Shooting sports here in the Miami area I’ve been fortunate to learn some valuable lessons while I’ve been shooting. I’ve taken what I’ve learned and turned them into tips for photographing sports. Some tips for photographing sports I have are pretty straight forward and others are little tidbits I’ve picked up from other sports photographers.
Do Your Homework
Prior to the sporting event you’re going to photograph, read up on the teams or athletes you will be photographing. Find out their tendencies, their likes etc. This information will help put you in a better spot when it comes to photographing them. If photographing team sports bring a print out of the roster with you so you can refer to it when you’re adding meta data and other information about the photograph.
Warmup at Warmups
Why wait till the game action starts to dial in the settings in your camera? While the team or athletes warm up, take the same time to dial in your settings. Take as many test shots as possible until you get it right. Walk around the field or stadium and find the right vantage point to photograph from. Better to be ready to go from the start then mess around with settings and miss a big play.
Shoot Wide Open and Fast
Want photos where the players are isolated from the background and want that beautiful looking bokeh? Set your aperture to it’s lowest setting either f/2.8 or f/4 (that is if you have a f/2.8 or f/4 lens) to separate the subject from the background. Shooting wide open also means your shutter speeds are faster and shutter speeds at or above 1/1000th ensure that you freeze the action. You can always lower the shutter speed to get some “motion” in your photography but more often than not you want to freeze the action for a crisp photo. Also don’t forget to turn your autofocus mode into continuous so you can track all the action in your viewfinder. Set the burst mode from single shot to continuous high to ensure you capture the sequence of the action.
Prepare For the Unexpected
Here in Miami the weather can be sunny without a cloud in the sky and a minute later it’s thundering and lightning. That is why I always pack rain gear for my camera and lens and a poncho for me. Photography gear is costly and you want to protect it at all costs. I know some photographers wrap their lenses with black trash bags and use tape to keep it wrapped around the lens. Whatever works as long as your gear is covered and protected.
Take Care of Yourself
Pack some protein bars and water as you’ll be out on the field photographing the action and won’t have time to hit the concession stand for a hotdog or soda. No one wants to miss the photo of the year potentially because they were waiting in line. Invest in some knee pads as well if you plan on doing a lot of kneeling. Knee pads, especially the gel filled ones, will help take some of the pressure of your knees. And if you live in a tropical climate like I do, invest in water shoes. It rains so often here in South Florida that it’s just part of our day. Besides no one wants to spend the rest of the game standing in soaking wet socks and shoes.
Watch Your Step
I had the awkward experience of watching another photographer graphically curse out another photographer because he walked in front of his camera as the action was happening and the photographer missed the shot. Always wait till the action as stopped before walking past other photographers. Common courtesy will take you a long ways. And it will save you the embarrassment of getting cursed out in front of your peers.
Shoot Vertical, Shoot Horizontal and Shoot Tight
Ever notice that most photos in sports magazines are shot vertically? That is not to say you shouldn’t shoot horizontally as well. Experiment and mix it up, but shoot tight in on the action. The closer the better. No one wants to see two dots off in the distance, they want to feel like they’re right there in the midst of the action.
Photograph the Losers
Sure it is always fun to shoot the winning team or player but don’t forget that the losing team or players also convey emotions that should be captured as well. Every photo should tell a story and a dejected player upset at losing might have a compelling story to share. Ultimately you’re there to document the story and for the story to be complete you need both sides.