Whether you are heading out to support your local high school or you're attending the most highly anticipated NFL football game of the season, it's important to know that sports photography techniques are not the same as those you may use when shooting other kinds of pictures. For example, when you consider flower photography techniques, your subject is perfectly still, and you can get as close as you'd like. These luxuries are not typically afforded to the sports photographer, but there are ways you can you capture the best shot of the game.
Techniques for Capturing Great Sports Images
There are some general rules of thumb regarding how to take good pictures, but taking pictures at a football game, baseball game, hockey game, or some other sporting event presents a unique situation that requires a certain style or methodology.
Use Intense Telephoto for Close-Up Action
As you can probably imagine, it's nearly impossible to get any sorts of pictures taken from the playing field itself. You'll want to get a digital camera with adequate optical zoom. These are known as telephoto lenses, because they allow you to get close-up shots from far away.
Do bear in mind, however, that optical zoom is significantly different than digital zoom. With optical zoom, the camera is actually taking a picture of the zoomed-in action. With digital zoom, the camera is simply taking a portion of a larger scene and stretching it out to fill the frame. This diminishes the quality of the shot.
Even when you choose a digital camera for a beginner, there are options out there that offer a lot of optical zoom. The Canon S5 IS, for example, has 12x optical zoom.
Use Shorter Shutter Speeds for Reduced Blur
If you'd prefer to not use the automatic "sports" mode on many consumer level digital cameras, you can help to reduce the amount of motion blur experienced when taking sports pictures by using shorter shutter speeds.
These sports photography techniques are similar to what you would want to do when taking action photography. By using shorter shutter speeds, you are exposing the photo sensor to light for a shorter amount of time and thus, capturing the image faster. Depending on your chosen photography style, you may or may not want some blur to give the impression of motion. Keep in mind that too much blur makes the picture incomprehensible, however. People want to see facial expressions and distinct players.
Turn Off the Flash
One of the beginning photography tips that many people receive is to use flash only when necessary. There are definitely times when using a flash is absolutely required, but when it comes to most instances of hockey games and similar situations, a flash simply does not have enough "throw" to reach the athlete. What results is a picture that is remarkably dark.For sports photography techniques, you'll generally want to turn off the flash if possible. To compensate, you'll want to shorten the shutter speed, as described above, and possibly widen the aperture if at all possible. The bigger the "glass," the better.
This is particularly true if you are using a DSLR, because among the digital camera basics that you'll learn is that a larger lens will be able to capture more information in a shorter time. This is critical for good sports photography and that's why you see professionals with such large telephoto lenses.
You can also stabilize your shot by making use of tripods and monopods where possible.
Context and Focus
In terms of sports photography techniques, one of the most important things that you'll want to keep in mind is that the player should be the center of attention and should be the one in focus, not any of the background elements. In fact, having background elements out of focus can have quite a dramatic effect. Depending on your target composition, you may or may not want to include more or less context to your athlete subject. A football player rushing at the 50-yard line is not the same as one rushing into the end zone for a touchdown.
Start Putting These Techniques to Use
Now that you have these tips, start using them whenever you want to take some sports shots. You'll be amazed at the dramatic improvement in your photos. You may ev