Club members Tammi Gorsak and Debbie McIntosh shared their action/sports photography experiences, tips, tricks and gear with us today. Both members shoot local recreation club and high school sports events in the Southern Maryland area and have been published in the Calvert Recorder and Independent newspapers over the years. Both ladies became involved in sports photography when their children were playing on various sports teams. Though they both focus on sports photography, their techniques apply to any photography that involves motion.
Today, there are more sports photos on the market than ever before. An abundance of photos and photographers have driven prices down in the sports photography market. The ease of use of digital cameras has brought a lot of sports photographers into the business, and thus staff photographers are almost non-existent. For example, in 2013 the Chicago Sun cut their 28 person staff photography team. In 2015, Sports Illustrated laid off all six staff photographers. Also in 2015 the local Southern Maryland newspapers laid off staff photographers or redeployed them as journalists or editors. Therefore, the need for freelance photographers continues to grow and so there are still opportunities for the talented, hard-working sports photographer.
So how do you gain access to sports events? To begin with, use your family! Starting with photographing your children or grandchildren can often lead to other opportunities to get yourself noticed as a sports photographer. Volunteer! These relationships can also result in other opportunities to get your name and talent on display. Get to know the local journalists, sports officials, coaches, and parents. Have a champion – someone who promotes your work to others. And always be ready to talk about your work and your passion as a photographer. Basically, form connections!
When it comes to gear, what you need depends on the sport, the location, the time of day you’re going to be shooting, and how much you are willing to spend. When shooting any event, you should have at least two camera bodies with you in the case of a malfunction. A full frame camera is capable of a higher dynamic range which will give you less noise. You should also have a camera that shoots at least five frames/second minimum to get good action shots. Also, consider buffer size – how many burst images can the memory hold? The speed of your card is another consideration. A higher end card with a high write speed is essential.
As far as lenses, ask yourself: What are my goals? How close can I get? How much light do I have? How much is distance/clutter going to be between my subject and the background (depth of field)? Having several different lenses with you will give you some flexibility as well as cover you in the case of damage to or malfunction of a lens. The following chart shows the minimum lenses you should use depending on the sport:
For stability, a good tripod or monopod is a necessary item. Also, you should consider what you will need to protect your gear from the weather when shooting in rain or snow.
Another thing to plan for is the lighting conditions. Will you be indoors or outside? Will you be shooting in the bright daylight or at night under the field lights? Settings for shooting action in full daylight are the manual mode, 1/1000 shutter speed, aperture wide open, and auto ISO. (If it is really bright, adjust the shutter first before changing the aperture.) If you are shooting ice hockey, you need to meter off of the ice for a correct exposure.
The movement of the game must be considered as well. With fast moving sports like lacrosse, soccer, or field hockey you are going to have to move. For car racing, you want to get some blur in the background to show movement. In Basketball, it is important to get the ball in the frame.
When planning a sports photography shoot, knowing your sport is essential. You need to be able to anticipate the action and know the best positions needed to capture that action. Have a vision for at least three shots and set up a goal list in your head. Respect the rules and know where you can be and where you cannot be. About the game, remain neutral! But most of all….get there early!
Planning and technical preparation for all action/sports work involve knowing your gear, its limitations and how to change settings. Get as close as you can to your subject and be aware of the background. Get both tight and wide shots. Look all around you for details and don’t forget about the sidelines and reactions of the viewers.
Final words from Debbie and Tammi….practice, practice, practice! Understand your light and where it is coming from. Take the safe shots, but then look for something new. Try different lenses. Always evaluate your work afterwards – don’t spend time “chimping”! (You may miss a critical moment in the game….or a hockey puck flying at your head!) Study the images of the professionals. And most of all…have fun!
See Debbie’s work at: http://www.facebook/mcintoshimages or www.mcintoshimages. Tammi’s images can be viewed at https://www.flickr.com/photos/tgorsak/.
The June photo assignment was “Light Trails”. The winning photos this month were submitted by 3rd Place - Sandy Carr, 2nd Place - Sandy Carr, and 1st Place - Tammy Gorsak. Congratulations to the winners. Their names have been added to the drawing for the end of the year prize which is a boxed version of ProShow Producer - a $250 value – http://bit.ly/1UivwYo The .July photo assignment is: “Look.”
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