Monthly Archives: July 2009

Sports Photography Lighting

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.

Outdoor Sunny
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.

Outdoor Overcast
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.

Indoor Lights
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.

ProPix Photography

The Sports Photography Professionals

Sports Photography Equipment

Having the right equipment for taking family sports and action shots is critical.  Pay attention to the photographers at a professional or college sporting event.  You will often see them with two cameras one large lens on a mono-pod and another camera and lens around their neck.  No, you won’t have to do the same thing, but having the best equipment you can will make getting great photos much easier and simpler.  The fields, courts and facilities you are shooting at may be similar in size or the exact same size as college and professional facilities, but hopefully you will have better access for positioning yourself and more ability for moving around.  While this mobility will help you compensate for much of the "professional" equipment you will still need to invest in quality equipment to get the shots you want!

This is not the time for you point and shoot camera.  While that will work fine for posed photos on vacation and around the house, you will not get quality sports and action shots with it.  Okay, maybe it will work for the 6 year-old soccer game where you get to walk around on the field with the kids, but that’s about it.  For everything else you will need a Digital SLR 35mm camera with a quality lens.  Point and shoot cameras are not fast enough and do not have quality lenses for capturing action without blur, taking shots at a distance and shots in poor light.

Thank goodness for auto focus, imagine having to manually focus on a soccer player as they run toward you.  A camera and lens with a quick focus is a must.  There is not a lot you will have to do here because the camera and lens will do the focusing for you.  If you do get blurry photos it will not be the focus but rather the shutter speed.  You can help your camera focus in advance if you push the shutter button half way down.  For instance I will do this on a corner kick or penalty kick in soccer.  The ball is this case remains still, the player backs a few steps away and then approaches the ball to strike it.  You know where the player will be in this case when they strike  ball, so I simply focus on the ball and then follow the player.  As they kick I press the shutter the rest of the way and the camera shoots quickly.

Nothing as disappointing as a action shot that you thought was great only to find out that on your computer the athlete is just a small spec on the screen.  And yes, you can crop that photo until the athlete fills your screen but the photo will be pixilated by then.  The best shots are when the action fills the frame.  This requires a good long and fast lens.  Different sports may require different lenses or if you have one good lens and can position yourself well you can accomplish a lot by moving around. 

You’ll notice professional sports photographers will have one "huge" lens on a mono-pod and another camera and lens around their neck.  Well that "huge" lens may often cost $8,000 and up, so it’s not often a lens that the family sports photographer can afford.  A good quality 2.8 80-200mm lens is not inexpensive ($800-$1400), but it will let you capture most any sport if you are willing to move around a bit.  The 2.8 makes it fast enough to capture action in those dingy poorly lit gyms and long enough to capture action on a soccer field.  Granted on the soccer field if you’re on one end it’s not long enough to capture great action on the far side of the field, but if you move around the field and wait for the action to come to you, you’ll get plenty of great shots.

The ability to crop is a real advantage with digital.  Try to take well framed photos to begin with because it will save you time, but if that doesn’t always happen you can copy the photo to your computer, then crop the image and it will look like you took a professional shot right from the beginning.  Too much cropping is time consuming and your resulting image will be pixilated, but a minor amount of cropping can turn a "fair" photo into an amazingly well composed action shot.

Lens speed
The faster lens you have the faster shutter speed you can shoot at.  You need to shoot at a fast shutter speed to capture/freeze the action.  For both indoor and outdoor sports you will need a F2.8 or faster.  My favorite lens is a F2.8 80-200mm lens which works both outdoors and indoors.  If everything you do is outdoor sports on big fields you may be able to get away with a slower lens, but the 80-200mm lens is ideal for most all family sports photography.


ProPix Photography

The Sports Photography Professionals

Techniques on using Photoshop Actions

Photoshop Actions


If you have been lucky enough to get the full featured Photoshop product you may have seen the actions tab. This is an extremely powerful tool and at the same time very simple to use. This tool allows you to record a number of events, save them and finally play them back on any future photos you would like.

An example of a simple action might be that you want to automatically adjust the brightness and crop a number of photos. You simply start to record a new action and once you have done the adjustments on the first photo you stop recording and then hit the play button on all of the other photos you want to apply the action to. You can alternatively apply a hot key to any actions you would like to have quick access to. You may want an action that does a small curves adjustment set to F5 so that any time you need to brighten an image just a bit, you can simply press F5 and it’s done.

In addition to pressing the play button on each photo, you can alternately use the Batch option under file / automate menu item. When you use this feature you select one of the actions you have created and then apply it to an entire folder of images. This can save you time by not having to manually press the play button on each photo as Photoshop will do it for you.


Now that you have a basic understanding of actions, let’s go ahead and create one. We will do a simple curves adjustment as well as a hue and saturation change.

First, load in the first image you would like to use to create the action. Now with the actions tab visible press the “Create New Action” button.

new_actionThis will now bring up a dialogue box with a few options. Type in curves and saturation for the name and hit the Record button.  You should now notice that the record button on the actions tab is active. This lets you know that Photoshop is currently recording anything you do.


Now bring up the curves dialogue box by pressing ctrl + C and make your adjustments and press OK. Now bring up the Hue/Saturation window by pressing ctrl + U and make your adjustments there as well. Press OK to apply your hue/saturation settings and then click the stop button next to the record button on the actions tab. You now have your action saved. If you want to apply these same settings to another photo or even the same one you have open, just press the play button next to the record button on the actions tab.

This is a great tool, that if utilized, can save you hours and hours of repetitive work on your sports photos. You should definitely give it a try.


ProPix Photography

The Sports Photography Professionals

Outdoor Sports

Outdoor Sports
There is nothing like spending a warm summer afternoon outdoors shooting sports and capturing those exhilarating moments of emotion and success of athletes.  Of course every day is not so ideal, and outdoor sports can be a challenge to shoot, from weather, lighting to shutter lag.  By following these four tips you will improve that experience and help to ensure your success.

Position yourself for Success
No matter the outdoor sport you are shooting you must position yourself for successful shots.  Remember there is not one single best spot but rather many good places to shoot the action.  With this in mind you must be ready to move from location to location to capture a variety of great action photos. 

The right position will be determined by a number of things, where the sun is positioned, where the action is taking place and where you can gain access.  Make sure the sun is at your back and is lighting the faces of the athletes.  Determine where most of the action is occurring or where the action of the athletes you want photos of is occurring.  Position yourself where you will have the most opportunities for success.  Pay attention to obstacles that might be in your way, from fences, trees or other spectators.  You may have to get special permission to be in the best spot, or you may have to go out of your way to avoid many of those obstacles.

Capture the Face
If you want good sports photos and action shots make sure to capture the athletes face.  No matter the quality of the shot or the cool action you capture it’s never as interesting without the athletes face.  So, part of finding the ideal positions to shoot from is to be where the athlete’s will be facing you.  They need to be coming toward you during most of the action.  Catching photos of a base runner going to first will require you to be in one position and to capture a runner sliding into third will mean moving to a new position.  Just remember always capture the face with the action and you’ll have photos everyone loves.

Anticipate the Action
To be a good sports photographer you must plan and think ahead.  Once you’ve seen the action it’s too late to capture it, so plan ahead, this will take a little guessing and a lot of practice.  When you think of all the camera must do to take a photo and prepare to take the next one you must account for this lag or delay in time.  You can assist the camera by pressing the shutter half way and letting it focus and set the exposure in advance.  Then when you press the rest of the way it will fire quicker.  You will also find success by anticipating the moment and firing the camera in advance.

Protect Your Equipment
You’re outside and you must protect your equipment in a number of ways.  Protect it from the weather, heat, cold, rain & snow.  A weather proof bag is ideal.  You’re going to be moving around so you must take care that your equipment is there when you return.  Ideally you can take it with you in a backpack or shoulder bag, but if not find a trusted source to leave it with.

ProPix Photography
Sports Photographers