When shooting my kids' events other parents will ask me about their own camera and what is needed to capture their kids in the moment of the game.
Here is my list of 7 beginners tips geared towards DSLR’s as point and shoot cameras will not capture much, if any action:
1. On your camera change your dial to sports, usually the running man icon. Why? It opens the aperture and increases the shutter speed. Start here. It should work with any lens you have in daylight and still get pretty good results when it is overcast.
Slightly more advanced tip: You can increase your ISO to get a faster shutter speed, but be careful as you increase the ISO noise (grainy looking pictures) are likely.
Why do pros use huge lenses? These lenses have a lot of glass to provide a large aperture which means a lot more light coming into the lens. More light means faster shutter speed. When you pay a ton of money for “fast” glass, the quality of the glass is normally better too. Another thing long, fast glass does is separate the subject from the background. People pay thousands and over ten thousand for fast glass. Get a gym membership if you own big glass like a 600mm f/4 which weighs in over 11lbs. That weight does not include the camera, monopod and maybe a cover.
This is the only tip that has to do with equipment. Learn to use what you have to make great shots.
2. Faces. You need your subject’s face in your picture. At any level the face makes the shot as the face shows emotion which helps tell a story. Think about the shot you are trying to get. Is the shot on goal? The team huddle? This leads to the next point:
3. Get up and move!!! Many parents sit on the side near the middle of the field (soccer, football, basketball, lacrosse, hockey, any sport with the goal at the end of the field) and shoot away. This leads to great shots of the players on defense, but you will never capture the offense’s faces. Get behind the goal or the end of the sideline. Baseball seems to be the only sport where parents are willing to get up and move to get the shot.
4. Get low. Watch the photographers at a sporting event and most times they are kneeling on the ground, shooting up. Why? It gets you into a perspective not at eye level, gets you into the action and makes the players seem bigger. For little league, at least get to the players’ eye level.
5. Watch your background. Getting low also normally helps clean up the background. This is sometimes easier said then done. Take a break from shooting and look at the image as a whole on the back of your camera and take note what the background is doing. Don’t look at your camera after every shot as you’ll miss too much. This practice is frowned upon by the “pros” and maybe a post for another day of what you really should be looking at on the back of your camera.
6. Anticipate the next play. You have probably watched enough of the sport/player that you can anticipate what will happen next. Get ready for it and have the camera up to your eye, but I would add you should learn to keep both eyes open. Easier said then done. Practice it. It will help with family candid shots as well.
7. Don’t stop when the play stops. Look in any sports magazine and there are limited action shots. Why? It gets back to faces which show emotion and great action shots are hard to get. Get the picture of the teams in a huddle, coming off the field, the celebration of the goal, the coach talking to the players, and shaking hands with the other team. These are the scrapbook images and they are easier to get. It might be the only time you can get a shot with a face as the helmets come off.
Look at Reuter’s top 24 images each day and there is always a sports shot and 90% of the time it is a celebration or the agony of defeat. Rarely the photo is full of action during the game.
Hopefully these few tips can help you get a better action shot of your player. Shooting action gets you into the action. Enjoy doing it and I think it sure beats just sitting on the sideline.
Let's hope it gets good ones soon!