A few weeks ago I started to talk about the topic of photographing sports – here’s a link to the article for those of you who missed it. This week’s blog wraps up the topic with a few final pointers. Lets jump straight into it….
Change angles you shoot
Vary the angle at which you shoot – move around the field or arena, shooting higher or lower to see what it gives you. Here are three photos of a speed skating relay, taken from different positions around the rink, at ground level and in the stands – each position gives you a very different photo.
Use good material
Sports photograph is a field where the gear you use is very important and you really need access to good gear if you want to successfully photograph action. If you do not have access to good photographic equipment, you may find that you struggle to get the shots you’re after.
The camera you use needs to be responsive. What I mean by this is that you need a camera (and lens) with a fast autofocus and no lag time when you press the shutter.
Ideally you will be shooting with a DSLR as these cameras are very responsive and you can optimise the settings to shoot sport. If you don’t have access to a DSLR a Bridge camera may give you decent results but you’ll really struggle if you only have a point and shoot camera.
Here’s a refresher on the different types of camera for those who need it.
The lens you use will depend largely on the sport and the type of photo you plan to take. If you want to take panoramic photos (of the entire field) or if the athletes are very close to you, a wide angle or small zoom lens will be fine. It is often difficult, however, to get close enough to the action to shoot with a small zoom lens and a telephoto zoom lens is recommended to get a tightly framed photo.
A telephoto zoom lens with a maximum zoom of at least 200mm will generally give you best results. If you’re photographing outside during the day, a lens with an aperture of f/4.0 will allow enough light in however if you plan to shoot sports indoors or at night a lens with an aperture of f/2.8 will give you much better results as it allows more light into the camera.
Not only do you need to use good gear but you also need to know how to optimise it for shooting sports. A good understanding of your camera settings is vital - if you are just starting out have a read of the following article, which covers the basic camera concepts (ISO, Aperture & Shutter Speed) before reading the following section.
Shooting in Manual or Aperture Priority Mode
Try using Manual (M) or Aperture Priority (Tv / S) modes when shooting sport as these modes will give you the most flexibility. You have the most flexibility when shooting in Manual mode as you can control the ISO, the aperture and the shutter speed. There’s less to think about when using Aperture Priority mode as you only set the ISO and the aperture - the camera automatically sets the shutter speed for you.
Use a fast shutter speed
A fast shutter speed of at least 1/500th second is needed to freeze the action however this shutter speed will vary depending on the sport with high speed sports such as motor racing needing a faster shutter speed.
Another way of capturing action is to emphasise the movement using the panning technique. This technique works by slowing down the shutter speed to get the subject sharp and everything else blurry. This is a very difficult technique to master and don’t get too discouraged if you don’t get brilliant results straight away.
Use AI Servo / AF-C Autofocus
Use AI Servo (Canon) or AF-C (Nikon) when shooting sports, as it will enable you to continually follow your subject, keeping them in focus, so that when you finally take the photo it is sharp.
Use Burst mode
Burst mode, or the ability to take multiple photos in quick succession, is absolutely essential for sports photography as it enables you (with a little luck and practice) to capture the exact moment you’re looking for. You might follow the action on the field and take a burst of photos as the player takes a shot on goal or affects a tackle. It is much more difficult to capture the moment if you don’t use a burst.
User a higher ISO if shooting in low light
You may need to increase your ISO if you are shooting inside or in poor light. While this ISO increase will also increase the amount of grain in your photo, it is better to have a little grain than a blurry photo.
Try photographing with a monopod
A monopod can be very handy when you are shooting for extended periods of time, using slower shutter speeds and when you have heavy gear as it makes you more stable and reduces fatigue by supporting the bulk of the weight.
I use my monopod when I’m shooting competitions with my Canon 1D and 70-200mm f/2.8 lens as the combination weighs nearly 5kg and I often have to shoot all day (sometimes for 11+ hours straight).
Considerations when purchasing a monopod
If you are interested in getting a monopod here are a few things to consider when choosing your monopod. Make sure it is
- stable and strong – not flimsy;
- tall enough for you;
- easy to adjust the height;
- easy to take the camera on and off;
- has a head that enables you to rapidly change angle, such as this Manfrotto MAN234RC head.
Monopod vs Tripod
It is much easier to shoot sports with a monopod than a tripod as the monopod enables you to more easily follow the action, it’s lighter, takes up less room and is often allowed into venues where tripods are not permitted.
Practice (a lot)
Sports photography is hard to master as you not only need to understand the sport and anticipate where the action will take place but you also need a good understanding of your gear. Get out there and practice (a lot) and you’ll soon start to see the results.
Ok that’s it for sports photography. I hope you have a better understanding on what is involved when photographing action. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.