Ten Tips To Help Improve Your Drone Photography

One of the coolest purchases that I have made for my photography is my drone. It really allowed me to see things in a new way. Sometimes you need a change in perspective to jump start you for a while. The drone certainly did that. Below I have listed ten quick tips to help you get off the ground with your drone. They are things that I found useful early on, and I still use today.

10. Stay safe and obey the laws – While drones are fun they are also potentially dangerous. Your first instinct may be to take your drone out and fly it without thinking about where you are. The first tip is to first stop and look at where you are flying. Can you even fly your drone there? I have come across places that I thought were in the middle of nowhere that actually are very near a small airport that I didn’t even know about. The laws are in place for a reason so make sure you know what they are, and obey them. The first bad drone crash will be the last one as they will probably all be banned.

9. Prepare your drone pre and post flight – This tip kind of goes hand in hand with the tip above. I put them at the top because I feel that they are the most important. Before flying somewhere new make sure that you props are in good shape and secure. Another important tip is to calibrate your drone. Not getting a proper calibration in can result in a flyaway or a crash. Before you have even left your house make sure that your batteries are all fully charged, and if possible you have a few backup batteries for the drone. One battery can give you a long flight, but multiple batteries can mean a fun day of flying. One quick post flight tip is that I always swap cards out. I take out the card that I used to make my images, and I immediately place a new card in the drone. This prevents you from getting out a ways with your drone and then realizing that you have forgotten a card. It also prevents the same scenario without having one on you. I have done both and it is not a fun feeling.

The Sun Sets Over the Purdue Bell Tower

8. Shoot in RAW – I always shoot in RAW, but with the drone I feel that it is even more important. The megapixels of your drone vary from model to model, but they are not fantastic in any model. You want the most data that you can get for your images in post. Shooting in RAW makes that happen.

7. Think of all of your post-processing tools while in flight – You have a lot of tools at your disposal in the digital darkroom now. Early on in my flying days I was not using everything available to me. One way to increase the quality of your image is to get a little closer to your subject and make a panoramic. With the steady nature of the DJI crafts it is very easy to do. A slightly more advanced move is to make what I call a vertirama. This is where you stitch a photo made from vertical pans. Combining these two styles can make for an interesting photo. Continue reading “10 Tips For Better Drone Photos”

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Ten Tips To Help Make Better College Basketball Photos

We are now in the stretch run of the college basketball season. From here on out the atmosphere just keeps getting better and better until March Madness is finally here. I thought that this would be a good time to write a post listing ten tips to make better college basketball photos. I am by no means the authority on the subject, but I have learned a lot over the last few years on the sidelines. I thought that I could maybe speed up someones learning curve with a few pointers. Here are ten tips for better college basketball photos.

10. Stop the action – This can be a challenge in some venues. The light may not be quite what you want it to be. I normally would say that you need to be above 1/1250th of a second to stop the action. In the photo above though the light dictated that I was at 1/800th of a second. Basketball is a fast sport with a lot of quick action. You need to have a fast shutter speed to stop the action.

9. Shoot In RAW and Manual – I am going to contradict myself a bit here. I always shoot in RAW because it gives me the most data to work with later. When I am shooting outside it helps me in case a stray cloud comes over right as the big play happens and I don’t have time to change my settings. I always shoot in RAW even if to just one card. When you are indoors though the conditions are very stable to you don’t have to constantly be changing your settings. You can set your camera to manual, figure out your settings, and then forget about them. That is one great thing about basketball is that you don’t have to worry about your settings during the game.

8. Use Back Button Focus and AI Servo Mode – This can be a hard step at first, but very quickly you will forget how to shoot any other way. Back button focus allows you to keep tracking your subject as it moves towards you during a burst. When you have the focus switched to a button on the back of your camera you can hold it down while in AI Servo mode (on a Canon camera) while the play comes to you. That ensures that you are not a step behind as the shutter closes. My keeper rate went way up once I switched over to back button focus.

7. Know Your Client – This has always been important, but never more than today. You always want to know what your client expects from you. If you are shooting for the wire you need to know what sells. Basketball has always been a sport that has shot better vertically. I shot a lot early on from the vertical position. Lately though it seems as if all of my clients have a website that is oriented for horizontal photographs. Knowing who you are shooting for before the game starts allows you to meet the needs of your clients. Continue reading “10 Tips For Better College Basketball Photos”

Ten Tips To Help You Make Better College Football Photos

One question that I get from time to time is how to make better football photos. I am far from an expert. There are plenty of those out there. I have from time to time put together these ten tips posts to help you make better photos. They are just little things that took me way too long to learn, and I hope that I can share some of that info with you. In the past I made a post about high school football here that covers quite a bit of the same ground. Once you get to the college game though some things change. Most of those involve access in some form. Here are ten tips to help you make better college football photos.

10. Get to the Game Early, Stay Late – One piece of advice that I give any photographer that asks me is to get to the game early and stay late. Before the game starts you have a chance to warm up along with the players. Sometimes you get something that you would never have expected by getting to the game early. The photo directly above was made well before the game started as the team was getting ready to stretch. It was one of my favorite photos from last year, and one that I would not have gotten had I not gotten to the game early. Unless you are on deadline for the wire hanging out on the field after the game can yield good results as well.

9. Plan Ahead – One huge difference from the high school to the college sidelines is the amount of people that you run into. You are not allowed in between the 30 yard lines, and the rest of the field can get crowded when the play gets there. Knowing when to move to get to a spot you want is essential. I wanted to be in the end zone as Penn State came towards me, and shortly after I moved there I was rewarded with a long touchdown run right at me. Had I waited to move I may not have had this spot, or I would have missed the action. The same can be said for switch at the quarter as well. The egress behind the benches is not optimal so if you can move a fraction quicker at the end of the quarter than everyone else you can get to your spot just a little faster.

8. Get The Jube – When I first started shooting games the first thing that I would do after a big play was to chimp and look at my LCD screen to see if I got the big play. As I did that I missed the celebration that would ensue. I still chimp a lot. Tagging photos on the fly is a great way to knock down your editing time. There is a time to do that. Right after the play is not that time. As I move on as a photographer I find that the photos that I like the most from the game are usually the photos of the jubilation after the play. The jube is usually different each time, and it is real emotion. If you follow this blog then you see a lot of my favorite photos from each game end up being some form of jube. Follow the player that makes the big play until the jube is over or they are off the field. Often you can make a good shot of a coach congratulating the players as well.

7. Shoot Wide…or Tight – It sounds crazy, but during a game change up what you are using. When on the road with the team I will sometimes sacrifice a tight action shot for one like the above shot that shows a sense of place. It breaks up the look of the photo gallery a bit, and it helps you tell the story. When you are in tight on the action though get tight. Fill your frame as much as you can. If that means moving with the play because you don’t have a long lens then do it. Continue reading “10 Tips For Better College Football Photos”

Ten Tips For Making Better Photos of Fireworks

In the past I have made a few posts with some tips for making better photos of fireworks. Over the course of the last few years I have found some things that have made my fireworks pictures better as time goes on. These rules are not iron clad. In fact rule number one is to always use a tripod, and in a couple of the photos featured here I did not have a tripod with me. The photo above showing the fireworks at Disney World was shot hand held. The tips are things though that will help your photos get that extra wow factor. With the 4th of July just a couple of days away this is the perfect time to take a look at shooting fireworks.

1. Use a tripod – This is probably the most important tip on this list. You can get good results without a tripod, but it is very hard to do so. A tripod lets you keep your shutter open longer, and therefore get the long trails of the fireworks. A couple of quick tripod tips here. Always keep your tripod as low as possible. Remember when the fireworks start it will be dark where you are. Keeping your tripod low reduces the fall if it is tripped over. If you are in a crowded area make sure that you are not putting someone in danger with your tripod. Your eyes will be in the sky so get some help here.

2. If your camera has one set it to bulb mode – Setting your camera to bulb mode allows you to control the length of your exposure. You can start the exposure when the mortar is in the air, and end it when you want. This gives you the flexibility to shoot one blast or several. If you do not want to be in bulb mode you need to be in manual mode. Your camera will try and expose for the dark sky blowing the fireworks out.

3. Use a cable release or the self timer to release the shutter – If you are using bulb mode you will want to use a cable release. You will introduce movement into the photo if you try and press the shutter button twice during the exposure. A cable release will allow you to get your hands off of the camera.

4. Use the lowest ISO that you are comfortable with (ISO 100) – Using a low ISO at night will give you a longer shutter speed and also reduce noise.

5. Before it gets completely dark focus on an object very far away and then switch your lens to manual focus (If you have tape you can tape it down here as well so that it doesn’t accidentally get bumped). Your camera will find it hard to find focus in the dark so make sure that you have that taken care of before the sun goes down.

Victory Field

6. While you are there early you can pick out a good spot to photograph the fireworks from. You can always just photograph the fireworks, but the shot may be much better if you have something of interest in the foreground as well. Local buildings or landmarks give your pictures place and scale. In the photo above I wanted to show Victory Field along with the signage outside of the ballpark in the fireworks shot. Continue reading “10 Tips For Better Photos of Fireworks”

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.

 

Ten Tips To Help You Make Better High School Baseball Photos

As the winter comes to a close the baseball season will start to heat up. Monday I wrote a post with 10 Tips for better baseball photos you can read that post here. That post was aimed more at people shooting at the college and pro levels. With this post I would like to cover some more of the basics of how to cover a baseball game. A high school baseball game presents some unique challenges, but also offers some great access as well. These are not all inclusive tips, but they will help you get started photographing a high school game. Here are ten tips that I think will help you improve your high school baseball photography.

  1. Shoot through the fence – If you at a high school baseball field then the chances are that you have a lot of fence in between you and the action. One thing that a lot of beginners cannot realize that they can do is to shoot through the fence. The photo above was made shooting through a chain link fence directly behind home plate. The trick to doing this is to put your longer lens right up against the fence preferably centered on a hold. If you have your aperture set to wide open (a lower number) you can make most of the fence disappear. You can see some artifacts in the bokeh of the fence, but the fence does not show up over my subject. Shooting through the fence can give you more options as well as give you some cool photos that have depth to them.

2. Shoot with the sun at the players back to reduce shadows on the face – The hat on a baseball player can create a terrible shadow on the face of your players. One way to reduce that shadow is to shoot with the player backlit. That is to say that they sun is at their back. You can then have an even light on their face.

3. Vary your position – One way to change how your photos look is to move around the field. Because this is written more with the beginner in mind I thought that I would go over a couple of shooting positions and explain what I try and shoot from them.

1st Base Line

  • Right handed batter
  • Left handed pitcher
  • Left handed batters follow through
  • Fielding photos of the shortstop and the third baseman
  • A head on view of the double play throw to first
  • A runner’s dive back into first base
  • The catcher throwing to second base (once an inning at least in warm ups)
  • A good view of the runner scoring from third
  • The batter running to first

3rd Base Line

  • Right handed pitcher
  • Left handed batter
  • Right handed batters follow through
  • 1st and 2nd base fielding
  • 1st baseman fielding throws at first
  • Double plays and steals at second base
  • A good view of the catcher during a play at the plate
  • A good view into the home plate celebration after a home run

Center Field

  • A view back into the batter more like the TV view we are used to
  • Plays at second base
  • Plays in the outfield

Behind the Plate

  • A classic view of the pitcher head on
  • Fielding plays by the infield
  • Plays at the plate

Those are just a few possibilities from each position. Part of the fun of shooting a baseball game is finding new places to make photos from. These are a good starting point for you to work on though.

4. Don’t Forget the Jube – Jube is a term I learned somewhere for the jubilation of the moment. Often you will be so excited to see if you got the shot of the big play that you will be looking at the back of your camera right away. That is often when the best part of the play is happening. Follow the player all the way back to the dugout or their position. You never know when the big moment will lead to a big celebration. The jube is my favorite part of sports, and is why I shoot them to begin with.

5. Focus on the details – If you are shooting your son or daughter you most likely are putting together some kind of book for them. Focusing on the details of the field and uniforms are a great way to add to the memories that you are putting together. If you are shooting for the school these types of pictures work very well on social media as well. Shooting at a level like high school may also mean better access for you. With the details you can also focus on the interactions in the dugout and the clubhouse. Just remember to be cautious with what you put out in the public. If you post something that was meant to be just shared in private by the players you may lose your access.

6. Know the exposure triangle – I see photos from the baseball field all the time with images that have a bat or ball blur. At times the light will not allow you to have the shutter speed needed to freeze most action (1/1000th of a second). When you are shooting during the day though you have no excuse not to have the action stopped. The exposure triangle are the three elements that determine what your photo will look like. They are shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. Since this post is aimed more at the beginner I will go over each of the three. You can Google the exposure for a more detailed look at it. Below is a very brief description of the three with some examples of how they relate to shooting baseball.

  • Shutter speed – For most sports you would like to have your shutter speed above 1/1000th of a second to stop the action. In baseball the bat and ball are moving very fast so I will go up to 1/3500th and 1/4000th of a second at times if I want to really stop the ball in motion. Your shutter speed is the amount of time that the shutter is actually open recording light. When you use a very high shutter speed then you are not getting much light into the camera. You then have to compensate for that with your aperture and ISO.
  • Aperture – The aperture is the amount of light that you are letting into your camera. You can find the range that your lens will allow by looking on the side of it. Some lenses are a fixed aperture lens. That would be lenses that say f/2.8 or f/4 on the side for example. Other lenses can be variable aperture lenses. These lenses will vary based on what position the lens is in. The typical example is the f/3.5-5.6 lens. That means that the lens will be at f/3.5 when it is pulled all the way in, and at f/5.6 when it is extended all the way out. When shooting sports I would suggest shooting at the widest aperture possible. This will be the smaller number. Shooting at a wide aperture blurs the background, and at most fields you need to blur the background. The trade off here is that you have a smaller depth of field so you need to be more precise with your focusing.
  • ISO – This is where things have come a long way in a short period of time. In the days of film an ISO of 400 (ASA then) was considered fast. Now you can have cameras that shoot at over 10,000 ISO without too much grain. That is the main thing here. You want to use the lowest ISO that you can to avoid the grain that comes with a high ISO. At times though you may have to trade off some grain to avoid motion blur in your images.

7. Shoot in RAW – For a new photographer this must sounds weird. What is RAW? RAW is a format that you can record to that will give you all of the data that your cameras sensor is collecting. When you buy your camera it comes set to shoot in jpeg mode. That is the common mode that most of us upload images to the web and print from. That jpeg is a compressed file that has been created by the camera. The camera has made some decisions for you as far as quality goes. The RAW file is the entire file as it was recorded off of the sensor. A good analogy is that the RAW file is the entire book War and Peace, while the jpeg would be the Reader’s Digest condensed book version. You still get the general gist of the book, but some of the detail is lost. When you are just starting out this is very important for a couple of reasons. The first is that if you mess up on part of the exposure triangle you can usually recover the image from the RAW file. You can regain a lot from an image when you are working with the RAW file. The second is that you don’t have to worry about white balance when shooting in RAW mode. You can change that later in post production. Shooting in RAW mode will also help with the nasty shadows that form under the brim of the baseball cap. A simple shadow adjustment in your editing software will clean those up.

8. Choose your background wisely – If you are shooting Major League Baseball for a wire service like Getty Images you will want to make sure that nothing distracting is in your background. For most of my photos I want a clean background that does not distract from the image. The photo above is an example of where you can include some of the background in your image. I included the scoreboard and the school to give a sense of place. In LaPorte, Indiana they play at Schreiber Field. It is a very nice field that is located next to the school. In helping create memories for the players I try and place a few elements of the field into my photos. Luckily for most high schools the outfield signage is not what it can be at a Major League or Minor League park. You have a nice clean fence and tree line that would look great in the bokeh. At some fields you can be shooting back at the batters or at a pitcher, and the background will be cars or people that can be distracting.

9. Know the team – If you are a parent photographing your son or daughter this is an easy one. You probably know the team quite well. If you are shooting for the school paper or another outside source you my need some details on the team. The photo up above of the player being congratulated by the third base coach was one that may have made the gallery, but definitely made the gallery when I knew the backstory of it. The player is the son of the head coach who is coaching third. This was a father congratulating his son on a home run. Knowing player tendencies or rituals also helps in making good photos of them. It also is good to know if any records or streaks are on the line.

10. Use back button focus – One thing that I wish that I had know when I started out was the ability to use a back button of your camera to set the focus. When you buy your camera it comes with the camera metering and focus set to occur when the shutter button is pressed halfway down. A full press of the shutter button will of course take your picture. Taking the focus off of that button and setting it to a button of its own lets you set your focus on a place, and leave it there. When I first started shooting baseball I would hear the familiar beep of the focus acquisition multiple times during an at bat. Now I set it at the start of the at bat, and it is good from there. Having the focus set to a back button also allows you to pre focus on a base. Say you know the guy on first is a runner and there is a good chance they will steal. You can pre focus on 2nd base to get the play there, or you can focus on the first base bag if you think he will dive back in after a throw. Pre focusing on a spot increases your chances of making a shot when the play happens quickly. Switching to back button focus has many advantages when shooting sports. You can look up how to change your focus in your cameras manual.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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. Continue reading “10 Tips For Better Baseball Photos”

Ten Tips That Will Help Make Your Ice Hockey Photos Better

I am not an expert hockey photographer. I will say that right off the bat. Guys like David Klutho make it seem like it is easy to photograph hockey which it is not. I have drastically improved my hockey images in just a short amount of time though be learning a few key elements to making hockey pictures better. The ten tips below for making better hockey pictures are some of the things that I have learned that have really helped me improve my game. They are things that take a decent photo, and make it one that you are proud to share.

10. Find a good clean location to shoot. This sounds easy right? All you have to do is find a spot where you can shoot the action that is not blocked by anything. The first thing that I do when I walk into a rink is check out the glass. At the arena that I shoot at most often the glass is a terrible mix of puck scars and sweat smears. Hockey glass is not ideal to shoot through when clean. When it is dirty you are really in trouble. You have to find a location that gives you the best view of the ice that you can. I shoot over the top of the glass with the help of a platform. Some leagues will let you shoot from the penalty box as well. When you shoot from a location not protected always wear a helmet. The puck is small and travels quickly. Not an ideal situation for your head.

9. Shoot in RAW mode. It is hard for me to believe that in this day and age people still do not shoot in RAW mode. Most lower level hockey rinks still have the old style fluorescent lights that cycle at a speed that you can’t get down to. Ideally you could shoot at 1/50th of a second to get the entire light cycle captured. In a fast sport like hockey 1/50th will give you a great blur. You may get some great panning shots that way. The light is always changing, and you can’t properly set a white balance. When you shoot in RAW though you can tweak that white balance later in Lightroom or whatever program you edit your images in. You can also correct the small changes in light that a fluorescent bulb will give you. Shooting through the glass can also add a greenish tint to your photos. The ability to change the white balance later is very important. I shoot everything in RAW because it gives me the most data to work with later.

8. Shoot in manual mode. When you are shooting something on a big sheet of white ice your camera will not be able to make a proper exposure for you. It will try to darken a bright scene, and your player will be the darkest part of the photo. When you get to the rink early to check for shooting locations you can also set up your camera. The most important part of the photo is the players face. You want that exposed properly. If you can get an exposure of 1/1000th or above with the players face exposed for properly you are in good shape.

7. Bring your best and fastest equipment. To get that 1/1000th of a second you will most likely have to have the best gear that you have at the arena. I will only shoot my gear that creates a good clean file at a high ISO, and my fastest lenses. I want to shoot wide open to allow the most light in my camera. The arena may look bright, but when you increase your shutter speed it gets dark in a hurry. My go to lens for hockey is my Canon 70-200mm lens. When shooting through the glass you have to be careful as you move up in focal length. The glass will start to distort your images. The 70-200mm lens seems to be the perfect lens for me to use.

6. Bring a wide angle or fisheye lens. One shot that you would love to have is that fisheye photo of the players right up against the glass in front of you. I always have a fisheye lens around my neck while shooting hockey. As the play comes close I pull it up to make the photo. You can get a great dynamic shot this way.

5. Don’t forget the jube. When you first start shooting sports your first instinct after a big play is to chimp and see if you captured the moment. Some of my favorite photos were made in the moment just after the big moment as the players react to the big play. Stay on the players as they celebrate. You never know what will happen. You will have time to chimp later. I tag my keepers in camera to make the editing process move a little faster. That means a lot of chimping. Don’t chimp at the cost of capturing a good moment.

4. Anticipate the action. What made Wayne Gretzky great was the fact that he skated to where the puck was going to be, not to where it was. You have to do the same with your camera. Hockey is a fast sport, and you have to be ahead of the action in your mind, or you will capture the moment just after the peak moment occurred. This is not an easy thing to do, and part of what makes hockey hard to photograph. Using both of your eyes can really help here. A natural tendency when photographing anything is to close your off eye. Using both of your eyes can help you track two players at once.

3. Know your players. This will make step #4 much easier to do. If you know the tendencies of players it makes it much easier to know what they will do. You will not always be right, but it will increase the rate at which you are right. Knowing the twitches of the goalie helps you get that shot just before the puck gets to him. Knowing that a player is a pass first player on a break lets you look off of him to the other player. Little things that can help you get ahead of the play are always go to have.

2. Use back button focus. One of the best things that I ever did was to switch my camera over to back button focus. When your camera is shipped to you the exposure metering and focus is set to the shutter button. A half press of the button will do both of those functions, and the full press makes the image. Switching the focus off of the shutter button to a back button allows you to have a little more control of your focus. When using continuous focus it also allows you to track a player as he moves around the ice. Back button focus will help you make a lot more keepers in a sport like hockey where the action is moving very fast.

1. Find the moments between the moments. With everything else going on during a hockey game you need some time to rest right? Maybe not. Sometimes when the action is stopped you can make a good image. The image above is of my nephew just as the puck is being dropped. His stare is so intense as he waits to see who will win the face off. Sometimes I like these moments as much as the peak action moments.

So there you have it. Ten things that I found that helped my hockey photography. I think that I get better with every hockey game that I photograph. As with all sports you have things that you constantly need to work on, and things that can help you get better. The most important thing is that you have fun. I don’t know many people that picked up a camera with the idea that it would be work. You initially picked up the camera because it was fun. You can have a lot of fun making hockey pictures. The more you are enjoying it, the more it shows up in your work. Have fun and go out and shoot some hockey!

Ten Tips For Making Better High School Football Photos

When I first thought about making a post about better football photos I was just going to make one about football in general. As I started thinking about it though I realized that the high school game has some challenges that you don’t normally see for other divisions of football. You have some great things along with some things that are not so great. One of the great things is that you have much greater access then you do at the higher levels. The flip side to that is that you are usually shooting in poor light late in the year. These are not the only ten things that you will need to do to make better high school football photos. These are however ten things that have helped me improve my photography.

  1. Shoot in RAW mode – I think that every post should start this way. Sure RAW mode means that you will have to have more storage space, but the benefits outweigh the cost. When shooting sports you want to see the faces of the players. With the faces of the kids here in a helmet you have a unique task. At times the face may be in shadow while the rest of the body is not. Shooting in RAW allows you to bring back some of that shadow detail to reveal the players face. Another instance where shooting RAW can save you is near the end zone. If you have ever been to a high school field than you know how bad the light falls off in the end zones. What may be a perfect exposure at mid field will not be in the end zone. Unless you are super fast at changing your settings during a play, shooting in RAW can help you save that big play celebration. To me the benefits of shooting in RAW far outweigh the negatives.
  2. Arrive early, Stay late – Football is about more than the action on the field. During the pregame and warm ups you can get some great shots of the kids. As the season winds down, the pre game will be your only good light of the game. The players will give you some great shots before and after the game if you are there to get them. Simple moments that help tell the story of the game.
  3. Fill the Frame – I have heard the phrase “Shoot tight, Crop tighter” from many different photographers. For football that is definitely the case. As I said in tip #1 you are photographing players with a helmet on. You need to really get in tight to see their expressions. This can be done in a couple of ways. If you have loads of money than you can buy a 400mm or 600mm lens. With a big lens you don’t have to worry about moving as much. You can park yourself in the end zone for a lot of the game. If you have a 70-200mm lens or smaller than you have to work to fill the frame. You have to follow the action down the field much more closely. You also have to know when to shoot. Don’t fill your buffer up with the player too far away from you. Wait until he is filling your frame, and then fire.
  4. Know your team – For most people shooting high school football this is the easy part. You are there to photograph someone you know, and you have seen the team play before. That can help you make your photos much better. Knowing your team can allow you to anticipate where the play is going to be. You know who the go-to receiver is. You know when the team will throw, and when it will run the ball. Knowing your team allows you to be a step ahead of the action which in turn makes your photos that much better. One good example is what kind of offense does your team run? Do they run most of the time? If they do is it to a certain side of the field? They may favor running over a particular tackle or guard. Knowing this can help you make the photo. If your team passes do they sling it down the field like Terry Bradshaw or Ken Stabler? Maybe they use a more precise passing game. Knowing this can help you position yourself to make the shot. If the team favors the short pass you want to be behind the play. The receiver will turn to you this way. If they like to lob the ball up and have the receiver catch it then you need to be way ahead of the play. Knowing tendencies is not a must, but it can help you be one step ahead.
  5. Know the game – Knowing the game is much like knowing your team. It goes a bit beyond that though. Knowing how the game works helps you be where you need to be to make the picture. Keeping track of the time is a big help. If the play has ended with 15 seconds left in the quarter and the team is in no hurry then you get a little extra time to swap ends of the field. In some stadiums that can mean the difference in getting to the other end of the field in time. Knowing the game can also help you make some interesting photos. You know that standing behind the kicker is usually the best place to be for a field goal. Knowing the basic rules of your league allows you to not get caught by surprise.
  6. Don’t forget the Jube – This is one that took me a long time to master. The big play just happened. You are pretty sure that you got the shot, but you are not sure. You immediately look to the back of your LCD screen to see if you did in fact capture the moment. While all of that is going on you are missing some great photos. Stay on the players involved in the play until they reach the sideline. You never know when they are going to do something great. When you realize this you will see that many of your best pictures from the game will be of the “jube.”
  7. Get low – Most sports photos look better from a lower point of view. For a sport like football I would recommend going down to one knee to make your photos. Shooting up at your subjects makes them look that much bigger, and their feats on the field that much better. A player jumping shot from a standing or kneeling position looks completely different. Ideally you would want to shoot the game from your belly, but that is not the safest place to shoot when your subjects are so big and strong. Shooting from a knee allows you to get low, but also gives you a chance to get out of the way if the play comes right at you.
  8. Have a plan – One thing that will help you make better photos is to have a plan. If you know what you want to get from the game it can make your night that much easier. If you just want action photos then you can just follow the ball. I have shown up to games with a list of players gaff taped to my lens hood. I knew that I needed shots of those players first. Anything else would be a bonus. If you are following one player for the game you need to think of ways to make your shots different. You don’t want to go home and find multiple images of the same player that look the same. Go in with a plan for the game. With that being said don’t be afraid to ditch your plan if circumstances change. This is a sport with an oblong ball. Things can change quickly, and you also need to be able to roll with those changes.
  9. Keep your focus – Focus can come in many ways. One of those ways is to stay in the game mentally. Keeping your mind in the game allows you to accomplish the previous eight points. Another way to keep focus is with your camera. I use ai servo mode when shooting sports. With the new cameras this helps make sure that you keep sharp focus on your player throughout the play. Your aperture will depend on what you want to accomplish. Ideally you would like to be as high as possible throughout the game. Shooting at f/2.8 will allow more light into your camera which you will need when the sun goes down. If you want multiple players in focus though you may have to adjust that.
  10. Have fun! – Remember you are shooting a game. You are making photographs of high school kids, and you should always keep their best interests in mind. If you miss a play it does no good to get upset about it. Sports are fickle, and you will miss plays from time to time. A ref or player could get in your way and ruin your shot. It does no good to yell about it. Set a good example for the athletes on the field. You are photographing a great game from a great vantage point. Enjoy it!

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