I was at my son’s rugby game last weekend taking some photos of the players and one of the other mums asked me for some tips on getting great shots, so I thought that I’d share them here.
- Think about your position on the sideline. Where is all of the action happening? Often from the sideline the view that you get is side-on to the players and sometimes the back of them. In this game our team was stronger and there was plenty of action on our try line so I positioned myself there – changing ends at half time as the teams did. This way I was able to get shots of our players coming towards me.
- Get down low. Everything loooks more exciting when you are down at the level that it is happening on. If you take a look at professional sports photographers on the sideline of a game, you’ll notice that most of the time they are sitting or squatting down. Try this yourself and see the difference that it makes to your photos.
- Set your camera on “sports mode”. The sports mode setting is usually indicated by a running figure on the dial. In sports mode your camera will automatically set the fastest shutter speed possible in the available light. This has the effect of “freezing” the action, which is what we are looking for with sports photography. Also with sports mode, your camera will continually refocus and “track” your subject as they move, while you hold the shutter button part-way down. The speed and accuracy with which your camera can achieve this is limited to the quality of your lens and your camera’s shooting speed ability. The pros that specialise in sports photography have enormous lenses for a reason – they let in a huge amount of light and allow super-fast shutter speeds.
- Practise “panning”. “Panning” is where you track an object that is moving past you. Set your subject in the centre of your frame with your finger lightly pressing the shutter to focus. As they run past you, turn your body smoothly in time with the player, keeping them in the middle of the frame. Press the shutter button all the way down as your subject comes past you – the should give you the effect of a focussed player and blurred background. It takes practise to get good at this.
- Crop or zoom in tight. Depending on your lens capability, you can either zoom in when you take the picture, or crop it afterwards on your computer. Often at children’s sports games there are lots of distractions in the background that you don’t want to see in the final shot. In these examples I was shooting using an 85mm lens which is fast but doesn’t get me close to the action – I cropped the images afterwards to create a cleaner look.