Sports photography tips – Bruno Poco
Over the last year I’ve fortunate to be able to photograph sports fairly regularly. Being a teacher at St Johns Prep and coaching there is always some sports event where I can get some great sports shots. In this blog entry I have stated a few suggestions that will hopefully be a good place to start improving your action shots. If you would like to learn more then why not enrol for our People Photography course?
Sports photography can be challenging as the subjects is generally unpredictably. Positioning and anticipation are important considerations when it comes to sports. And being at the right place at the right time is often a case of trial and error. After awhile you get a good idea of what is happening and then you can position your self accordingly.
Your position does not only influence what action you will capture but also the quality of light you can expect. Like any other outdoor photography time of day and prevailing weather conditions play a huge part of this discipline and although the bright conditions allow for fast shutter speeds, they can also be challenging because of contrast. Having bright sun shining from behind you definitely helps to prevent contrast problems.
This works by allowing your subject to be lit by even light and it causes your subjects shadows to fall away from the camera. Sometimes we are lucky to be photographing in lower light and in cloudy conditions. These are awesome conditions to photograph sport as contrast becomes less and the photographer can concentrate more on his compositions because the photographer has more freedom to position himself in relation to the action instead of being limited to photograph in a direction dedicated by the prevailing light conditions.
Overcast conditions are awesome to photograph in because there are no harsh shadows and it is easy to get evenly lit shots that are very pleasing to the eye. However these conditions have much less intense light making fast shutter speeds more difficult. You may have to use a higher ISO setting such as 400 or 800 ISO and maybe even higher to get the fast enough shutter speeds to freeze motion. For the most part a shutter speed of a 1000th of a second and faster will freeze most movement. Although sometimes, capturing some motion blur can create very interesting results. the key here is subtlety, you need to make sure that there is always some component within the photograph that is sufficiently sharp.
Exposing for sports is simple as light doesn’t change significantly over the duration of most sports fixtures. I normally take a grey card reading at the beginning of the session and use the same camera settings during most of the fixture. I often use green grass as a substitute for a grey card as it is neutrally reflective and accurate. However, the necessity is for very green grass because dried grass, like during winter, will only cause you to under expose your shots. Some clay surfaces such as basketball and tennis courts also work as well to take accurate readings from, but they do vary colour. To be sure, take a grey card reading and compare before photographing.
Your lens choice can also be the difference between a successful session out and frustration. At an absolute minimum you need a lens with a focal length of at least 200mm; anything shorter and you will rarely be close enough. Ultimately having two cameras, one with a lens like a 70-200 or 70-300 and the other camera with a longer telephoto lens would cover most situations you encounter.
As you can determine from the above, sports photography is relatively easy to get into. There are for the most part many opportunities to photograph if you get to your local sports club or if you have children. The tips above are a good place to start developing your skills when it comes to photographing sports and hopefully they will inspire you to go out regularly and photograph more often.