Musings and Mumblings
The inner monologue of Kiley Fischer
Sports Photography 101: Tips for beginners
Categories: Sports Writing

Anyone can take a camera, point and shoot.  It takes a little more knowledge and a lot more practice to be good at taking those photos.  The tips below are great for beginning photographers or sports writers who aren’t used to taking their own photos.  What do you look for?  What are some things you should be conscious of?  How should you approach an event?  There are just a few of the subjects found below.

1.  Emotion

Mike Knuble of the Washington Capitals keeps an eye on the clock during the Capitals 3-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on October 13, 2011 at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This picture has a lot of intensity to it as the game was heading into overtime. While it hasn't been edited, this is also an example of professional lighting. Despite being inside, everything is bright an clear. (Photo by Kiley Fischer, 2011)

Emotion really might be one of the most important things to capture.  Whether it’s exhaustion, excitement, absolute focus or defeat, the emotion in a picture will make it that much better.

2.  Try to allude to movement

There are situations where a little blur is ok.  Whether it’s a hockey stick blurring on a slap shot or a baseball bat swinging, that little bit of blur on the object lets the audience see motion.  These take a lot of patience.

3.  Understand the game

The more you understand the game, the more you’ll know what to look for.  You’re not going to be pulled out on a shot when a football team has a 3rd and 1 as there more than likely will not be a pass.  Likewise, if you see a hockey team has pulled their goalie, you’ll be looking for two things: the impending 6-on-5 in the offensive zone as well as a breakaway towards the empty net.

Much of this knowledge comes from reading as well as watching.  The longer you spend researching a sport, the better prepared you will be.  The “…for Dummies” book series has cheat sheets on their website as well as books for sale on various sports.

This image by Ezra Shaw of Getty Images is a great example of composition. Everything is balanced and the image itself conveys a point.


4.  Think about composition

Are you highlighting one person or multiple people?  If the answer was “one,” take the photo vertically.  You will be able to isolate that person.  If you want to focus on multiple people such as two hockey players in a fight, shoot horizontally to catch more of the action.

Bob Martin is an award-winning British sports photographer.  He’s covered the Olympics and his work has been published in Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek and many others.  Taking a look at his portfolio can give you a better idea of composition to consider.

This image, taken at a Seton Hill University basketball game against Ohio Valley, is an example of two things: an image taken from the vantage point of a fan and terrible focus. This is a view the public would have. They won't want to see the same thing they could see on their own. (Photo by Kiley Fischer, 2011.)




5.  Move around

The readers do not want to see the same angle they saw.  If they wanted that, they would look at their own pictures.  Can you make it to courtside?  Do it.  Are you able to be on the sidelines for the football game?  Go.  Make the photo interesting for your audience.

6.  Focus on faces

Your star basketball player’s emotion isn’t in his jersey number.  Capturing emotion is all about capturing faces.  (Example below.)

Otto Greule Jr of Getty Images made sure to capture the face of Sam Bradford of the St. Louis Rams as he leaves the field after a loss. Imagine if this was the back of a jersey instead. There would be little to no emotion whatsoever.


7.  Focus

It seems like it would be somewhat of a no-brainer, but be sure your photos are in focus.  Your auto-focus (AF) might take a second to catch up with the motion.  In order to make sure you’re hitting your target, start following the subject in advance.  Your AF will have a second to catch up and you should have a focused picture.

8.  Have the right equipment.

You probably use a regular point-and-shoot camera.  While those are fine for a snapshot at an amusement park or a day out, they’re close to useless for good sports photography.  The zoom is usually awful and the quality isn’t much better.  If you can use a better camera, do it.

9.  Watch the game.

The whole idea of a photo is to capture a moment.  Would you rather see the team during a timeout or catch the winning touchdown pass?  You have to pass attention to catch the defining moment.

Also, don’t rely on others to take pictures for you.  Stay for the game.

10.  Pay attention to your lighting.

You won’t always have ideal lighting.  Poor lighting combined with the wrong settings will leave you with a blurry or difficult to see photo.  Many venues will have less than ideal lighting.  Yes, you can edit the photos, but there is only so much you can do.

A lot of this also comes down to the camera.  Don’t try to use your iPhone for a good shot.  However, you can also look at websites such as this for an introduction to solving lighting problems.

1 Comment to “Sports Photography 101: Tips for beginners”

  1. bh50030 says:

    Hmm it appears like your website ate my first comment (it was super long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any points for novice blog writers? I’d really appreciate it.

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