Monday, March 23, 2009
Ultimate Sports-Action Tips
How to shoot—and think—like a pro sports photographer
The right gear makes a difference.
• The digital SLR is the overwhelming choice among pros. Even an entry-level D-SLR today is more powerful and capable than the top pro cameras I used just a few years ago. D-SLRs are much better than compacts for sports action because, among other reasons, they respond much faster.
• Getting the best action while shooting sports usually requires a telephoto lens. A 100-300mm or 70-200mm zoom lens will offer good focal ranges for most shooting. If you’re shooting primarily indoor sporting events like basketball or volleyball, a maximum aperture of at least ƒ/2.8 is a must. While the lighting at indoor sporting arenas is typically low, the advantage is that it’s constant—unlike outdoors, where light can fluctuate due to weather and time of day.
• Once you’ve selected your camera and lens, spend as much time as possible familiarizing yourself with how they work before you go out to shoot an event. Play with the settings, shoot things around the house, and—here’s a real “insider pro trick”—read the manual.
• The great thing about digital photography is that you can shoot as much as you like at no additional cost (no more film processing). The other benefit of digital photography is that you can immediately see the effects camera settings have on the outcome of a picture by viewing the images on the camera’s LCD screen. Shoot a lot, and review what works and what doesn’t, to accelerate the learning process.
The action won’t wait—be ready!
• Always check your equipment before you get to the field to make sure it works properly, preferably with enough time to address any problem before the shoot.
• Charge your batteries and make sure you have spares, especially if you expect a long day of shooting.
• Check your memory cards. Make sure any previous shoots have been downloaded to your computer and an external hard drive for additional backup and image protection.
• Once photos on your memory card have been safely stored elsewhere, reformat all your cards. This refreshes your memory card and discards any image data from previous shoots.
• Above all, make sure you have enough memory cards to cover the entire event. Memory cards are reasonably inexpensive, so I make sure I always have at least four 4 GB memory cards ready to go. You may not need that much capacity, but it’s a good idea to have an extra card or two with more capacity than you expect to need.
• Organize your camera bag so you know where everything is. Clearly separate used memory cards from fresh ones and dead batteries from fresh ones. Photographing sports requires split-second reactions, and not knowing exactly where in your bag a fresh memory card is could be the difference between getting a great shot and missing it (and having every parent asking you, “Did you get that?”). Use a bag with dividers, which will help keep lenses organized and protected, but easily accessible.
• If you’re traveling or have a long day of shooting, bring along a laptop or another device for backing up images. This will allow you to download your cards and back them up immediately—and will free space on your cards for more shooting.
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