The following is a guest post by photographer James Trent who has recently started a great resource at his website Youth Sports Photography Guide. I’m always taking pictures of my girls and was excited to read some new tips that I put to use right away and I’m looking forward to learning more!
When I first got a DSLR, I was excited to take pictures at youth sports games. I thought, hey, I just spend hundreds of dollars on a nice camera… my photos are going to be amazing! Sound familiar? 😉
When I actually tried shooting, though, it was a totally different story. Yes, the DSLR did help a lot, but taking great photos was still really hard. I saw other people taking magazine-cover shots of their kids and I thought, “Why can’t I do that?” Over the years, I worked really hard, studied sports photography a lot, and got quite a bit better at youth sports photography. Today I’ll share some of the things I discovered that made my photos a lot better.
If your kids play soccer, you’re a lucky photographer – soccer is one of the easiest youth sports to shoot! You can go anywhere around the field, and there are no fences in the way. This makes it much easier to get great soccer shots as opposed to some other sport.
But how do you get soccer shots that rival the ones you see in advertisements? As it turns out, there are a few tricks that pro photographers use that dramatically improve their shots. Here are four that I’ve found to work great for soccer.
1. Get low. If you’re like the average parent, you probably stand up on the sidelines to shoot. This will give you average shots. Since adults are usually taller, the photos appear to be looking down on the players. The trick is to get on the players’ level, or below.
There are a few ways to do this. The most comfortable way is to simply bring a folding chair and shoot from that. If you can’t set up a folding chair close enough, you can kneel next to the field. This might sound tiring, but if you move around a lot and don’t kneel for too long, it can be manageable.
An accessory that was a life-saver for me is a monopod. This is a $20 accessory that’s basically a tripod with only one leg. You hold the camera, and the monopod supports the camera’s weight. The heavier your telephoto lens is, the more you’ll appreciate having a monopod. Since they’re inexpensive, you can try a monopod and see if it’s something you like.
Getting low is one easy trick that will make your photos stand out from everyone else’s. Here’s a good article about the advantages of getting low, and some tips on how to do it.
2. Use light to your advantage. Light is by far the most significant factor in your youth sports photos. If you understand the light and use it to your advantage, your photos will improve dramatically. Here are a few things to know about lighting.
First, take advantage of the times when the light is at it’s best. This includes sunrise and sunset times, with that soft golden light that’s perfect for everything in photography. You’ll probably get your best shots during sunset and right after, while it’s still light but without the harsh sunlight. The other light you should use to your advantage is on cloudy days, when the light is diffused and everything’s evenly lit. Some of my best photos were taken on cloudy days.
At times like those, when the light is great for photography, don’t hold back. This is your best opportunity for getting winning shots, so use it fully and take as many shots as you can. You’ll thank me when you look at them at home.
3. Zoom way in. It’s no secret that you need a long telephoto lens for youth sports. But you might want to use that zoom a little more than you’re used to. When I first started shooting sports, I was afraid of cutting out some part of the action, so I always left a little room between the subject and edges.
But the closer-in your photos are, the more engaging they become. The tight shots are often the most dramatic because they show the action so intensely. So don’t be afraid to zoom farther in than normal. At the very least, it’ll result in some interesting and different shots – and if you do it enough, you’ll come out with a few cool shots for sure.
Did these strategies help you get better sports shots? Email me at james.trent