Ten Tips For Better Softball Photos
Softball is a sport that I took a while to finally find. It is similar to my favorite sport of baseball, but much faster and you are much close to the action. It is full of emotion, and has quickly become one of my favorite sports to photograph. This list is not going to be comprehensive. This is more of a thing where I give ten tips that I wish that I had known much earlier. This list is put together with the assumption that you have a pass or access to the field. It is also written as a great way for me to refresh what I need to go to put better galleries together this season.
1. Arrive Early – This goes for every sport. You want to get to the game early. There are many reasons for this, but the fast nature of the game means that you have to be ready when the game starts. With this in mind I get to the game early in order to get warmed up myself with the team. You also have a great chance to make some of what I call ‘getting ready’ pictures. These photos of the team preparing for the game are a great way to open your gallery.
2. Emotion! – Emotion is what makes sports so great. The big play is important to make an image of, but the emotion after the play is often the best photo from the series. The photo above is a great example of that. I love the way that the emotion layers through the photo. You have the player in the foreground clearly having a great time. You have the players on the right hand side of the frame celebrating too. The fans in the back of the photo showing the opposite effect let you know that something great just happened. This jube is what I look for at every sporting event that I photograph. You usually don’t get it like this layered, but it is great when you do.
3. Vary Your Focal Length – For years I had what I thought was a good softball kit. I had a 70-200 on a crop frame body with some sort of wider angle on my full frame body. Last year I changed that up with great results. I kept the 70-200 on my body during the games. I had my full frame camera though on a 400mm lens for some moments. This allowed me to get tight shots of fielders while keeping them in the frame. It also allowed me to get up close with the batters. Changing up your focal length during a game is a great way to add variety to the gallery.
4. Tell The Story – This is one where I get some pushback when I post. Why should we tell a story? I include it in every post though because telling a story with your pictures makes for a great gallery. They might not be pictures of your subject, but they are great photos to fill out a photo collage or story. These are the things that you will remember down the line. The sense of place photos are great openers for a story as well. Make your gallery tell a story, and you will have a great gallery.
5. Where To Stand? – This is a common question that I get. There are many good positions for softball. Down the first base line is a good one. The base coach can get in the way here. Standing in the outfield is another great spot. The shorter fences in softball mean that you don’t need as much lens to photograph the batter. You can also make some nice photos of plays at second base. My favorite spot though is just before the on deck circle on the first base side. From this spot you can make nice photos of the batters and get fielding shots. When the play comes to the plate you have a good chance at making a nice photo of your team sliding into the bag as well.
6. How To Make Fielding Pictures – This is a hard one. You don’t have the time that you do in baseball to get fielding pictures. You have to pick a fielder and hope the ball comes to them. It is a lot of guesswork. You have one thing on your side though. The defense has a great scouting report on the other team usually. Find the coach that gives the defensive alignments and watch where they put the players. This will help you make your pick.
7. Details – The details of the game can help make a good gallery into a great one. The little things can help tell the story. They may not win you any awards, but they are appreciated.
8. Make Photos In RAW – This is a real debate with sports photographers. I hear all of the time how photographing in RAW can make the editing process take too long. At some point I have refined my workflow to the point where I am faster now editing RAW images than I was going through all of my jpeg’s back in the day. Photographing in RAW allows you to correct for things like shadows on the face. You want as much data as you can get, and the RAW file gives you that.
9. Think Ahead Of The Play – Softball is a sport that like baseball gives you time to think ahead of the play. I touched on this a bit earlier when I talked about watching the defensive adjustments. You have the time and the fields are not that big so you can move around pretty easy to make the pictures that you want. If you think that there will be a play at the plate I have two things that I usually will do. If I am photographing the defense I will move down the third base line to shoot back into the plate. If I am photographing the offense I will move somewhere on the first base side with a view right down the line. This gives me a good chance of making my picture. If you think the player will steal second then you can move to a spot to make that photo. This is a good way to stay engaged in the game, and also to make some really nice photos. Always think of what could happen and where you want to be when it does.
10. Stay Late – Just because the game is over doesn’t mean that you have to leave right away. The emotion after the game can sometimes be as much fun to make photos of as the stuff during the game. The bonus is that you can be on the field to capture it. These games typically do not last very long so staying a little after the game is a gamble that can be worth it.
Bonus Tip: Have Fun! – If you can have as much fun as the players usually are on the field then this will not be work. This is a fun thing that we get to do for a living. Staying loose during a game should not be too difficult, and it will help you make better photos.