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2 Contents Secret #1 - You really need the right equipment... 3 Secret #2 - Know the sport you will be photographing... 5 Secret #3 - Get in the right location... 6 Secret #4 - Know how to use your camera's exposure settings... 7 Secret #5 - Set your camera's focus to adjust with your subject... 9 Secret #6 - Use your camera's burst mode Secret #7 - Know when to use a flash Secret #8 - Use a monopod when possible Secret #9 - Take a lot of pictures since you won't get all of them right Secret #10 - Get the eyes Secret #11 - Show the ball Secret #12 - Be Safe

3 12 Secrets To Becoming A Great Sports Photographer Sports photography can be a very challenging skill to master, whether you desire to photograph NFL games or you just want to capture great images at your child's soccer game. Either way, learning how to do it the right way can pay off with big rewards and personal satisfaction. Let's learn some of the secrets of the pros. Secret #1 - You really need the right equipment A point and shoot camera just won't get the job done. And if you've ever tried it you know it's true. Have you ever tried to take a photograph with a point and shoot camera only to find that it takes its own sweet time once you've pressed the shutter button? Well that won't cut it with sports photography. Sports photography is all about capturing the action and freezing that moment in time. You need to know that your camera is going to take the shot the split second you press that shutter button. If not you will have missed the picture. 3

4 What you are really going to need in order to get great sports photographs is a DSLR camera. DSLR cameras will take the picture exactly when you intend it to. You also have the ability to use high quality professional lenses. Your lens is a major factor in giving you access to the shot you want. You may be able to get by with some less expensive lenses, but you can be assured that the higher quality lenses are going to create the best photographs. The first thing you want to look for in a lens is its maximum aperture. The number you are looking for is 2.8. What this does is it allows more light to enter the camera which will allow you to have faster shutter speeds. It will also help to blur the objects in the background. The next thing to look for is the focal length. Your needed focal length is going to change as your conditions and sports change. You might shoot a basketball game where 70mm - 80mm is your optimal range. If you are shooting a football game you might need a 400mm lens to be able to reach out to the middle of the field. Some professional photographers even carry 2 cameras during a game. One camera will have a long telephoto lens while the other has a wide angle lens to capture the action that is closer to him. To be honest with you, many of these lenses will be out of your price range unless you are a professional being paid to photograph these games. The Canon 400mm professional lenses start at about $6,000, so let's talk about what's in your budget. 4

5 If you are going to photograph outdoor sports you definitely need a lens with at least a reach of 200mm. The prices on some lenses can still be high, but that's what you are going to need. Many of the cheaper lenses with a 200mm reach will have a maximum aperture that will change as you zoom in, and they will often have a maximum aperture of 6.3 wide open. This is going to cut down on your available light quite a bit, but sometimes you have to do what you've got to do. Secret #2 - Know the sport you will be photographing If you want to get the great shots you have to know where to point the camera. If you don't you'll be playing catch up and be a step behind all day. To get the great shot you must anticipate the action. Have a feel for where the ball will likely go next. You will not always be right, but many times you will be prepared when the action gets there. Think like the players do. Think about where they may run to or throw the ball to. If a talented wide receiver is running deep you may want to follow him with your camera to be ready for the shot. If it appears the action isn't going to him then adjust. There may still be time to find the action. 5

6 Secret #3 - Get in the right location Different sports are going to have different locations available, so I can't tell you where you need to go. But this ties in with the last secret of knowing the sport. You will be anticipating where the action is so you can set yourself up in the right place to catch that action. This means that you will miss a lot of shots that happen where you are not. There's no avoiding this, so don't worry about it. You are setting yourself up to get the highest percentage of quality shots. You can only be in one place at a time, so don't let it get to you. Just learn to position yourself in the place where you will get the highest percentage of good shots. I get to photograph University of Oklahoma football games on occasion. A lot of photographers like to position themselves in the end zone for OU touchdown shots. It's interesting to watch the migration of photographers from one end of the field to the other when the quarter changes and teams will be traveling in the opposite direction. If you are outdoors you should also factor in the sun. It will be better if you have the sun behind you so that the player's faces are in the sunlight. If your subject is between you and the sun then you will get too much unwanted shade in their faces. 6

7 Secret #4 - Know how to use your camera's exposure settings If you do everything else right and get this one wrong you will wind up with a lot of "what could have been" shots. You were in great position to catch that incredible play, but your camera gave you a blurry image. The most important setting to focus on in sports photography is the shutter speed. The athletes are going to be moving fast, and it's your job to freeze them in a moment in time. If your shutter opens and closes too slowly you will have a picture with your athlete that is blurred because of your movement. You want to try to target a shutter speed of at least 1/1000 if you can, but you can often get away with a bit slower for little kids that don't move as quickly. The faster the better, but you still need to make sure that enough light gets in. In order to have enough light for a fast shutter speed you will need to have your aperture wide open. Hopefully you have a lens with a 2.8 maximum aperture to let a lot of light in. You will have the potential for a faster shutter speed with a 2.8 aperture lens than you would with a 6.3 aperture lens while maintaining the same level of exposure. 7

8 But before you start setting your shutter speed I recommend setting your ISO as high as you feel comfortable with. With some DSLR's you won't want to go much over 400 because they tend to produce a lot of noise in the image when you shoot at over ISO 400. Some of the newer Canon cameras are producing incredible quality even at over 1,000 ISO. You will need to test this for your own camera to know what you can get away with. If you are shooting in bright sunlight you may not need to increase the ISO all the way. You may be fine at ISO 400 since there is a lot of available light. You will always have an easier time stopping sports action with a lot of available light. Now that you have your ISO where you want it you will need to set your aperture. I recommend you crank it all the way open to the maximum...2.8, 4.0, 5.6 or whatever it may be. This will give you the most light available for your lens. It will also give you the shallowest depth of field meaning that the background will be more out of focus which is good for your picture. It also means that you have to work extra hard at making sure that you focus on your subject properly since it can go out of focus more easily. Now that your ISO and aperture are set you can set your shutter speed so that it exposes properly. You may find sometimes that the available light will cause your shutter speed to be too slow. In this case I increase the shutter speed a little anyway, and I'll increase the exposure on my computer later. But don't go too low on your exposure. If you do it will be difficult to recover your image. It's easier to increase the exposure if you are shooting RAW images rather than JPG, but RAW takes longer for your camera to process. It could get backed up if you are shooting in burst mode. 8

9 To sum up this section about exposure you want to have a wide open aperture, your ISO set as high as you can get away with without creating too much noise in the image and the corresponding shutter speed for the proper exposure. Make sure your shutter speed is at least 1/1,000 or 1/500 for slower children. Secret #5 - Set your camera's focus to adjust with your subject Focusing your camera on a moving target can be one of the most difficult parts of sports photography. People are moving fast, and you're moving your camera to keep up with the action. Not only that but your camera should be changing its focus automatically. You will want to set your DSLR camera to turn on its Autofocus Servo. It's called different names by different manufacturers, but they do the same thing. It automatically adjusts the focus while your subject gets closer or farther away. This is an invaluable tool for making sure your moving subject says in perfect focus. Focus is critical, and not every camera has the same focus abilities. One camera that many professional sports photographers like to use is the Canon 1D. This camera has incredible focus speed and accuracy, but it isn't cheap. 9

10 If you happen to know where the action you want to photograph is going to be it could be wise to pre-focus your camera. For example, let's say you are photographing a baseball game, and you know you want to get a shot at home plate. As long as you don't move you can focus on something at home plate before the action starts. Then turn your auto focus off. Your focus will stay on that point so that you don't have to worry about focusing at all. Secret #6 - Use your camera's burst mode Your cameras burst mode will allow you to take a burst of images all very quickly. When you press and hold down your shutter button it will keep taking pictures until you release the shutter button. When you take just one picture you are just guessing at the right moment to take a picture. If you are in burst mode you will have several images to choose from. You will get a lot of great images that you wouldn't have had by taking just one image. You may not need all of the images taken in a burst. Just choose the best one and delete the rest. 10

11 Secret #7 - Know when to use a flash Many times you won't have enough available light to get a fast shutter speed like when photographing a basketball game. In these cases you will need to use a flash. At NBA games they have high powered strobes placed around the arena. The professionals photographing a game will be given triggers to put on their cameras. When they take a picture it triggers the flashes around the arena. All of the professionals will use the same flashes. At high school and lower games you won't have that luxury. You're going to need to attach a professional on-camera flash to your camera. What I do is check the exposure on the ambient light in the building and try to get as fast shutter speed as I can. Often times this would make my exposure about 1.5 to 2 stops under exposed. But that's OK. The flash will properly expose your subject, and your background will be a bit darker. But your background isn't critical anyway. You just want to avoid it being too dark. 11

12 Be aware that you are likely to get some red eye if you are using a flash connected to your camera. That's just the price you'll have to pay to get the shot sometimes. The red eye can easily be fixed in Photoshop. The newer versions of Photoshop have a red eye correction tool that usually fixes it with just one click on each eye. Secret #8 - Use a monopod when possible You should already know what a tripod is. A monopod does the same thing as a tripod, but it only has one leg and needs someone to support it. What a monopod gives you is stability from camera shake. It's already difficult to hold a camera steady, but now you are also moving your camera to keep up with the action. A monopod allows you to hold your camera steady while at the same time easily change the direction you are pointing your camera. A good monopod can really pay off. There are plenty of cheap monopods, but I don't recommend them. Buy a monopod that doesn't come with a mount. Buy a grip mount for your monopod. There's a grip type trigger on it that allows you to quickly swivel your camera at a different angle without having to turn a knob to loosen and tighten it again. A good monopod set up can make shooting much easier and more comfortable. Not to mention you will get sharper images. 12

13 Secret #9 - Take a lot of pictures since you won't get all of them right Back in the film days you were spending money every time you pressed the shutter button. You were paying for film plus you were paying for developing and printing. Now that we have digital cameras we can look to see if we like the picture, and if we don't we can simply delete it. Not every picture you take at a sporting event is going to be great. In fact, many of them will not be very good at all. You are going to have shots that you took too early or too late, shots where you weren't able to get everything in the frame, and shots that are out of focus. Don't worry about these things. It's going to happen. Just keep shooting to make sure you get the good shots. Secret #10 - Get the eyes The life of people can be found in the eyes when looking at photographs. If you are able to capture the eyes of the athlete it will make a much more interesting photograph. 13

14 Secret #11 - Show the ball The sporting event you are at is all about the ball (assuming it's a sport with a ball or puck). Most of your action shots should have the ball in frame to help complete the story you are trying to tell with the picture. Secret #12 - Be Safe Be aware of your environment. Sports photography can be very dangerous if you aren't paying close enough attention. I can recall once while photographing a college football game that I had my camera focused on the quarterback and the ball. I suddenly started hearing noises of shoulder pads and helmets crashing against each other, and the sound was much closer than I expected. I came out from behind my camera to find that there was a football player blocking another player out of bounds...right at me. If I hadn't paid attention I could have been seriously hurt. Know your environment, and don't become part of the game yourself. 14

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