Individuals and Teams

Sports Photography – Individuals & Teams
You may be photographing a sporting event to capture photos of a single athlete, a entire team or perhaps multiple teams or groups.  Each presents different challenges unique to the sports photographer, but by following the ideas and tips included in this article you will be better prepared to successfully shoot your sporting event. 

Single Athlete
During a sports season I will take photos of all the players on my children’s team, but as with any proud parent, I always want more photos of my own children.  I will go to many games with the sole purpose purpose of shooting my child’s performance.  In many ways I find this the most enjoyable sports photography since I don’t have the worry or time pressure to capture a photo of everyone on the team.  It also means that I don’t have to take photos every minute of the event, I can pick the time when the lighting is best and my child is participating to shoot, and at other times I can sit down, relax and enjoy the event.

Attending a sporting event to take photos of a single athlete is the simplest.  With a little practice it won’t take you the entire event to have a handsome portfolio of great photos.  Be sure to position yourself in an area where you will get the most photo opportunities of that athlete.   Soccer for example, where the field is so large, you will want to position yourself on the side of the field where your athlete plays the most.  Similarly in dance or other performance sports, position yourself on the side of the stage where you will have the best angle and view to capture them. 

Depending on the sport you may want to shoot most of your shots with a vertical orientation.  Be sure to capture the athlete’s face and anticipate their movements to get great photos.  Follow them with the camera for several minutes at a time anticipating their movements and you will capture many good photos.  The more you follow them the more chance you will have to capture that unique and amazing sports moment.

Don’t forget to close-ups of your athlete.  Fill the frame with their face during breaks or prior to or after the event.  Also remember to not just shoot them alone, catch them in context of their team, the event and the competition.  Include photos of them and their position or relationship to the rest of the team.  Capture them in small groups or broader settings showing the venue and group.

Team
As a sports photographer you will also go to many events to shoot all the athletes in the competition.  This could be one team, both teams or many performing teams.  To do this requires more planning, effort and time. Depending on the sport or event you might be trying to capture photos of 4-30 athletes in 60 minutes.  This can be a real challenge for the sheer number of athletes and the limited time to do it in.  There is nothing worse than finishing shooting a game, showing participants and parents the photos and realizing someone was missed.

Preparation
It will take a few minutes, but if you prepare for the event by filling out a shooting card with the athlete’s names or jersey number you will be able to track who you captured and who you are missing.  Don’t take time to make a note after every shot, but during breaks go through a review of your photos on the camera’s LCD, delete the bad shots, and make note of the athletes you have taken shots of.

Be Aware
A challenge in capturing everyone is that some players are naturally easier to capture than others.  If not careful you will find yourself having many shots of a few players and only a couple shots of the rest, or even none at all.  A lot depends on the position they play and how aggressive they are.  Some seem to be in the middle of everything while others only appear occasionally.  Other athletes playing different positions and perhaps playing less aggressively will require you to pay special attention to.  By being aware of this you can pay special attention and you can make yourself move to different locations.  If you stay in the same location for the entire event, you will end up with the same athletes and the same photos.  Moving around will help you capture the entire team. Also be aware of the players on the bench and substitutions.  Subs often play less time and you will need to pay particular attention to them when they enter the game, and even follow them exclusively for a few minutes to get the shots you need.

Safe Shots
Another way to ensure you capture the entire team is to remember to get "safe" shots.  These are the shots that are easy to get before and after the game and during a break or half-time.  You can get close-ups and isolated shots during warm-ups and depending on the sport there may appear to be no difference between that shot and a shot during the game.  Other safe shots include close-ups during half-time or after the game.

Following these tips will help you capture better sports photos whether you are shooting a single athlete or everyone on the team.

ProPix Photography
The Sports Photographers

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