Ten Tips To Make Better Photos at Your Next Major League Baseball Game
With the Major League teams getting ready to break camp and head north this might be a good time to look at how to make good images from your seat at a Major League game. So far this year I have made a couple of posts on how to photograph baseball better. I have posted 10 Tips For Making Better High School Baseball Photos, and 10 Tips For Better Baseball Photos. Those posts assume that you have some sort of access to the stadium though. Only a small amount of people have access to a Major League Stadium. The rest of us just have to make do with what we can from our seats. I have made pictures from my seat at Major League games for years now. I thought that I would put together a few tips on how to make images from your seat that will impress. This list is not exclusively for Major League Baseball, but any level that you do not have photo access to. Here are ten tips for making better photos from your MLB seat.
10. Choose your equipment wisely. When you are shooting from your seat you can’t use your 400mm lens even if you have one. You have to choose your equipment wisely to gain the most reach while intruding on your fellow fans the least. I like to use my 70-200mm lens on a crop frame body here. I also will throw on a 1.4x extender to gain a little extra. This is not the ideal scenario, but it really is what you can get into the stadium. Some stadiums have a policy on the length of the lens that you can take in. It is usually around six inches. The 70-200mm lens will not meet this requirement obviously. This is something that you need to research ahead of time. In this case I have a 75-300mm lens that was the second lens that I purchased a long time ago. I rarely use the lens now, but at times it can come in handy.
9. Shoot what is in front of you. With the equipment you can take into a Major League Stadium you typically will not have coverage of much of the field. You have to photograph what is in front of you. Baseball is a sport where you have time to anticipate the action. You can use that time to figure out where you think the action will be. Know the sport, and what you would like to photograph. When you buy your seat keep that in mind. If you want photographs of the right fielder then your seat should be in right field. Shooting across a baseball diamond will result in images that do not look as good.
8. Get to the Game Early. One way that you can make better pictures of your favorite athletes is to get to the game early. This is something that I like to do when I am getting paid, and it carries over to when I am at the action for fun as well. The athletes will be warming up, or taking batting practice, and will be closer to you this way. If they sign autographs they can be even closer to you giving you a dynamic shot. Here getting to the game early allowed me to make this photo of Carlos Sanchez signing autographs for the fans.
7. Shoot the Stadium Details. Each stadium has details that make it special. The little things around the park can really help you tell the story of your trip to the ballpark. In Chicago we have the statues and the scoreboard at U.S. Cellular Field and Wrigley Field. The ivy at Wrigley can make for a good photo. From the little things such as the aisle numbers on the seats to the large things like the ballpark itself. Establishing place is a great way to help propel your photo story.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Crop. As we have talked about earlier you will not be as close to the action as you need to be with the equipment you can take into the park. For most genres of photography cropping is something that you do because you were too lazy to get to where you needed to be. In sports photography it is a necessity. Cropping allows you to get closer to the action allowing the viewer to see a clearer image of what is going on.
5. Include the crowd. You are part of the crowd, but sometimes they can help tell the story of the game. If you are sitting in the bleachers at Wrigley Field the action will mostly be away from you. You will have a couple of chances for outfield plays, but the fans might be a better subject for your photo story. The fans can help convey the emotion of the situation better than anything else in your image. Use the closest thing to you to your advantage.
4. Choose your seat carefully. Sometimes you are given tickets to a game, and you cannot choose your seat. Other times you are the one buying the tickets so you can pick exactly where you want to be. Use that power to find the best position to make the photos that you have in mind. There are many services out there like SeatData that let you see the view from your exact seat. That helps a lot in deciding where you will make your images from. The pros will have assigned positions in the photo wells. You on the other hand will have the ability to choose what background your images will have. If your goal is a shot of a right handed pitcher, then a seat on the third base side of the field may be for you. The opposite holds true for a left handed pitcher. Sometimes you have to make compromises for players in the field. You can sit closer to them fielding, but you may be on the wrong side to capture them batting.
3. Get to know the usher in your section. During a 2012 trip to San Francisco I got to the park early as I usually do. I had a seat that I picked with the sole purpose of making images of Tim Lincecum the famed pitcher of the team. I wanted some shots from behind the plate, but that is not an easy place to get to. Talking to the usher I was able to create a scenario where I could do just that. I had one batter to make the images that I needed. Last season at Wrigley I wanted to make a photo of Kyle Schwarber of the Cubs. I made a similar arrangement where I was able to photograph Kyle from a good position for one at bat. It does not always work, but it does not hurt to ask.
2. Don’t forget to shoot wide. Often when you are concentrating on making great images of your favorite players you forget to shoot wide. You want to give your photos from the game a sense of place so pulling back to see more of the crowd, or just a wide shot of the stadium is a great way to do that. Some of my favorite photos from a late season Cubs game last year where the wide ones like the one above that show more of the action.
1. Have Fun! This is the most important tip while you are at the game. You are at a Major League Baseball game after all. Enjoy the experience. Your pictures will look much better if you are having fun making them. You will never be able to make the photos that the pros do from your seats. Trying to do that will drive you crazy. If you realize that you can make certain photos from your seat very well then you will have more fun, and enjoy the game more. You have more than likely paid good money to attend the game. You might as well have fun while you are there.