I love sports photographs, I always have. Whether they are portraits of players, or high flying actions shots frozen in time. I used to analyze the photos on my hockey and baseball cards, and spent hours trying to draw them out on paper. When I was a kid, my dad was a photographer, and did his fair share of sports photography – NHL, World Ice Hockey Championships, and even Major League Baseball on occasion.
This past summer, while my oldest son played soccer, I decided to try my hand at sports photography on one or two occasions. At the time, I only had my fifteen dollar 80-200mm manual focus no-name lens, but I was up for the challenge. And, this is what I learned…
I loved it, but it was hard. Athletes are fast-moving targets, even when they’re four and five years old. Especially when you’re manually zooming and focusing at the same time.
Early in my first game I missed a lot of shots to blurriness and poor composition. I know that some famous sports photographs are cropped after the fact, but I wanted to try hard to get it right while I shot.
You have to understand the game and it’s player tendencies. Anticipation is the name of the game, so if you don’t regularly follow a particular sport, you may be shocked at how few telling images you walk away with. That’s not to say that I have a library full of great images from my few games, but I have a couple that I really like. I’m sure one image per game is a good goal to shoot for… no pun intended.
You have to try shooting from different angles – wide so that your image can tell a grander story, low to the ground so that you have action from different perspectives, from in front or behind the play, etc.
Follow the ball, puck, or birdie and keep it in the frame. Try to time your image so that the player is just about to throw, catch, or kick the ball. It draws the viewer in and creates more drama and excitement.
Don’t just focus on the in-game action. be aware of what’s going on around the game and try to capture that as well. Whether it’s a fan on the sidelines or a candid moment between a coach and player during a stoppage in play.
Now, these are just a few of the things I am learning to look for. There are many more tips and tricks that you can learn from a seasoned professional, but at the moment, I’m having a blast shooting little league sports.
Till next time, keep your stick on the ice!