Mastering the Art of Sports Photography

Posted by: andy  :  Category: Photography

Author: Amy

For sports enthusiasts, there’s nothing more exciting than sports people playing their favourite game. The sight of the field, rink or golf course initiates the thrill and anticipation. This, combined with digital photography, can provide some amazing photographic opportunities. However it’s not a matter of point the camera at the person diving for the ball or puck and snapping away. It’s a lot more complicated than that.

In digital photography sports can be quite challenging. The sports people do not present an easy task of being photographed because of the amount of high movement. However, you can indeed achieve great sports digital photography. Most excellent sports digital photography requires good planning and execution.

Here are some exclusive tips for gaining fantastic sports shots in your digital photography.

First things first; know your digital camera. I recommend taking note and practicing first all the settings that sports photography needed. You may find yourself going for the faster shutter speed, increased ISO and burst mode. Let’s take a look at all these things on your digital camera and see how they can be applied to give you sensational sports photos.

High shutter speeds:

As with all moving objects, in order to capture the “frozen in time” look in digital photography a fast shutter speed is required. The faster the movement the fast the shutter speed will need to be. In digital photography the general consensus is that the shutter speed needs to be faster than that of the subject. For example if you have a sliding puck across ice and there is a someone about to take a dive for it then its necessary to quickly mentally assess how fast that person might be traveling at. If they are traveling at approximately 50 kilometers (approx 32 miles) per hour then you may find a very fast shutter speed is needed for this digital photo.

A very fast shutter speed in digital photography may be anything from 500th of a second or higher. For high speed movement you may want to consider an even faster shutter speed of 1000th of a second or something in that range.

Keep in mind that in digital photography a fast shutter speed works to reduce some of the light which is why a higher ISO is often necessary. (I’ll talk about that in a minute.) Usually a if a ball, such as a baseball going at around 145 kilometers an hour (90.09 miles per hour) a shutter speed of around 1/4000 will get you that “suspended ball in mid air” type of photo. For physical movement, such as someone leaping to catch a football, a shutter speed of 1/500 or over is a good place to start.

Now this is all very well if your scene if well lit. But what if you are taking your digital photography shots indoors at night and the light is not quite enough to provide enough light? In most instances, an indoor stadium at night time will be well lit, but that doesn’t always ensure good digital photos. In sports photography we need to understand that we can only control the artistic value and input of our digital photo and the control of the camera. We can’t control the lighting on the scene being such a public event. In digital photography sports photos we must realize that it’s going to be a challenge to begin with. So here are something’s you can in your digital sports photography to increase the amount of light.

If you have a light tool on your digital camera such as a histogram you can get a good idea of what the light levels are like on your sensor. With this handy tool you can adjust the ISO at the time of your pictures taking.

Increase your ISO: A high ISO in digital photography simply means the sensitivity to light that your digital camera has. In a nutshell the more ISO you have increased the image to, the less light the sensor needs. In sports photography an ISO of 400 or higher can work really well. The downside to this is that it does increase noise. To combat this you can use noise reduction software in the post editing process such as Noise Ninja or increase the LAB mode in the post editing process. Don’t be afraid to try a few shots at 400, 800 and even as high as 1600.

Burst mode:
In most sports digital photography this will be one of the settings you will turn to. Burst mode is also known as ‘continuous shooting’. This ‘continuous’ shooting mode allows you to get a sequence of shoots in succession. You can increase your chances of getting that ideal “split second perfect shot” that you might not be able to get by pre-emption or in normal shooting. This also works so beautifully if your digital camera has a painfully long lag time. I’ve used this so many times to get around the high lag my Sony Cyber shot has got. Some cameras have 3 frames per second and some go up to 12 frames per second. You simply select this mode and hold your finger on the shutter button and it will fire off as many shots in 1 second as it can.

Okay so I’ve been talking about your digital camera and the setting’s used for ideal sports digital photography, so what about any external equipment? If you have been thinking about this you’re spot on. You can take as much time with your settings but there’s not much point if you can’t get close to the action. There’s no point having a picture with perfect lighting and perfect action if the players are like dots on a sheet of paper. You need a good telephoto lens if you can’t get close up. A telephoto lens brings you closer because of its long distance capability. It will get you closer to the action but will need a faster shutter speed.

Many fantastic sports digital photos are taken with an emphasis on a very fast shutter speed, an f stop of around the 2.8 mark to blur the background and focus in on the subject. You may find that if your sportsperson is visually separated from the background and you take the digital photograph with a telephoto lens you’ll have a more shallow depth of field which can give you a more powerful feeling in your digital photo. You can get away with a good optical zoom lens, but you’ll get far better digital sports shots with a proper telephoto.

So what about the artistic side of sports photography with your digital camera? Plenty!

Pre-emption and Emotion is the key to good art.
When taking sports photography you probably won’t find a more public display of human emotion. The emotions of a sports person range from intense anticipation to extreme disappointment or extreme exhilaration. Pre-empting when these emotions take place is they key to getting artistic and impressive sports photos. This comes with practicing your digital photography.

SO much pressure is placed on our athletes, expecting them to perform so we can enjoy the show and the investors can enjoy their returns. This is another reason why I say to get a telephoto lens so you can capture the emotions on their faces and their body language. It makes for superb photography. For ideas on ice hockey, have a look at some ice hockey images that are great study tools.

Don’t just look at these digital photos, you must study them. Take on the attitude that studying sports photography will improve your digital sports photos ten fold. You will have a style to emulate and copy to start with then eventually, when you become confident, you’ll start to adopt your own style.

Happy shooting,
Amy Renfrey

To study digital sports photography check these sites out: http://www.espn.com/ and http://www.si.com/ and http://www.sportsline.com/

About the Author:

Amy Renfrey is the author of two major successful ebooks “Digital Photography Success” and “Advanced Digital Photography”. She is a photographer and also teaches digital photography. She’s photographed many things from famous musicians to portraits of babies. Amy also teaches photography online to her students which can be found at digitalphotographysuccess.com/

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