By Allen Hamrick
Summer sports and fall sports will be clashing soon, and the landscape will also change with the bright colors of autumn. Your kids are on the team or you’re planning a leaf trip to catch the vivid colors that will soon dot the landscape, but you can’t seem to get the camera to cooperate with your eyes. I am sure that at some time you have wondered why your photos don’t look like ones in a magazine or perhaps you wish that you could take a wall hanger photo from a trip in the mountains. I have been asked to give some tips to the parents for great sports photos and tips for fall shooting. Here are some tips I use to get the job done. What’s the big secret, the trick to getting those images? It’s not impossible, it’s not luck, and it is not dependent on tricks. It’s not necessarily equipment (unless you’re shooting an evening ballgame or the night sky) or Photoshop skill. It is a number of decisions, based on those brief moments when you see a scene, raise your camera to your eye, frame the shot, adjust the settings and click the shutter.
Here’s what to do:
Follow the Light: The eye is always looking for the best lighting, the dance of light, shadows and silhouettes even in ball games. So, it is important during the game or in the field to trust the creativity that is embedded in everybody. Everybody has the ability to find the best angle, the best light at the time the shutter is snapped. You have to be aware of the quality of light – the color, the warmth or coolness of the light or as the camera says white balance. Ideally, a landscape shooter only shoots at the best times – in the morning and evening. But that isn’t always possible in sports, so you must seek out the setting that makes the best of the available light. During night time sports activities, sometimes the light is there but not the subject and sometime you just have to wait. Lighting on the main subject and the light in the background could enhance or distract from the subject. You have to get yourself in the right position according to the light that’s available whether it’s the sun or field lights, so move around as necessary as it changes.
Anticipating: To get the photo you want, you have to anticipate the shot before it happens especially in sports or landscapes. Being able to see the composition of the image before you raise a camera to your eye will get you the best shots in sports. Shooting from the end zone will give you the best chance at an uncluttered background and a good image. So, picking the spot you will shoot is always a top priority in sports or landscapes. You have to consider the point of view that will give your subject the best point of view.
Metering: When you find that interesting light or what light is given, you have to know how to meter the camera for it. Don’t count on your camera to know how your eyes see the scene, so do pretest shots using partial metering or spot metering directed at the scene to determine your exposure settings. It is a discipline that requires practice, especially in hard lighting. Most all cameras have a metering section… use it.
Camera Settings: Know your camera inside and out and understand its limitations and strengths. Not all cameras are suited for sports, but all cameras are good for landscapes. If you are a sports mama or dad that has kids playing sports, it is best to bite the bullet and invest in a good camera and lens, otherwise you will be disappointed. A lens that carries a 2.8 aperture throughout the zoom is best for sports. It is a must because a camera tends to under-expose or over-expose in certain situations, especially during a night time sporting event.
Aperture Priority Mode: Aperture priority mode, if your camera is equipped, can control the aperture and depth of field which will institute a relationship of near and far elements of foreground and background. Blurring the background will make the subject pop to the eye thus making a dramatic great photo. The APM is a great creative mode to shoot in.
Shutter Priority Mode: This mode is used to freeze a moment or perhaps blur a scene or a pan shot. Knowing the proper shutter speed is critical to this type of shot; never let the camera choose it for you or you will be disappointed.
ISO: The film speed is critical for low light conditions; it controls the amount of light that the camera sees.
Framing: When you look through a viewfinder, frame the shot so that all parts of the frame – the subject, from edge to edge and each corner, from near to far – is within its borders. Move left or right, or up or down to get all you want in the frame without unwanted background.
Clicking the Shutter: Finally! Press the shutter smoothly. Set your camera for a single exposure for landscape or multiple exposures for sports.
These are just a few tips that can get you started; practice them and most importantly, don’t just set the camera on auto and shoot. Most of the time that will not get the shot you wanted, and in sports, it almost always leaves you scratching your head. It is also not a necessity to have a pro camera with pro lenses to get a great image. It is all about your eyes and the final product that you want people to see or to simply enjoy the moment you captured for years to come. It is the process of knowing how to adjust your camera for the situation you are in and use its controls, as well as making decisions based on you understanding of the many shots you have done. Practice makes perfect and learning from your mistakes will always get you the best results. Having a $10,000 set of golf clubs doesn’t make you a better golfer any more than a $10,000 camera and lens will make you a good photographer. Experimenting and learning from the results, both good and bad, and how to adjust the camera you have will give you the best results.