Sunday, May 1, 2016

Three tips for better sports pictures

Posted By on Sun, May 1, 2016 at 9:27 AM

It’s springtime and that means sports season is upon us. This year, my daughter Abby is playing on the Cheyenne Mountain Lacrosse’s 11-and-under girls team.

I alway bring a camera to her games and lately I’ve seen other parent’s doing the same — and not the phone kind of cameras — but "real" cameras with great lenses for shooting sports.

But even though parents are bringing the right equipment, I’ve noticed they're not using their equipment correctly, and might not be getting the best results.

Here are three tips for shooting sports for Mom's and Dad's who made the investment and bring the right equipment to their children’s games; namely DSLR’s with professional long lenses (like my favorite 70-200mm f2.8 lens).

click to enlarge Kaya makes a break with the ball. Photographing vertically isolates the player for the perfect 'hero' shot. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Kaya makes a break with the ball. Photographing vertically isolates the player for the perfect 'hero' shot.

Tip #1 Use a monopod. Long lenses made for shooting sports are super heavy. I see a lot of people walking around the sidelines with this gigantic weight hanging around their necks. It takes effort to hand-hold these lenses that are often several pounds. A monopod takes the weight off your neck and can be adjusted for either a seated or standing position. Personally, I prefer to sit in my folding chair, visit with other parents and photograph the game that way.

click to enlarge Analena goes for the ball. Photographing the action horizontally gets everything in the picture including the ball and the players reaching for it. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Analena goes for the ball. Photographing the action horizontally gets everything in the picture including the ball and the players reaching for it.

Tip #2 Watch the game through the viewfinder, otherwise you’ll never get the shot. There’s no point in bringing 10 pounds of gear to the game if you’re not going to use it. Many people I see on the sidelines are just carrying the camera and aren't using it. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to trudge through a parking lot to a game with my chair, a couple of kids in tow, their sports equipment and perhaps a cooler full of snacks AND bring a camera just for looks.

click to enlarge Kirsten in the face-off. I framed it vertically to include Pikes Peak in the background. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Kirsten in the face-off. I framed it vertically to include Pikes Peak in the background.

Tip #3 Use AI-Servo. Expensive cameras and lenses do one thing really well. They can auto focus and track the action. The auto focus feature I use the most is called AI-Servo. You can lock the focus on the player and track them through the play. It will still track them after you press the shutter so you can take multiple frames without losing focus. It’s awesome and it works. Try and it and see for yourself!

click to enlarge Eliza plays defense. I know I'm close enough when I can see the concentration in the player's faces. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Eliza plays defense. I know I'm close enough when I can see the concentration in the player's faces.

More tips:
• Use a fast shutter speed. The faster your shutter speed, the less likely you’re going to get blurry pictures. I prefer 1/500th of a second or faster. And, if I have to, I'll crank my ISO up to ensure that I have a fast enough shutter speed to capture the action.

click to enlarge Coach Lynn talks with Mimi on the sidelines. By watching the game through the viewfinder, I can capture other moments beside just the action. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Coach Lynn talks with Mimi on the sidelines. By watching the game through the viewfinder, I can capture other moments beside just the action.

• Take lots of pictures. The more pictures you take, the better chance you’re going to get a photograph you really like.

• Frame your subject correctly. Trying to get a photograph of your player all alone in that classic Heisman trophy, "hero" pose? Isolate them in a vertical frame. Want to capture the action? Shoot it horizontally.

click to enlarge Merrill and another teammate double-team their opponent. You can see the player's intensity in this photograph. - SEA CAYTON
  • Sea Cayton
  • Merrill and another teammate double-team their opponent. You can see the player's intensity in this photograph.

• Get close. The closer you are to the players the better chance you’re going to get a great shot. I know I’m close enough when I can clearly see the concentration on a player’s face. 

Happy Shooting!

Colorado Springs wedding photographer Sean Cayton loves remarkable photographs and the stories behind them. You can see his wedding work at caytonphotography.com, his personal work at seancayton.com and his editorial work in the Colorado Springs Independent. Submit your photo and the story behind the image - no more than two a week, please - to sean@caytonphotography.com for consideration in upcoming blogs.

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