Lighting is one of the most difficult challenges for the sports photographer. It varies outdoors and changes in nearly every gym. If your athlete plays in the same field or gym repeatedly that can help and allows you to try out different options. Outdoors you have the challenge of the bright sun which will cast deep shadows or cloudy days when their is not enough light. Indoors you will face a variety of different lights with different brightness and color. All creating a challenge for you to get the best photos.
When you are outdoors and it’s sunny you want to remember that you want to light up the athlete’s face. You want the light on their face so you want the sun to your back. So position yourself to make that happen. This might mean only shooting half of a soccer game or shooting the players going in one direction. It might mean only shooting a few innings of the game instead of the entire game. The good thing about the sun is you can keep your ISO down to 400 and still eliminate the blur bof motion. I love sports photos on a sunny day because of the brightness and brilliance.
The shadow of the faces can be so strong that you will not recognize the player nor will you be able to post edit them on the computer and make them bright enough to view.
An overcast sky is a blessing in many ways, but creates other difficulties for you. You won’t have the heavy shadows, but you will have less light and will need to shoot at a higher ISO. The higher ISO isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you have to go too high you can start getting grainy photos. Check you view finder and keep the ISO as low as possible while still getting enough light on your athlete. Where you position yourself on this overcast day is less important from a lighting standpoint since you don’t have to worry about keeping the sun on your back.
You will find a wide variety of lights used indoors. They never seem to be the same and the level of brightness always varies. For the most part there is never as much light as you want or really need. In some ways you have a tougher job than the professional photographer who works in a well lit arena. Your key benefit is that at least you can move around. So, what to do, well have that good lens, adjust your ISO to as high as needed. This will often have to be up to 1600 to get enough light and to freeze the action. This may end up limiting the size of photos you can print, but at least they will be bright and viewable. As mentioned previously try different white balance settings until you get the one that gives you the best color.
The Sports Photography Professionals