The Addiction of Sports Photography: Lessons from the Field
As in all professions the lessons learned through experience are invaluable. In this article we’ll share some of these experiences to help make your life as a sport photographer a little easier. These lessons build upon tips presented throughout this series.
In reading these articles you’ve probably gotten the impression that we’re keen on safety. We are! We’ve had friends and colleagues experience injury while pursuing their passion. Our suggestions so far have been founded on the approach of anticipating and avoiding problems. Here are a few more suggestions to protect yourself from the environment.
Knee pads. A great photo is taken from an angle or perspective not usually seen by the fans. Many times, this means getting low and shooting upwards. It also means spending a lot of time on your knees and your stomach when shooting sports like football, soccer, track and field. A simple pair of knee pads, purchased from a photography store or a hardware store, are well worth the investment.
Camping chair. A camping chair is a “must have” for photographing basketball. The best shooting location is sitting along the baseline. Unfortunately, sitting on the hardwood floor for the entire game creates a physical hardship on the rear-end. Use a soft-edged, leg-less, folding camping chair to cushion your backside.
Rain protection. You will eventually get wet when you photo outdoor sports. Some sports, like Formula 1, are more exciting when run in the rain. (Former Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone actually proposed wetting down the track to create a slick surface to make for a more exciting race). Investing in an appropriated sized, disposable or re-useable rain cover to protect for your camera and lens is another “must have”. Breathable, waterproof rain jacket and pants are also a good idea to protect the photographer.
Sun-screen / Insect repellant / Head gear. It goes without saying, if your work outside you will get sunburned and bitten by insects. I keep cans of sun-screen and insect repellant alongside my camera gear.
Water. I bring one liter of water onto the field for each hour under the sun. You can refill your water bottle by asking the bat boy between innings of a baseball game, or do it yourself at the team bench during halftime in field sports.
Comfortable shoes. Never wear the same pair of shoes twice in a row. Shoes have different pressure points on the feet and changing them daily changes the stress point on the feet. (I once shared tip with a photographer at SXSW, a week-long music festive, and he commented: “But I only have two pairs of shoes. These and my dress shoes”).
Hearing protection. I started wearing ear protection for motor sports. I also found it extremely handy at boisterous indoor arenas.
Gloves with touch-pad finger tips. Gloves are great for outdoor sports played in colder weather, and sometimes, indoor hockey. The finger tips are designed for Smart Phones screens, which gives you a tactile feel as you work the camera.
Odds and Ends
And finally, here are some suggestions that we hadn’t shared in earlier articles (Hint: read the prior articles for the tips you missed):
Multiple cameras. If you can afford it, and you have multiple lenses, shoot with two cameras. You can’t change lenses quickly enough in the field and catch changes in the action. I always shoot with two cameras, and sometimes three.
Camera harness. The straps that come with your camera can easily slip off the edge of shoulder, and with it, your camera. Instead, invest in a one- or two-camera harness. The harness securely sets on one or both shoulders with adjustable straps descending your sides. Each strap has a locking swivel carabiner that connects to a fastener screwed into the camera’s tripod socket.
Monopod and ball head. A monopod is a one-legged stand that screws into the tripod socket to help bear the weight of the larger lensed cameras. Unfortunately,
to angle the camera downward, you must tilt the monopod and camera forward, moving the camera away from your head. A swivel ball head attached to the top of the monopod allows you to change the angle of the camera without affecting the pitch of the monopod.
Quick release plates. The monopod screws into the base of the camera; instead, use a quick release plate. The plate comes in two pieces, attaching to the top of the monopod and the bottom of the camera. The two plates can be easily, and securely, snapped to together to save time.
Rate as you go. In the course of a game you will take hundreds, perhaps thousands of images. Many of those images are excellent, but most are not worth keeping. In the non-action moments of the game, rate the photos. Some cameras have a Rate or Rank button on the camera’s body. Some cameras have this function embedded in a menu. Other cameras allow you to reprogram a button on the camera. Rating during the game will save you’re a lot of time in post-processing. I like to rate my images in groups of about 50. I mark the end of group by taking a blank photo of the playing field to mark where I left of.
LCD viewer magnification. Must all cameras have either a button or wheel that allows you to zoom-in the magnification of the LCD viewer. This is a great way to determine if the image has sharp focus and determine if it is a keeper.
Identifying players. Get the team roster before the game so you can identify the players in post-processing. Photographs with unidentified players are not valuable. Use features like their shoes, sleeves, wristbands, gloves, etc., to identify players when you can’t see their numbers. Identify the player by referring back to images where these features and numbers are visible.
Never use on-field flash. Never use a flash to photography play on the field. Off-field strobes are allowable, but be aware of the cycle time.
Other ways to earn money. You can make extra money from team photos, head shots and playing cards. Read our articles entitled “A Guide to Sports Portraiture” and “Beyond Headshots” for additional information.
About the Author
Andy Nietupski founded TTL Sport Media in 2015 after a corporate career of business start-ups and turn-arounds. TTL Sports Media helps sports organizations optimize their business results using the latest digital sales and marketing techniques. TTL Sports Media publishes thousands of pieces of content annually and curates a catalog of more than 100,000 items. On behalf of its client interests, TTL Sports Media annually publishes nearly 200 articles and makes 1000’s of social media posts.
Copyright 2020 Andy Nietupski and TTL Sports Media