I have drafted a list of indoor sports photography tips few days ago for Photography101 , which is hosted by Scott Wittenburg. After reading them over and over again, I realized that many of these tips apply to outdoor sports photography as well. I believe they are crucial for every sports photographer, an amateur and especially a pro. However, remember that these tips will vary depending on sports and situations and some might be more important in certain situations than other. As Scott Bourne keeps saying: "Photography has always been about compromise." Remember it when shooting sports. Before providing you with indoor and outdoor sports photography tips, I have identified so far the following variables, which might make some of these tips more or less important:
- lighting conditions (how much there is natural and directional light from sun and how much equally distributed artificial light); - your position in relation to the subject(s); - type of sports; - your preference on the subject and the focus of photography.
Indoor and Outdoor Sports Photography Tips:
- Burst Mode - because there are lots of fast movements and action in sports, it's good sometimes to shoot in the burst mode to capture the most interesting and thrilling moments. In order to increase the rate of frames per second (FPS), do the following: shoot in JPG, turn off VR (Nikon) or IS (Canon); turn off in-camera noise-reduction; get a fast memory-card; having a battery-grip attached to your camera with AA batteries also increases FPS (but you need to change settings in your camera, the best is to refer to the camera manual);
- Focusing - set up focusing mode to continuous (Nikon) or AI Servo (Canon); also activate to automatic all the focusing points in the camera and subject-tracking if available. Extra tip: make sure you're in the AutoFocus Mode;
- ISO - set up ISO to Auto (so the camera can determine the best ISO based on your shutter speed and aperture, especially if you shoot in one of those priority modes). Remember that in poor lighting situations, your camera will likely use higher ISO. ISO above 800 tend to have higher noise and visible noise than ISO below 800. If you want to keep noise minimum, you can also specify the ISO range your camera will use in the Auto ISO mode.
- Shutter Speed - fast shutter speed is essential when shooting indoor or outdoor sports in order to freeze action. To freeze action and motion, shoot in Shutter Priority Mode and set it up to 1/1000sec. However, don't be afraid to play with it as it might depend on sports you shoot and especially when you want to achieve the optimal results for combining shutter speed, ISO and aperture according to your needs;
- Perspective - get low on you knees to get more interesting and unique perspective of your photography. If possible, lay even on your stomach. Remember that this tip might not apply to some sports and it also depends when you want to have a subject and focus in your photos.
- Use Fast Lens - a fast lens is crucial, especially in poor indoor lighting situations and when you want to freeze motion with high shutter speed, while avoiding high and noisy ISO. F/4 or lower f (higher aperture) is recommended;
- Long Focal Length Lens - long focal length lens is also crucial because it allows you to nicely zoom to a subject and 'get closer' to it so to speak. It depends on the type of sports you shoot and your location on the field but I would say that -200mm- lens is a minimum; -
Both Eyes Open - when shooting and looking through the viewfinder, keep your other eye open (so keep both eyes open). This way you don't limit your view-angle to what happens in the viewfinder and you also see what happens around and where the action is as sometimes fights break somewhere in the field, coaches go crazy, etc. and it's a pity to miss such great and unique shots;
- Expect Unexpected - this actually applies to many things: your main camera or lens breaks, your run out of space on a memory card or it starts raining during an outdoor sports game. Always have a backup, especially when you're shooting for a customer;
- Protect Your Gear - be careful with your gear when it comes to weather and other circumstances - there is lots of action during games: players concentrate on the game and fans drink beer and alcohol. Neither of these people worry about your expensive camera and gear when they bump into you or hit your gear - be extra careful with it and position yourself in a spot that looks the safest for you. Also watch for your gear or ask a friend / an assistant to come with you to watch it for you because pickpockets love crowded places.
- Monopod - not mandatory but often useful because holding a camera and pointing it towards the field during the whole game can make your arm feel really tired. However, if you don't point the camera towards the field all the time, you might miss some very good and interesting shots. Therefore, putting a camera on a monopod allows you to point the camera towards the field all the time and manipulate camera, move it, etc very easily because monopods are much better than tripods when shooting sports when it comes to portability and maneuverability. In addition, there is not always space to set up the legs of the tripod, people are walking around and can bump into your tripod with a camera on it and believe me: you don't want to be in a situation where camera hits the floor. If you don't have a monopod and you can't afford to buy one, you can use your tripod but don't set-up the legs. Extra tip: having a camera on a monopod, instead of holding it, also speeds up focusing.
Feel free to leave any additional tips in the comments below.
Article Picture: The picture you see above was taken in Maastricht, the Netherlands during the Dutch National Sport Week on 18 April 2009. EXIF Info: Nikon D90, Shutter Speed: 1/2000 sec., F/8, ISO 360, Focal Length: 105 mm