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Home > Photography Tips, Videos & More > Photography Tips & Tutorials > Sports Photography > Intro To Sports Photography - Four Simple Steps For A Good Shoot

Intro To Sports Photography - Four Simple Steps For A Good Shoot

by Lou Raimondi, Contributor

Posted: August 8th, 2011 @ 4:00am

Source: Lou Raimondi

The key to a successful sports shoot is preparation.  There are four things you can do before you photograph a sporting event that will have a positive impact on your results.  They are:
  1. Know your camera
  2. Know the game and the participants
  3. Understand your environment
  4. Get in the best possible position
Know Your Camera
If you are trying to figure out how to use your camera during the game, it’s too late.  While your scrolling through menus or reading the owners manual, goals are being scored, baskets are being made and double plays are being turned.  Though most entry level photography books will advise you to thoroughly read the manual, that is not enough.  You need to practice.  Shoot a practice or a game for which you have no interest, preferably at the field or gym where the game you are interested in will occur.  Play around with settings so you understand how it impacts your shot.  Especially when shooting outdoors, conditions will change and often rapidly. This requires the ability to quickly change settings to adjust for the changing conditions.  Practice changing your shutter speed, aperture, iso, white balance, auto to manual focus, etc. during a practice session.
Know The Game and The Participants
The key to capturing the best shots are understanding the rules and strategy of the game, as well as  characteristics (speed, ability, capabilities, etc.) and role of the players.  Knowing the rules and the strategy allows you anticipate key moments.  The best photographers are often among the most knowledgeable of the sport.  They know who will be getting the ball for the final shot, if the base runner is likely to attempt a steal or who the big hitter is in volleyball.  If you know this, you will know who to track or where to pre-focus, thus improving your chances of  capturing that key play.
Understanding the characteristics (speed, athletic ability, even statistics if available) will also help you anticipate the action.  For example, with a man on first, down by a run, with a speedy lead off hitter on first base, there is a high probability he will attempt to steal second base.  Down by three in a basketball game with five second left?  If you know the team and know the players you have a better chance of anticipating who will be taking that final shot.  If I am not familiar with the team I am photographing I will often try to watch one of their games before the shoot, or get a copy of their lineup so I know who is playing where. 
Photo by Lou Raimondi
Photo by Lou Raimondi 
Understand Your Environment
Be aware of where the sun is, so you are not shooting directly into it.  Check out your shot angles so you are sure the foul pole won’t appear to be sticking out of the pitchers head when you photograph him or her.  Check to make sure the background isn’t the parking lot.  Find out where on the field or court you are allowed or not allowed, then walk around to pre-determine the best possible locations. 
I typically arrive to a game about 45 mins. before the game to take test shots from around the field or gym.  This helps me view the background for not only the optimum exposure but to predetermine interesting backgrounds like championship banners or where I can get the largest crowd in the background.  Crowds in the background are much better than empty stands.
Photo by Lou Raimondi
Photo by Lou Raimondi 
Get In the Best Possible Position
If there is someone in particular you are photographing take into account their likely position on the field.  Also consider if they are right handed or left handed, if they play left back or right back, will they be on the inside or outside, etc.  Get yourself in the optimum position to get good shots with a good background. Sometimes this requires a little ingenuity.  I have brought step stools and ladders to games, I've laid on the ground, I've even had to move field equipment and pitching screens to get a clear shot.  You will of course want to get permission before moving anything on the field.  However, I have found most umpires, referees and field officials are usually more than accommodating if you tell them what you are trying to accomplish.
The image below is a good example of being in the right position.  As anyone who watched the Woman's World Cup this year knows, Abby Wambach has a knack for scoring goals off corner kicks.  When the ball went out of bounds I was at the other end of the field.  It usually takes a minute or so to set up a corner kick.  So, I sprinted down the field and set up in a position where I could capture the probable header, the goalie and the defenders.  As you can see, the defense knew what was coming as they had four defenders surrounded her on this play.
Photo by Lou Raimondi
Photo by Lou Raimondi


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