Olympics Sports Photography Inspires Us

Olympics performances inspire us, certainly. What action! What great photography! I am inspired to try my hand at sports photography. How about you? I have tips for you.

Just like you, I have been losing sleep this past week, while watching the Olympics competitions at all hours.   In fact, I’m watching track and field events right now.  Allison Felix just breezed through her heat in the 200 meters.  I expect her to win a gold medal – by the time this column is online, I’ll be proven right or wrong. 

The Olympics reminds me I was once a pretty good sports photographer.  Loved it.  Sports photography supported the family for a time.  It also gave my ego a boost to carry around a bunch of Nikons and big lenses.  I was often asked for tips by people who wanted to know how to shoot action photos, how single-out the athlete with drama, sharpness, color and the out-of-focus backgrounds.  Most photographers want great shots of their kids at soccer, baseball, softball, volleyball, all sorts of sports.  As a former sports photoguy (I shoot buildings now), I can give you a tip or two, but you must practice.

  1. Good technique is better than expensive equipment.  Learn how your camera works.  Strive to know the Exposure Triangle – ISO setting, Aperture, and Shutter speed.  Most times you want to use a wide aperture setting to separate your subject from the background.  A 200mm-300mm lens gets you closer and makes the photo pop.
  2. Wide-angle lenses can tell a story visually, while telephoto lenses single-out the moment.  Good composition is key.  When I photographed the Family Circle Cup pro women’s tennis on Daniel Island my workhorse lenses were the Nikon 17-55 f2.8 (wide-to-moderate zoom), Nikon 80-200 f2.8 (short-long tele zoom), and Sigma 120-300 f2.8 (super zoom).  Notice the wide maximum f-stop (aperture).  I needed out-of-focus backgrounds much of the time, so I almost always used wide aperture settings
  3. Follow Rule-of-Thirds composition: compose, crop, shoot, within the viewfinder as much as you can.  Don’t assume you can re-crop in the software, when you get home.  Move your feet for better position.  Big-time photographers with their $10,000 lenses, move all the time, jockeying for the special angle, for the unusual shot.
  4. Get the decisive moment.  Wait for it.  Modern DSLRs can shoot 5-to-10 frames a second.  Please believe you can miss the great moment, while the motor is running.  Anticipate what comes next, as you shoot, motor or not.  Know your sport.  Keep your eye at the viewfinder.  Minimize conversation.
  5. Learn to set proper White Balance for good color.
  6. Learn the capability of your in-camera reflective light meter.  Practice seeing the tones, so you can be smarter than the robot.
  7. I never shoot sports events with the camera set on automatic.
  8. Finally, expensive equipment enhances good technique.  Pro cameras are built to withstand constant use.  Pro lenses are worth the money for the wide-apertures and sharp photos they produce.  Expensive equipment is sooo sexy, too.

I invite my readers to email me at douglascarrphoto@live.com

Ask questions about photography.  Maybe I will learn something.

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