Category Archives: Individual

The Sport and the Emotion

You have the right equipment, you have read the basic instructions, well get out there and start practicing.  The only way to get better is practice, practice and more practice.  Just like the athletes you are trying to photograph who are training and practicing, you must do the same to be a good sports photographer.  Practice at any and all events, share the photos you take with family, friends and team mates.  They will let you know the ones they REALLY like.  Your timing and anticipation will improve and your ability to get the easy shots as well as the tough ones will grow.  If you’re in the business of selling photos then the ones that sale or not will let you know what’s good and what’s not.

Faces of the Game (The Emotion)
Don’t forget there is a lot of fun, emotion and action before, in the middle and after the event or competition.  I like to refer to these as the faces of the game.  Surprisingly perhaps, these photos, the faces and emotions of the game are as popular as any of the great action shots you will take. I especially like half-time when faces are full of emotion, sweat, determination and grit.  Besides they are sitting quietly paying attention to the coach, drinking water or whatever.  Fill the frame with their faces and snap away.  Fill the entire frame with a single face.  Not just 3/4 of the frame fill it all and you will love the results.  Close-ups like that fill the photo with emotion and make it memorable.  These are not posed photos, it’s even best when they don’t know you’re taking the photo.  Move around or sneak around all you need, to ensure you get a clear shot at the face.  Keep that bigger lens on the camera so you don’t have to get close.  You will also find jubilation and sadness both strong emotions after a game, and a chance to catch team-mates hugging and groups cheering as well.  Don’t forget coach who deserves a nice close-up as well.

Easy Shots
If it’s an event and you want to make sure you get at least some good photos and not sure if you can, make sure to get the easy shots.  The close-ups discussed above are what I would call easy shots, but there are any more.  Each sport has it’s own.  They may be shots during warm-up, foul shots during the basketball game, warm-up pitches in baseball, throw-ins and corner kicks in soccer.  These are all easy shots that will mean you’ll have at least some from the event.  It will get you off to a good start and will ensure you at least have something at the end.

Blurring can be good
We’ve talked a lot about how to get a crisp and sharp photo, but there are times when you might want blur or when a blurred photo showing the action is actually a good thing.  The blur gives the impression of movement which is definitely occurring so that’s not always a bad thing.  Perhaps it’s the ball in the pitcher’s hand as it’s thrown, or the ball leaving the soccer players foot.  Whether on purpose or accident this is not always a bad thing, and will give variety to to your photos.
So, get out there and practice, you’ll be the next world-renowned family sports photographer!

ProPix Photography

The Sports Photography Professionals

Positioning and Timing


If you follow sports at all you’ve seen those great photos on the cover of Sports Illustrated and you see amazing action shots daily in the sports section of the newspaper.  You’re thinking hey, my family and children all participate in sports I want to get some shots like that of my family!  Well it’s possible and this article will help get you started.  Although if you are looking for that shot of your child 2 feet above the rim dunking a basketball that will take a lot more than just good photography, but we can help you get those great shots only found in a basketball game with ten 11 year-olds running around like crazy.  We all love good action shots and with children busier in activities from dance to soccer than ever before we spend a lot of time as parents supporting our children, and capturing them in action is a definite requirement. Getting great action shots takes planning and good shooting, and begins with where you position yourself.

Where you need to position yourself

There location from where you are taking your photos is very important and will vary depending on the sport or action shot you are trying to get.  Where you sit as a spectator will often not be the best place to get the ideal photos.  It might be worth a shot or two from that position, but there are a number of problems.  Take a high school basketball game for example.  As a spectator you may want to sit as close to center court as possible.  The challenge with taking photos from that position is you will likely have to stand up which will rudely block the peoples view behind you and most of your shots will be from the side or the back of the athlete.  So a better place would be behind one of the baskets up a few rows, because there may be fewer spectators in that part of the stands and being elevated will help eliminate obstacles such as cheerleaders and people walking by.  Also right down on court-side is also a good option.  If you are familiar with the sport you will know and learn where to position yourself for the best photos.  Do look at professional sports photos and see what shots they are getting and taking, think about where they are positioned and copy when you can.

Be where you can get the face
Without a doubt of the 100,000s of sports photos I have sold, 99.9% of them included the participants face in the photo.  The #1 most important part of the photo is that you capture the participants face.  Not always easy, think of swimming competition where the athletes only breath occasionally and on different sides.  That can be a real challenge.  Be sure that your are positioned in a way that when you capture the action that the athlete’s face will be well lit and looking toward you.  From the side is ok as well as long as a good portion of the face is part of the photos. 

Don’t stay in one place
If you want good sports and action shots of your family get on the move.  Don’t let yourself stay in one place.  Some sports force you to move because the teams play in different directions.  Tennis for example will require that you move to catch the action from both sides of the court.  Even if the sport doesn’t require it, make yourself move.  Try different angles, don’t shoot everything from the end of the field or court take some from the side toward the end and others perhaps from the middle of the field or court. 

I distinctly remember the day I tried a different angle while shooting photos of my children competitively swimming.  I had always taken breastroke and butterfly photos from the end of the lane where they were looking right straight toward me.  One time I was late getting in position so took the photos from an angle at the side of the pool, still captured their face and had a great angle that has actually been my favorite rather than straight on.  Moving is also important for the larger playing areas and will allow you to get much closer on a a specific player or portion of the field.

Just as any athlete in a sport must have good timing and skill you also as a sports photographer must have good timing, must be able to act and react quickly and have skill.  This takes practice and thank goodness for digital cameras that let us practice over and over.  If you are familiar with the sport you are shooting you will pick up the timing quicker and you will know what shots to be looking for.  Anticipation is key and knowing what is about to occur.  If you see the action or the moment it’s already too late to shoot it, you must anticipate it happening. 

Soccer is a great example of this.  If you press the shutter when you see the player kick the ball you will be late and what you will get is the ball already leaving the foot and the player in an awkward looking position.  The best shot is achieved by anticipating when they are going to strike the ball and pressing the shutter right before that occurs so you catch them in the "moment" or act of kicking ball as opposed to after the fact.  Every sport has these timing challenges and it’s for you to practice and learn them.  Be sure to use the review on your digital camera, take shots, review them on the field and then take more.

Unplanned moments
These are those unplanned moments in sports that can be amazing or hilarious, and are often the most memorable.  Unfortunately as they are aptly named you can’t plan for these shots.  They can happen at anytime and are quite unpredictable.  Invariably you will miss many of these, but if you are shooting on a regular basis and shooting much of a game you will have those moments and shots that will be treasures.  Really the only way to get more of these is to spend more time taking photos.

Ensure you are in the right position and practice, practice and practice to achieve proper timing and you will be well on your way to getting a sports action photo of your family that is a "keeper."

ProPix Photography

The Sports Photography Professionals

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.

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.

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

Tapping the Power Inside


Can you capture the character of adversity and the power of the mind over the physical body in your sports photos.  Conventional wisdom tells us that character is built through adversity. When faced with life or death, people tend to quickly discover either their worst or their best traits. Sports allows a less drastic means of finding out whether we are winners or whiners. Better yet—it provides us continuous opportunities to change from one to the other. One-on-one with that alarm clock demanding we get up and go work out, we can either roll over and pretend not to hear it, or get up and claim a small victory. Having turned that small victory into that extra quarter mile today, we arrive at work or school smiling and a little fitter, a little stronger, a little more confident in our own power to control and change our lives—all by ourselves!

Any success in sports comes down in large measure to the self-discipline of the individual. That does not mean just sticking to a workout program, or working hard to improve game skills. Establishing a routine can build life-long habits of eating better and exercising; children who must get themselves up to work out before school, or get from Point A to Point B in time for the practice or game, learn responsibility as well. Disappointing the whole team because you were late is a powerful lesson in consequences, one that will stick even longer because it was self-taught. Self-discipline also encompasses learning to let teammates work in their own way, even if you don’t agree with it; or refraining from going out of your assigned zone to chase the ball. How many times have we seen a point lost because a zealous player interfered with someone who was actually getting the job done? Sticking to the job is the mark of the professional; it can be learned in fifth grade hockey as easily as at your first paid employment.

The relationship between success at sports and success in life has long been proven. The notion that sports and academics are somehow for separate “types” of people is a stereotype that puts up artificial social barriers. All children have the urge to run and play, yet when some start to display superior running, jumping, or throwing abilities, others may want to hang back, sparing themselves the humiliation of losing. Or, just as damaging, they tell themselves they’re above all that silliness; that sports, and those other kids who focus their energies on making baskets instead of grades, are a waste of their time. Of course, the sports-minded kids think the “brains” are snooty, and both sides miss the mark.

Any coach can tell you that half the victory is achieved in the mind; races are as much about strategy as about pure athletic effort. “Work smarter, not harder,” applies equally to the playing field as to the work place. That toned body is important, but being able to spot the pattern in an opponent’s game might give your bookworm an edge over a fitter or more naturally talented player. The sheer diversity of champions should teach us all that victory is not as much about native ability as it is about determination.

Consider Olympic gold medal wrestler Rulon Gardner. The youngest of nine children, he continually lost at games and wrestling matches to his older brothers. "In high school, I didn’t get the chance to wrestle varsity until my senior year because I had an older brother who was better than me,” he says. He was told he wasn’t good enough to wrestle at the international level. He was gently discouraged from college because it was thought he wouldn’t make it through. He did, in fact, graduate from college. Though wrestling against more talented opponents, his determination got him onto the United States wrestling squad. His dedication to fitness training left his “better” adversaries panting and defeated. When told he would face a world champion who had not lost a match in 13 years, Rulon studied every detail of his opponent’s career—and produced the “Miracle on the Mat” at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. No one thought he could win. No one except Rulon, who simply refused to give up.  Is he extraordinary? Perhaps. But sports gave him a venue to prove himself to be more than what people assumed he was.

Understanding this character and emotion that is created with sports will encourage you to take close ups of athletes faces.  There are moments during half-time, at the end of competitions or lulls in the action or even during the action where you will want to zoom in just on the athletes face to capture that imagery.  These will become some of your most beloved and remembered sports photos.