticket. An 18-200mm lens (or thereabouts) lets you zoom in and out quickly without having to swap lenses over, and is generally of higher quality than the standard kit lenses.
Many Digital SLR cameras come have the option of being bought as part of a Twin Lens kit, which usually consist of an 18-55mm lens (wide-angle to portrait) and a 55-200mm lens (portrait to telephoto lenses). These lenses are great when you’re starting out as they are bundled together in a deal, however remember that you get what you pay for with lens quality. Sometimes getting the all inclusive lens is the better decision, as it will be used more, offers more flexibility, and you are more likely to keep using it if you upgrade the camera body in the future.
The next thing that is important with sports photography is position. When you see professionals shooting at big games they are usually as close as they can get to the action. This rule should apply to you too – get as close as you can to the boundary and to your subject’s general location. If it’s a ball game, don’t follow the ball. Wait for it to come to your subject and make sure the camera is focused and ready on them, not the ball.
Finally, Be prepared to keep shooting – if you have the camera on a continuous shooting mode this will aid the process, just be prepared to delete a lot of dud pictures later. Even the best professional photographers have to sift through piles of pictures to get the perfect shot that winds up in the magazine. Remember that cropping the image down can often help bring more attention to the intended subject. Have a play with composition to see what works best for your shot.
So, give it a go and tell us what sort of results you get. Until next time, Happy shooting!