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How to Tackle Sports Photography

camera_sports_photography

With the Superbowl just around the corner, all I cay say is GO GIANTS! But aside from reveling in my idealistic daydreams of Tom Brady sobbing like a kid who just got ice cream face-smashed by a 300-lb linebacker, I’m here to talk cameras, folks. Some of you may be heading to that Superbowl next weekend. Others may frequent the ice—go Devils! And the rest of you will head to the courts—who cares! If you ever plan on taking quality pictures at any sporting event, heed my advice before you make the journey…to see the Patriots cry.

The Right Equipment

Canon-PowerShot-SX40-HS-Zoom

First and foremost, let’s tackle the elephant in the room. If you plan on documenting all of the Giants awesomeness using a smartphone camera, prepare to come home with a Camera Roll of suckage. Smartphones are the least ideal digital imaging weapons at any sporting event because they have weak digital zooms and lack shutter speed adjustment, which results in pixilated, blurry action shots. If you’re in nosebleed seats, a smartphone will do a fantastic job capturing the sea of drunken Neanderthals in front of you with an Eli Manning flea circus in the far distance.

Therefore, I recommend a decent Super Zoom camera like the Canon PowerShot SX40 HS or Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150, especially if you have less than ideal seats. These cameras have exceptionally long zooms with Optical Image Stabilization, which is essential for keeping the camera still. Don’t be fooled by cameras with sensor-shift image stabilization or any other form of digital or electronic jitter control. Those cheaper methods are going to make you feel like you’re in a rock tumbler at full zoom. Optical Image Stabilization. End of Line.

If you’re going the DSLR route, bring a nice telephoto zoom lens. Something like a 70-200 or 55-300 lens will get you up, close and personal with the players. Hey, with the right focal length, you can even capture one of Tom Brady’s tears in mid stream at the end of the game.

Practice

Orr-Goal

When shooting sports, the idea is to isolate the action so that the overall picture looks like a millisecond in time. The famous Goal by Bobby Orr is one of the quintessential examples of iconic sports photography. Orr is caught in mid air celebrating before he crashes to the ice after scoring the game-winning Stanley Cup goal against the St. Louis Blues.

So how was Mr. Orr able to magically fly through a moment in hockey history? The answer is a fast shutter speed. Most point-and-shoots up to entry-level DSLRs have a Sports mode that, when selected, chooses a fast shutter speed automatically. This mode is fine for beginners, but intermediate to advanced shooters will want to slip into Shutter Priority or Manual mode to adjust the shutter speed. Typically, one can attain decent results at a shutter speed of 1/500-second, though super fast action like Moto GP racers with their knees to the pavement will be shot at 1/1000-second and above.

Rossi-Turn

Using a high shutter speed is great and all, but there’s a catch. The faster the shutter speeds, the less light your sensor gets. As a result, you’ll have to raise your ISO level and/or open up your aperture. This is a tradeoff I’ve talked about in other articles, so be sure to do your homework before fiddling around with your camera’s controls. Fortunately, stadium lighting is very generous, so you shouldn’t feel like you’re shooting in a cave. However, it does help to have a camera with a larger sensor or one that is particularly good in low light, just in case.

The Big Game

Giants-Superbowl

You’ve got your camera. You’ve practiced with fast shutter speeds. Now it’s time for the big game! I’ve compiled a handy dandy list to check off before you head out.

  • Batterie(s) fully charged and ready to roll. P.S.– It’s a good idea to buy a backup battery. 
  • SD card is in the slot and has plenty of space left or is freshly formatted.
  • Use a neck strap to keep the camera around your neck at all times. This will prevent a large, intoxicated fan from accidentally sitting on it.
  • Have fun!

If you have any questions, toss them in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer them. One more thing: GO GIANTS!

 


Mike Perlman

Mike Perlman grew up in Nintendo Land and developed a relationship with all things electronic and nerdy early on in his childhood career. Today,...

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