Ten Tips To Help Improve Your Baseball Photos
With the baseball season rapidly approaching it is time to take a look at some tips that will help you improve your baseball photos. Baseball is a sport where you can really make your images stand out. You have plenty of time to think about the action and plan what you want to shoot. If you do not understand the game then it can be hard to photograph. These ten tips are things that I think will help you walk away from a game with better photos. This post will focus more on photographing college or professional games that you have access to. In the future I will have a couple of posts that deal with high school baseball, and even photographing Major League games from your seat. For now though here are ten tips for better baseball photos.
- Arrive Early – I don’t think that I can stress this tip enough. You can really make some great images, and get closer to the athletes before the game starts. The photo above was one that I made in the dugout about an hour before an Indianapolis Indians game. If you are shooting for a team or a school you need to make photos of the action, but you also need to have detail shots that they can use for announcements and in social media. Getting to the game early allows you to make some of these detailed shots in a more controlled environment. You can also get some great candid portraits of the players as they prepare for battle at this time.
- Shoot in RAW and expose for the players face – One staple of this ten tips series has been to shoot in RAW. I think that baseball like football is a sport where you need to shoot in RAW more than any other. The problem with these two sports can be shadows on the face. In football you have to shoot into a helmet, and in baseball you have the shadow of the brim of the cap on the face. By shooting a RAW file you can bring some of that shadow detail back so that you can see the eyes of your players. The hat is meant to keep the sun out of the players eyes, but you need those eyes in your shot. You also may be dealing with some crazy lighting conditions. If you are shooting a player with a dark jersey or a bright white jersey your cameras auto modes may be confused. The current cameras are great, but they are always trying to make an 18% grey image. You need to take control to make sure that you can see the players face.
3. Know the Game – This is one that is easier said than done. As you understand baseball more and more then you will know where to point your camera. If you know that a play will happen at second base then you can get there a second before the ball does. Having your camera pre focused on a base is a good way to get a dynamic shot. It is a bit of a gamble, but as you learn the game the odds will be more in your favor. The fielders and coaches will also help you with this. They spend a lot of time going over scouting reports to determine where to play certain batters. The will position themselves where they think the players will hit the ball. You might as well use what they have done to help you get that shot of the diving player. Knowing the situation and what the players are likely to do is what will help you get the shot more and more.
4. Pick Your Backgrounds Wisely – You cannot always pick the exact background where the play will happen, but for certain moments you can. As you frame up your shot of the pitcher or the batter you can decide what you see behind them. A colorful billboard or parked cars are still distracting even when they are blurred. If you are shooting a home game for a team or school they will not want photos with empty stands in the background. A great action shot will be more likely to be seen over and over if it has a nice clean background. Fans in the stands help as well.
5. Provide a sense of place – You have the new long glass, and you want to make tight shots of everything. When you are shooting a big event or a big game sometimes pulling back a bit can be rewarding as well. In the above shot I was shooting for Notre Dame at Victory Field in Indianapolis. The teams do not normally play in a venue as big as this one, and I wanted to show the fans sitting in both levels to see them. A well timed action shot can help show just how big of a scene this was. The shot at the top of this post of the stadium at sunset is another example. Now that you have a credential and can make photos closer to the players does not mean that you always have to. Sometimes you need to back up a bit and show the entire scene.
6. Craft your photo – Baseball is a sport that takes a while to unfold. A lot of photographers do not like the sport because of that fact. I love it because it gives you time to craft the photo that you want to make. You can change positions to get the angle that you want. You can use some of the above tips to get in the right position to capture the winning run crossing the plate. If you are shooting for the defense you can capture the catcher with the ball trying to tag the runner out. It has been said that baseball is a thinking mans sport. Use that time to put yourself in a position to make a really unique photo.
7. Stay in the game – As I said above baseball is a sport that can take a while to unfold. The key to getting the truly great shots is to stay in the game. There are times that even this great game can drag, and you can start to check out. Usually right when that happens though the big play will occur. You have to fight the urge to check your phone or chimp during the action. Staying in the game can also keep you safer as the ball is small and hard and travels very fast.
8. Use timing, not the motor drive – At any higher level sport you will hear the roar of motor drives all firing when the peak action happens. To capture the ball leaving the pitchers hand or the ball hitting the bat though you have to rely on timing. The newer cameras are really amazing in the fact that they can shoot 10-14 frames per second. As fast as that is it is still not fast enough to capture the ball hitting the bat just by motor driving. You may get the shot, but it will be sheer luck. You need to study the player to see how his swing works. That twitch that starts him in motion is your cue. You can then use that to make the photo. Of course you still need a little luck on your side, but not as much as you would if you were just randomly pushing the shutter button. The same goes for getting the ball at the moment it is released by the pitcher. Motor driving may give you the desired result, but timing the photo will get you the picture.
9. Don’t forget the jube! – When a player hits a home run or scores the big run your first instinct will be to chimp and check your LCD screen to see if you got the shot. I love to get the big hit perfectly framed and timed perfectly. The problem with that is that a lot of hits look the same. The jubilation after the play often makes for the better photo. As the player is rounding the bases they may give you something like the photo above. The sheer emotion shown by this player from team Puerto Rico is why I photograph sports. I made the photo of the home run being hit, but the jube as he rounded the bases is the photo that has stuck with me over time. Some of my favorite photos occur after the peak action when the players are celebrating.
10. Stay Late – The first tip was to get to the park early. You can make a wide variety of shots before the game even starts. Staying after the game is another good idea. The photo above won me the 2015 MiLBY for the best Minor League photo of the year. After the game the only people still in that photo well were the camera person for the MiLB webcast and myself. Lately teams have found all kinds of ways to “reward” the player of the game. An ice bath is above. Shaving cream pies and gatorade baths also are used. Stay a little after the game to make an interesting photo. Before this interview happened I had my laptop out editing the photos that I would submit that night. As I saw the interview starting I got into position to make this photo. It really does not take too long, and you can be rewarded very nicely for your efforts.
So that is the end of my 10 Tips for Better Baseball Photos. Are there any that you think that I missed? I think that if you can keep these ten things in mind when you are shooting baseball you will have much more success.