You can learn more about photography and develop your skills faster by spending some time shooting sports events. It is a very demanding form of photography with a lot of conditions out of your control. Your subject matter is constantly moving, usually in unpredictable ways, and faster than normal activity.
Thus, it is best to start out with slower moving high school sports and then move up to college and professional levels. Try to cover both indoor and outdoor events to broaden your skills.
Some Beginner Sports Photography Tips
Learn to be more assertive. This is crucial! Try to get as close as you can to the subject matter without getting in the way of the fan’s view, or intruding on the game. Don’t be afraid to move in, the worst that will happen is an usher will ask you to return to your seat. However, if you look like you know what you are doing and are doing your best to keep out of the way, they probably won’t bother you.
Know what the light will be before you go to the game. If it is an indoor event, this is crucial since all manner of artificial lighting
is used and some is so bad you are better off using a flash. If you HAVE to use a flash, make certain you are not aiming that flash into the player’s eyes.
Do not get involved in the game. Keep quiet. Concentrate on getting the best photo you can.
Don’t bug other photographers with questions about exposure, etc. You must figure these concerns out yourself.
Do NOT talk with any players or coaches. Players sometimes will bug you to take their picture …. just smile and avoid conversations or the coach will do everything he can to keep you from shooting anymore photos. You become a distraction to the players – keeping them from concentrating on their game – and coaches hate that.
Do NOT bring a tripod to any game. They are usually too big and bulky and players can hurt themselves if they make contact. A monopod (one-legged camera stick-support) is lightweight and easily moved.
If you have a motorized camera and can remove the motor or use manual shutter button, please start off avoiding the use of the
motor. There is a significant delay between the time you push the motor’s shutter button and the actual time the exposure is made. If you shoot without the motor the delay is reduced. The delay when shooting non-motor is about 1/200th of a second. That may sound fast but, with fast moving subjects, it is not…. and you need to learn how to compensate for the delay. Learn to shoot an instant before the peak action. If you wait until you SEE the peak action you will miss it. Using the motor’s shutter button means an even longer delay and it will take you longer to time your shooting.
Practice Makes Perfect
Finally, don’t overlook close-up, sideline pictures of players and coaches. You can get some marvelous portraits of the passion, pain, and energy of the game by keeping an eye on players not on the field.
This photo of Green Bay Packer’s QB Bart Starr (#15)was taken in -67 degree weather at the Packer’s Lambeau Field… it was called the "Icebowl" … Starr went in for the winning TD, and AP transmitted it around the world within two hours. It was taken with a motorized Nikon F with a 500mm telephoto lens, hand-held. Tri-X film rated at 400. The exposure was f5.6 at 1/500th of a second.
We kept the film leaders from breaking by putting masking tape on them and used hand-warmers to keep the motors from freezing.
Now let’s head into the lessons on various sports events