That's kind of crazy! Separating the two functions helps to minimize mistakes in situations where you don't have time to make up for them. Quick, what separates Getty and former Sports Illustrated staff shooters from everyone else? Great athletes aren't what make great images. Two things separate the upper-echelon of sports shooters from the rest: I'll get to practice in my 10th point, but storytelling should never be undersold.
If you have good gear that you know how to use and a good level of comfort with a sport, you can be a solid action photographer. Anticipation and luck are going to give you a good action shot 9 times out of 10 if you have those other things down, but the ability to tell the story of a game or event is a completely different thing.
Maybe a player's family is in attendance, or an old coach, or a special guest. See where I'm going with this? You should have a running list in your head of shots you want to get should the situation present itself, so that if and when it does, you're ready.
You never want chimp in the middle of the action, and you pretty much never want to chimp immediately following a stop in action breaks in play are a great moment to find some of those story shots. Don't let your own excitement possibly rob you of an even better shot than the one you're gawking at on the back of your camera. Chimping is necessary at times, when covering an event for a publication, for instance.
Many photographers are quickly reviewing their shot sequences and tagging potential keepers in-camera so that they're easy to find when they go to edit and caption later. It's an essential part of the workflow, but it should be done with careful discretion. It doesn't matter that "it was such a great catch!
The sooner you can accept that you have the innate ability to take really crappy photos, the sooner you can start to figure out why they're crappy and move on to taking really good photos.
I shot my first basketball game my sophomore year of college, and I couldn't have been more proud of my photos. I posted them up on a local photo forum and got the expected "good job! He pointed out which ones were out of focus, how I was cutting players feet off, where I was missing faces. He wasn't mean, but he didn't pull any punches. After reading his reply, I did one of the most unthinkable things in the history of the Internet: I listened to him.
I didn't get mad or take it personally, I wanted to get better and everything he said about my images was right, so I listened to what he had to say, and I got better. We can't improve on our mistakes without acknowledging them, and we don't correct our flaws by accident. I posted the photo below on Instagram a few years ago. It's not a very good photo. People liked it because it's JJ, but it's not the level of quality I wanted to be at. Never settle when you know you could improve.
This plays into the above, but faces are one of the most important things in a sports image. Yes, there are photos that capture such a powerful moment that they can get away with not having the face in them, but I guarantee you that the guys who shot those photos would have preferred a shot that showed the face.
Embed from Getty Images. My shot below is technically better, but the Helmet Catch carries the weight of the moment and is a better photo simply on the basis of the story that is being told. If you have the ability to move around a venue, use it. Find angles that no one else is shooting. My editor at one of my newspaper internships in college once told me: Everyone knows what the world looks like from a few feet off the ground.
Williams , the overhead angle telling the story of the fight better than anything ringside could. Don't underestimate what you can get when you combine a tight or wide angle with an extremely high or extremely low angle. Don't stop shooting once the catch is made, and don't ever assume that a whistle means the play is over. Always keep your camera ready, and you will catch some of your most compelling photos.
You ever wonder how this shooter or that shooter managed to get the shot that they did? This is one reason why veteran sports photographers are hardly ever in one place for very long. The entire length of the court opposite the player benches offers some great angles. It gives you great vantage points not only for the action on the court, but also for coach and player reaction shots on the bench. Be sure to also take advantage of higher angles from the bleachers timeout huddles and the track above the court players jostling under the net , as well as getting down low for those dramatic larger-than-life shots.
They go one direction. Then they go the other direction. Four quarters of back and forth. Look for interesting or dramatic backgrounds. Keep your head on a swivel. Spend some time in the stands. Shoot the crowd reactions. Photograph the band and the cheerleaders.
There is so much more going on in that gym than just a basketball game. Turn your back on the action once in a while and take a look around. There are stories everywhere. Use your camera to tell them. Welcome to photography, where five photographers will give you five different answers for everything, and tell you why the other four are wrong.
I hated it at the time, but it was probably a good thing. I learned to compose my shots and choose my moments more carefully. I developed a pretty fast shutter finger, and, I think, a better eye for the action. Even now, with better equipment, I still tend to leave my camera set for single clicks. If you are covering a particular school or team over the course of a season, introduce yourself to the coaches.
Your job will be easier if they know who you are and why you are there game-after-game. If a coach or official tells you something, listen to them. If they ask you to move, you move. It may sound silly to you, but you have no idea what the consequences might be. This is high school, not the NBA. Be sensitive and keep it in perspective. It presented them with a new angle to help tell the story. Who were these people, you ask? Now, everyone does it. When shooting, be original and try something different.
At each event I cover, I look for as many new ways to approach it as possible. I primarily work as a professional motorsports photographer, shooting mainly NASCAR, but at each event there is a new setup. This allows me to try new backgrounds, new angles, and new shooting locations.
You don't have to be shooting professional sports to try something different. Even when I photographed high school football, I would always look for new angles and ideas. By trying something different, you allow your creativity to flourish and capture something that everyone else doesn't have. In the picture below I shot through a racecar's windshield and caught the driver preparing to hit the track. This may seem like a no-brainer, but don't forget your surroundings.
Whether it be a stadium full of cheering fans, to the tailgating outside, the surroundings present unique opportunities to capture the spirit of the game without shooting the action itself. Before tip off of a basketball game, court side is also a great place to shoot pictures of team spirit. Even after the game begins, don't forget the surroundings. If you have a wider lens, such as a Ever wonder why sports photographers carry so much equipment?
It's because we like to build bigger muscles while walking. All joking aside, once you are on the sidelines or in the middle of the action it's hard to run to your bag and change equipment. Many sports photographers use one of three things to carry their equipment while working on the sidelines: Photo vests were cool a few years ago I had one but now they are impractical with all the lenses you need to carry and quickly have access to.
I prefer using a good belt system. My belt system has 6 holsters that can be used at any one time, each ranging from large lens holders to one meant just for a flash. The belt system allows me to quickly change between lens and keep all my compact flash cards together in safe place.
On the sidelines, this allows me stay prepared for the action with a variety of lenses and, since it has covers for each holster, also offers rain protection for outdoor sports.
The key to having a good system is finding one that fits well and works for your specific needs. Visit your local camera store, try them out, and see what works best for you. The key to capturing the perfect shot in sports comes down to relatively few things. One of the most important things is glass. Sports photography, unlike any other type, occasionally requires the biggest and most expensive equipment available.
This allows you to shot from anywhere around the stadium, including the end zones in football, creating the perfect head on shot. I say occasionally for a key reason. As we mentioned earlier, cameras now can do cool things with high ISO settings. When buying good glass, it's not like buying a new camera body. A good lens will last at least 10 years with proper care and maintenance.
Every sports photographer is guilty of "chimping". If you're unfamiliar with the term, this definition will clear everything up. Essentially, chimping is when you check every photo you take on the LCD. Why is this bad? It takes your eye off the action and puts it on the camera.