Category Archives: Equipment

Three Keys to shooting basketball

It’s basketball season and time to capture some amazing photos at the gym.  Of course the challenge is shooting indoor basketball with lousy lighting at old basketball gyms, not to mention the yellow wood floors and bleachers that can reek havoc with your white balance.

Key #1 Equipment
This is a case where you are going to need a nice lens.  No way around it, you really need a lens with an aperture of 2.8 or you will really struggle getting enough light in poorly lit gyms.  You can use a smaller lens but I find the 80-200mm ideal allowing me to catch action most anywhere on the court.  You might get away with a smaller lens if you can get close to the court and if you are willing to wait for the action to come to you.

Key #2 Where to Position Yourself
My preference is in the bleachers at the end of the court and a bit off to one side so the backboard doesnt’ get in the way.  If there are no bleachers on the end then standing at the end can work as well, just be careful of the refs blocking your shots.  If you shoot from the middle of the court you can find some unique angles but you will seldom get the face of your player while they are shooting.

Key #3 Frame a Great Photo
The nice thing about basketball is there is a lot of action.  If you miss one shot it will certainly come around again and you will have another opportunity.  My favorite shots are when my player has the ball and there is contact and action with the defenders.  If I can catch that including my players face and the ball then I have a GREAT shot.  Remember your photos are always better with those two things, the ball and the face.  The player without the ball just isn’t that interesting and if you can see the ball and not the player’s face not so cool either.

DSC_0069

See you on the court!
Scott

Three Keys to Shooting Soccer

Are you enjoying the World Cup?  It’s a frenzy at our house, trying to watch 3-4 games a day, rooting for our favorite players, teams and countries.  It’s hard to fit in everything else in life while all this great soccer is going on.  It seems appropriate to share some keys to shooting great soccer action while we’re in the middle of World Cup.
Shooting soccer on a full sized field isn’t easy, but very possible.  If you’re trying to get action shots of a single player then it’s much easier than trying to get the entire team.  We’ll focus this blog post on how to shoot an individual player and I will try to follow up in the coming weeks on shooting the entire team, the goalie and posed photos.

Key #1 Equipment
Soccer fields are large as you know so this is a case where the bigger the lens the better.  A large lens can be very expensive, but on a sunny day even a f4.5 lens can get you great action shots.  I’ve had great luck with a sigma 50-500mm lens on sunny days and it’s even affordable.  If you position yourself properly and are willing to move more frequently even an 80-200mm can work.

Key #2 Where to Position Yourself
Let’s assume it’s a nice sunny day for soccer (not that my children had any sunny days this Spring) and you’re in place for the entire game.  The sun is your friend as well as your challenge.  You want your players face to be toward the sun so that it’s lit up and bright.  So, when only needing photos of one player I would probably shoot photos for just half the game.  The half when your player is primarily facing the sun which means the opposing goalie’s back is toward the sun, and your back as well will be toward the sun.

Key #3 Frame a Great Photo
The “beautiful game” certainly has lots of action both on and off the ball.  How do you catch the right action to ensure a great photo.  Be sure to capture the face and the ball in the frame.  Yes, that’s not easy, but your photos are always better with those two things.  The player without the ball just isn’t that interesting and if you can see the ball and not the player’s face your photo won’t be as interesting either.  Of the thousands of soccer photos we’ve sold 99%+ of them have included the players face and the ball.

See you on the pitch!

Scott

Sports Photography Preparation is the Key

 

It doesn’t matter if you are going to shoot your child’s baseball game or the High School state championship football game,  you will most likely get better sports photos if you are prepared. There are a couple of things that you should take into account when getting ready for a sports photo shoot.

Get your gear ready

This might be the most important. You don’t want to get to your destination, have everything setup to find that your battery is nearly dead. This and many other mishaps can be avoided by simply getting all the equipment together the night before the big event. This includes blank memory cards, charged batteries, lenses and camera. Depending on whether you will be indoors or outdoors and the weather you may have additional accessories that are required.

Whatever the equipment requirements are it is always a good idea to get them all ready and packed so when you are ready to go and can just grab your gear and be on your way, confident that you have what you need. You may even want to make a list of what you need for different sporting events so it’s easy to bring out that specific list when you are planning on a shoot.

Scout out the location

Obviously you aren’t going to be able to check out a location before hand if it’s out of state or country, but when possible it’s a great idea to check out the location you plan on photographing at beforehand. A great time for this may be something as simple taking a family member practicing at the facility or location.  You should definitely check out the location, walk around and find great spots that will make a great photo.

You don’t necessarily have to check out the location a day or two early. If it’s a sporting event like volleyball, you can get there a half hour early so you get the perfect spot in the stands. If it’s something like a soccer game, it may not be too important as you may be moving to different positions on the side lines as the game progresses, but you may actually miss some shots of the kids practicing (that’s right, you can get some great shots before the game actually starts).

Remember these tips and you won’t have to worry if you forgot your flash card at home, or worrying about getting a great spot to shoot from.

Access your photos from anywhere

Were you ever out of town and needed access to your photos on your home computer? This can be extremely frustrating if you have no way of getting to the photos you need. With a Windows Home Server (WHS) and Internet connection, it’s never been easier to accomplish.

There are a number of ways to get a hold of WHS. You can build your own system and put the software on yourself or, as I would recommend, buy a box already put together by a vendor such as HP.

When you run the setup wizard for the first time you are asked to create a user account. You can specify whether this user has access to the home server over the Internet or not. If you allow this account to gain access, you can setup a web address you type in just like a normal website such as myserver.homeserver.com. If you have an HP WHS you are presented with a home screen such as the one below.

home screen

If you haven’t setup the photo or media streamer, you can use the “Access Files on Server” options. The WHS machine will then ask you to login using the user you setup at the beginning of the setup process.

Once you are logged in, you are presented with a file browser similar to the one you use to view files in Windows. You can navigate to the folders you want to view your files in, download files, create folders and even upload new files. This can be extremely useful if you are on a shoot and want to backup your files from earlier that day.

Shutter Lag

Shutter Lag
Even if you don’t know what the words mean, shutter lag, you’ve probably experienced it.  You have your camera at the ready, you’ve composed the shot, the athlete is now in position and you press the shutter button at the exact moment you want to capture the perfect picture…………….but the camera doesn’t take the photo, it waits for what’s seems an eternity and then fires.  You find the resultant photo is not the one you had prepared for, the athlete is not framed properly or they are now in an awkward looking position, or it’s out of focus all because the camera delayed in taking the photo. 

This is what is known as shutter lag.  Sports photographers need cameras that shoot with minimal shutter lag and shoot quickly. You the sports photographer can also take steps to reduce this lag and not miss photo opportunities or poorly capture them. 

What is it?
Shutter Lag is the delay between pushing the shutter button and the camera recording the picture on the image sensor.  Whereas the shutter lag on a film camera was minimal and primarily a result of the mechanics of the aperture opening and closing, digital cameras have that lag plus the processing of the image.  There are many steps the camera must take prior to and when taking a photo, all of which are not related to the shutter, but practically speaking shutter lag is the time from when you press the shutter button until the time the camera takes the photo.  A lot must happen during this time.  Your camera adjusts the focus, exposure and white balance then it opens the aperture, captures the light on the image sensor, converts the light to a digital representation and writes it to your memory card.  That’s a lot to do in a short amount of time and while electronic circuitry and processing is improving shutter lag continues to be a factor.

What can you do about it?
As a sports photographer there are a number of things you can do about it.  The first and most obvious is to buy a camera with a short shutter lag.  You will find measurements in the specifications and it never hurts to test the camera out on a sport you want to shoot.  Even the best digital cameras still experience shutter lag but there is still more you can do.

Prepare in advance
The work you camera must do can be significantly reduced by preparing your camera in advance.  When you push the shutter button half-way down you are telling your camera to focus and make the proper adjustments.  Continue holding the button down, and then when you press the rest of the way down it will more quickly take the photo.  This is not always possible when shooting sports, but when you can it will help you reduce shutter lag.

Anticipate
This is another trick that can reduce shutter lag.  Anticipating or predicting where the action will be occurring will allow you to shoot the camera a bit ahead of the actual shot you want to get.  By anticipating what will be happening next and shooting the camera just before that moment you will capture the exact moment you want.  The more you shoot a particular sport the better you will become and you will find yourself capturing magnificent photos and not noticing the shutter lag at all.

Continuous or Burst Mode
Good sports photography cameras will have a continuous mode or burst mode.  When set to this mode, when you press and hold the shutter button, the camera will take a rapid set of photos one right after the other as quickly as it can.  This can make the art of anticipating a bit easier since you can begin before the action and end afterwards.  This will increase your chances of getting that perfect action photo.

Increased Shutter Speed
Another way to reduce shutter lag is to shoot with a faster shutter speed.  You will be doing this often anyway as you attempt to capture sports and freeze the action.  This way you will obtain clear photos without blur.  In low-light conditions if you increase the size of the aperture or opening you will allow more light to reach the sensor in less time allowing you to use a faster shutter speed.  This will help you to freeze motion for sharp clear photos.

Decrease the photo resolution
By lowering the quality and thus the size of the photo you are taking allows your camera to process the information faster, since there is less information to process.  Just common sense really, if your resolution is set to 8 megapixel per photo, the processor in your camera must process all those pixels, convert them to digital numbers and write them to your memory card.  Obviously your camera will take less time to process fewer mega pixels, so shooting at a quality mode that requires 4 mega pixels will process quicker.  Pick a quality mode on your camera that meets your needs, but still helps you reduce the shutter lag. 

And don’t forget to practice and practice and take many photos.  This will improve your timing as well as give you a chance to capture some great sports shots while learning to compensate for shutter lag.

ProPix Photography
The Sports Photographers

What is Fast Glass or a Fast Lens?

When you hear sports photographers talk you will often hear them talking about fast glass or fast lenses.  What does that mean and why are they important for sports.

A fast lens refers to the size of the aperture opening.  The larger the opening the more light that is allowed to reach the sensor.  Because more light reaches the sensor more quickly, through the larger opening the shutter does not have to be open as long.  A faster shutter speed is better for freezing or capturing the motion in sports.  Fast glass allows you to shoot with faster shutter speeds which is a good thing when trying to freeze fast action.  It’s also a tremendous help in low-light conditions.  As the light get worse or less bright the longer the shutter must remain open, but since the aperture opening is larger more light is able to reach the sensor.

You can tell the speed of the lens or the speed of the glass by looking at the f-numbers associated with it.  The smaller the f-number the faster the glass.  It can be a bit confusing since what that means is the smaller the number the larger the opening/aperture.  So a f/2.8 lens is considerably faster than a f/5.6 lens.  That means the aperture in the f/2.8 lens can get much larger than the aperture in the f/5.6.  To give you a feel the f/5.6 lens will do well outdoors in good light, but you will need a f/2.8 or faster for low-light indoor sports.

You might be thinking well let’s just make a lens that has a huge aperture.  There are a couple of limits and challenges to that.  The larger the aperture the less depth of field in your photos, or in other words the narrower focus your photos will have.  The other challenge is cost.  The faster the glass the more expensive it is.  So fast lenses are more expensive, the lower the f-number is on the lens you are looking at the more expensive it will be.  So………you will have to make the decision, but there is nothing like the quick focusing beautiful photos a fast lens can help you take.

Low-light sports would be extremely difficult and require very fast glass if not for the improved sensors and their ability to collect light.  In the days of film fast glass was even more important because trying to use a high ISO film would cause a lot of grain.  In this digital age the sensors are much better and higher ISO settings can help compensate in low-light conditions without a significant increase in graininess.

There’s a lot to remember and it can be a bit technical, but for sports photography simply remember that a fast lens or fast glass will give you better shooting options in low light conditions, and that a fast lens has a low f-number.  Fast glass is essential for indoor sports photography where you will often be in  school gyms that have inadequate or poor lighting.  Fast glass is essential for you to catch or freeze the action and still have plenty of light reach the sensor.

The lens does not the sports photographer make, but it is extremely helpful and will make a good photographer better and a great photographer fantastic.

ProPix Photography
The Sports Photography Professionals

What Lens should I buy for my Camera?

You spent hours upon hours studying which camera you should buy, you spoke to people got feedback you went online and searched reviews and finally made your decision.  Then the next question you ask is what lens should I buy for my camera?  The answer to this question is as important as which camera to buy, has as much or more importance on the quality of your photos and will likely cost more than your camera, and is even a more important question for sports photographers.

One of the benefits of a Digital SLR is that you can exchange the lens.  So to buy just one lens makes no sense you really need more than one.  The right answer is is not which one lens but which lenses should I buy?  Have you noticed how prices on cameras and camera bodies continues to decline but the cost of lenses remains the same.  This tells you something about the importance of a good lens.  I’m amazed at all the discussions about cameras when in reality there should just as much discussion on which lens or lenses to buy.  Even if you’re not an expert photographer you can dramatically improve the quality of your photos by using high quality lenses. 

Low End
At the low end of the lens market are lenses made with plastic mounts, slow aperture and low quality.  These are lenses that you will often find at low-end retail outlets and are often the lenses offered as part of a camera package deal.

Prime Lenses
These are lenses that have no zoom capability.  You must zoom by moving your feet which is to reposition yourself.  Zooming that way will certainly save you money but is not as convenient.  Many purists will say that the sharpest photos for the money will be achieved with a prime lens.

Zoom Lenses
These are lenses that let you zoom closer and further away by simply turning the zoom ring.  This is by far more convenient, but here is where you will pay for that convenience.  If you don’t buy a high quality zoom lens then you most likely will be disappointed in the sharpness of your photos.  So, for convenience there are two lenses that make the most sense for the family photographer or sports photographer and that is a small lens something like 24mm – 70mm and then a larger lens 70mm-200mm.  The 70-200mm is my favorite and the lens I shoot almost all my sports with.  In addition to sports it is the lens for school programs, piano recitals, and performances.  It does well in low light and in many ways it makes an average photographer a great photographer.  The small lens you will find perfect for team photos and close-ups. 

Costs
OK, I admit it these lenses can be very expensive.  The Cannon and Nikon versions which I prefer are spectacular and I believe worth every penny.  There are other brands that will save you $100s and will still give you a good photo especially as you become a better photographer yourself. 

Scott

ProPix Photography

The Sports Photography Professionals
The Practical Photographer

Abstract the World

 

One of the great things about photography is that you can view the world in a different way. With the use of different lenses and lighting effects you can take ordinary things around you and modify them in ways the human eye alone could never see.

Play with the light.

The natural light all around us can be a fantastic tool to work with. When possible try to take advantage of this. When I’m shooting for abstract sports photos or just having some fun, I could care less about how much noise is in my photo. Often times this can actually give it more character. Try and have a really bright light in the background of your photo, or maybe in the foreground. The point is to try different things. The more you play with the light the more you will get familiar with the different effects you can achieve, not just for abstract photos but in general as well.

Try a different angle.

Another fun thing to try is moving the camera or yourself in positions you wouldn’t normally photograph in. Try taking photos while holding the camera at waist side, or at a crooked angle. Get down closer to the ground or stand on a ladder or stool. You will find that different angles and heights can change things dramatically. Just as film makers use these techniques in the movies, you can use them in your sports photos as well.

Often looking for angles and patterns for your photos can be yet another way to make them more interesting to the eye. Just by tilting the camera a bit may give your photo that extra something that makes it go from an okay shot to a fantastic photograph.

Use that lens.

Try different focal lengths, in other words, zoom in as tight as you can and take the shot. You will never know what kinds of detail you may pick up. Conversely try some wide angles at different positions. You can achieve some really dramatic emotions using a super wide angle lens.

Keep practicing.

Experiment with different sports. This could include the family on the trampoline in the back yard or jump roping on the driveway.  Try and think of the most ordinary part of the sport practice photographing it in exciting new ways. This will improve your skills in seeing things in a less than ordinary way.

My last suggestion would be to just practice, and as always, have fun with it. Remember, you don’t have to go to a professional sporting event to get some cool and interesting shots.

Sports Photography Cleaning Your Lens

Have you ever noticed small blotches starting to appear on all of your photos taken with your DSLR? This could mean that either your lens is dirty, or your camera’s sensor has picked up some dust. I strongly recommend you try cleaning the lens before working on the sensor.

Your lens can be expensive, so you should take care not to damage it while cleaning it. You should also be cautious of over cleaning. If it doesn’t need cleaning, don’t clean it. Cleaning too often creates a risk of damaging the lens.

One way to actually protect the glass of the lens is to use a UV filter. This can be especially important in sports photography where you will often be outdoors in harsh environments or indoors with many people.  You can pick these up and place them on your lens at all times to keep the glass underneath safe from scratches. The other advantage is that you will then be cleaning the filter rather than the lens itself.

Before you wipe your lens down with any type of cloth or tissue, you should first blow away any large dust particles. You don’t want to do this with your mouth as you may actually get saliva on the glass. It is much better to get a small blower specifically made for camera cleaning. Make sure you squeeze it a couple times to clear any dust that may have made it’s way inside.

One of the safest methods to clean your lens is to simply breath hot hair on it and wipe it down with a cloth. This can be safer than applying harsh chemicals. If that doesn’t do the job, you can pick up a cleaning fluid at your local camera shop. When applying this fluid make sure you don’t use too much each cleaning session. You will rarely if ever need any more than a drop or two. Make sure you apply the fluid to the cloth first, and then in a circular motion, wipe around the lens to clear off smudges and fingerprints that may have accumulated.

While you are picking up the lens cleaning fluid, make sure you grab some cleaning tissue or a cleaning cloth as well. Use one of these methods to apply the liquid and wipe down the lens. The cleaning tissues are for one time use only, so make sure to toss any used tissues out. As for the cleaning cloth, you can usually just wash them after each use. If they do start collecting too much dust or debris throw it out and purchase a new one. There is no reason to risk the damage it may cause.

You should definitely keep your lenses clean so that your sports photos don’t suffer, and once you understand the basics it’s a snap to keep them in top shape.

ProPix Photography

The Professional Sports Photographers

It All Starts with a Pixel

Just as ProPix is a combination of the words Professional Pictures, Pixel is a combination of the word Picture and the word Element.  A pixel is the smallest element or component that makes up a digital photo or image.  It is a small colored square that combined with thousands and even millions of others makes the digital image you see with your eye.  In the case of a good quality photo at the right size there are so many pixels that your eye cannot distinguish each individual pixel but the entire photo appears as a single well defined image.

Quality and Size
The more pixels included in a photo the more detail in your digital image, they blend together better and make the image look sharper and clear. The quality setting on the camera allows you to adjust the quality of the photo which is in turn adjusting the number of pixels the photo will have when it’s taken.  As you would suspect the more pixels which means more detail or data also means a larger file size.  This only makes sense and can easily be seen by adjusting the quality setting on your camera.  Most cameras will tell you how many photos you have room left to take calculated from the size of your memory card and your current quality setting on the camera.  As you adjust the "quality" of the photo you will be taking, and thus the number of pixels, the number of photos available to take will change.  As the quality decreases the more photos you can take and as you increase the quality the fewer photos that will fit on the card. 

Cropping
A photo with more pixels allows you to successfully crop tighter.  With any photo no matter how many pixels if you crop too tight the resulting photo will be pix elated, meaning you will start to visually see the individual pixels.  This is never a good thing and makes for a poor photo.  So, the more pixels the smaller area you can crop and still have a sharp clear photo. 

Prints
The quality of your prints are determined by the number of pixels as well.  The smaller the print the fewer pixels needed in your photo.  For example a 4×6 will not need near as many pixels as a poster 24"x36".  This is much like cropping you are just going increasing the photo in the other direction.

So, what does this all mean to you?  It means that you control the number of pixels in your photo.  You control it by adjusting the quality setting on your camera.  If your plan is to print 4x6s, or email the photos or view them on the computer you won’t need a lot of pixels.  If you plan to print a poster or closely crop a photo then the more pixels the better.  The trade-off in the number of pixels or quality, and the size of the file that you will be working with.

ProPix Photography
The Sports Photography Professionals