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Tips on Sports Photography

It is spring time again, which means it is time to get your sports photos going. Spring is when your children ( or grandchildren)start practicing organized sports and soon it will be "game time"
These examples can be used for most sports in general, for most people, the new point and shoot cameras that you got for Christmas will do a pretty good job. The first few things that I will talk about, will apply to either a point and shoot camera or a DLSR.
Your point and shoot camera will limit the kind of sports photos you take: your child at bat, your buddies playing golf,fishing for the big one, etc. A DSLR camera is required to give you the flexibility to shoot almost any kind of sports photography, and for two very good reasons.
First, you need a larger choice of focal lengths, so you can fill your frame with a player as he or she runs across the field, scores a goal, etc. The lens on most point and shoot cameras won't allow you to be close enough to your subject to record all the action and reaction.
Second, a point and shoot camera is likely to have shutter lag. When you push the shutter release,there is a brief gap of time before your camera actually registers the image. Most sports action(or at least the best kind)happens to quickly, so often the shot you wanted to take is lost during that gap of time. Even with a DSLR camera, you still must learn how to anticipate the shot, as the mirror in the camera must flip aside to allow light to strike the sensor.
Try to get yourself in a good position, where you can get the shot you want. Get your camera stabilized,(I always use a monopod).Try to keep in mind that you really don't want a background that will distract the viewer from your intended shot.
That really sounds a lot easier than it actually is. In shooting sports, there are a lot, and I mean a lot of restrictions, such as...fences, goal posts, spectators and people taking photos. When this is not possible, try to get as close to the fence as possible. Of course I'm talking about a chain link fence. Also, use the biggest lens you have and set the aperture wide open to give the smallest depth of field. The reason for this is that the fence will be less of a distraction if it is too close to be in the field of focus.
I try not to stay too long in one spot, so I am not interfering with people watching the game. A little courtesy goes a long way...
To DSLR users, there is nothing that will take the place of a long fast lens(glass)
1. Long, a zoom lens. I use a 70-200mm on one camera body and a 120-400mm on another camera body. I carry two camera bodies with me, so I'll never get caught changing lenses and the chance to miss a shot.
2. Fast, a lens with a least 2.8F aperture. This type lens will be very good for games that are getting into dusk, under the lights or indoors.
I am not saying you have to run out and buy a lens like this, I am just stating that, when you cannot get the shutter speed that you want, a fast lens is the way to go. If you don't own a fast lens, in low light situations, you will have to raise your ISO.
Raising your ISO will increase the "noise" level in your photos, giving the picture a "grainy" look. Lastly, keep in mind that there are certain sports and sports arenas that prohibit the use of "flash" photography.
In general, sports photography is not very much different from other forms of photography. Sporting events usually have fast action which means that you generally want to use a fast shutter speed, but general photo taking priciples still apply. Such things as depth of field are still very important.
Shutter speed priority is the TV setting on my Canon cameras. More experienced photographers will shoot in manual mode, if you are comfortable with that. In sports photography, all most all of the time, you are going to want to stop the action, so you shoot at a speed of 1/640 of a second to stop the action and keep your image sharp. The slowest maybe 1/500, but that can be iffy sometimes. This also where your cameras "burst" mode comes in very handy. There are also going to be times where intentionally you want to shoot at a slower shutter speed, so you can blur parts of the photo to exaggerate movement and speed.
Another important factor is, if you are going to be shooting inside an arena, make sure to set your white balance to the lighting of the building. You will appreciate your photos alot more, if they do not have a yellow, blue or green tint to them.
DSLR owners, your cameras insruction manual will tell you how to set a "custom" white balance. By setting the correct white balance in the camera, you will be able to see the proper color temperature in the LCD monitor on the back of your camera.
So much for the technical aspect of getting the proper exposure. Here are a couple of more items that I find are just as important.

Learning to shoot emotions is an important part of most photographical catagories: portraits, street candids, weddings, and of course sports.
Sports are about the players. Sports where the players faces are not obstructed are easier to see, such as basketball, tennis, and gymnastics. Games like football require more from the photographer because focus shifts to body language. Learning to pick up on body language will help you photograph these sports as effectively as the others
Keep in mind to try and get photos of your childs friends interacting with your child, these will keep in your childs mind and on paper forever, sometimes that moment will likely, never happen again.
I have also found that knowledge of the game that you are shooting helps tremendously. For instance, in baseball a runner on first has a large lead-off, I get my prefocus down at second base, where there is a potentially great shot going to happen, with the shortstop getting in position to take the throw, the ball arriving, the tag, the slide, the dirt flying.....There's a lot happening there...could be a "terrific" shot.

So take your camera with you when you go to that next sporting event. After all, there is always the opportunity for a remarkable and rewarding photo.

Joe Parenti
I would like to thank my wife Karen, you're the best.
My three chidren who have played sports, my four grandsons who are playing baseball, probably as I am writing this and
Gene Alvear my mentor, and Darcy Berg for telling me about this opportunity.

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  1. Nice shots! Nice shots indeed, Joe.

    Thank you for the article. As an amateur photographer I am always looking at ways to improve my shots. I always take my camera everywhere I go.

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  2. Once you get that great shot, bring it in to us at our Geneva store … we’ll turn your photo into a memorable keepsake! Thanks for the great tips Joe …there are a lot of little sports stars in our community!

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