You’re probably wondering why I’m opening this post with an image of a start of a bicycle race. Well, this sport is what ignited my passion for photography! I raced bicycles for about 11 years, growing up outside of Detroit. My siblings also raced and, along with my parents, we traveled as a family throughout the midwest and east coast to events from April through October.
When I was about 14, my father invested in a really nice Minolta camera. I was completely fascinated with it! I loved experimenting with all the different settings – I had absolutely no idea what I was doing (at first), and probably ruined countless rolls of film, but I caught the photography bug at a fairly young age.
Sports photography was my first love. It was thrilling to capture, in a single image, the speed and grit of cycling — racers leaning through corners with knees practically scraping the pavement, or struggling up a mountain with every ounce of strength in his legs, or a lone rider celebrating victory with arms raised high as he crosses the finish line.
This past week while visiting family in the Milwaukee area, I was able to attend a segment of “Superweek”, a week-long series of races that have been held for over 30 years. So there I was, with camera in-hand, shooting away and recalling the excitement I’d felt years ago with that Minolta!
Want to take great sports photos, too? Here are some tips to getting great images at your kid’s soccer/football/baseball games – you’ll be the envy of all your friends! (These tips work best with a camera where you can manually adjust it’s settings.)
1. Be ready to use a high ISO (what used to be film speed). For indoor sports or events taking place in low light, or maybe you want to stop action and need a higher shutter speed. By boosting your camera’s ISO your camera will be able to see more light. How high do you go? The top pro cameras will go as high as 3200 ISO; for us mere mortals, I’ve found that 1600 ISO does the job just fine. Your best bet is to experiment with different settings to find out what works best in various scenarios.
2. Play with your shutter speed. When you want to freeze the action and keep everything sharp & in focus, crank up the shutter speed to 1/800 or 1/1000. Conversely, you can choose to just keep one thing in focus and the background blurry. Shooting at 1/100 of a second or 1/80 of a second allows the player to be in focus and sharp but the background to be very blurry and creates a cool effect. If you set your camera to “TV”, and dial in the shutter speed at which you want to shoot, your camera will automatically configure the appropriate aperture.
3. Good glass is money well-spent. One of the most important things in photography is glass, or the lens. Sports photography, unlike any other type, occasionally requires the biggest and most expensive equipment available. This allows you to shot from anywhere around the stadium, including the end zones in football, creating the perfect head on shot.
If you’re serious about taking great sports images, then you may want to think seriously about investing in a top-notch fast long lens.
These are just a few tips to help you out. The main thing to do to improve your sports photography is to practice, practice, practice! Take your camera with you to all your kids’ events -indoor, outdoor, rain or shine. The more you shoot, the better you’ll get.