Recently I was asked to photograph a local race, and stopped to think what could I do to make these images interesting. Looking at some general sports shots as well as race photography some points seemed to stick out.
- Much like portrait photography, try to have a clean background. You want to direct the viewers eye, not have the viewer searching throughout the image. This is not to say some general shots showing a crowd are not important particularly around the start or key points of an event (see below), but when the race actually starts a clean background is ideal.
- Try to get in close to the subject. This may mean being physically close, or using a high quality telephoto lens. In the same manner through, don't serve as a distraction to the participants of the event. In a professional event, this may lead to an unpleasant encounter with security. Event in a school softball game, a distraction can mean a lost opportunity for a winning score.
- As with any type of photography, practice with your equipment. Consider using back button focusing, which may allow you to catch more of the action. For most events, the photographer will need at least a 200 mm lens. Longer lenses (up to 400 mm) are ideal depending upon what sport is bring photographed ($$). As participants move away from the camera, they will become quite small with short lenses, so consider a tele-extender.
- Consider purchasing a monopod. This helps with longer lens or even within a tight group of people.
- One important issue of you are shooting indoors is that your camera should behave well in low light. The ISO needed to get a reasonable shot may need to get high (2000+). High levels of noise can be distracting.
- Catch the action itself (ie: running) along side of a competitor. Catch the softball player running the bases, a football player catching a pass.
- Catch emotions- Most commonly a celebration, or even disappointment with the participants and the crowd.
- Be familiar with the game. In the case of a race, be familiar with the entire course. Know how to anticipate action.
- Be certain to have two bodies. In most sports, you will not have to change lenses.
- Consider shooting on your knees. The participants will look much more impressive.
- In most cases you will be shooting in burst mode to catch the action. Along with this be certain that you have a high capacity of card.
- Shoot at a fast shutter speed as possible to freeze action.
- Consider a panning shot- This can be difficult since you are shooting at a much slower shutter speed (Hint..the second camera body).
Shooting great sports images takes practice, and once again, knowing and anticipating the action!