In sports photography, it’s one thing to talk about shutter speeds, ISO settings and focal lengths, and entirely another to discuss the real heart of sports, what we call the moment of conflict. Sports is mostly competition between humans. Much of the time the best way to visualized it is to capture this moment of conflict, when human meets human. It can be quite intense.
To capture it requires several things, most of which are between the photographer’s ears. One of the best is an at least cursory understanding of the sport you are working. Another would be a little bit of planning based on that knowledge, such as anticipating where the action will be happening the most, and where you need to be to see and photograph it. Timing, as in when to expect that the conflict will peak, is critical as well.
A camera with a fast frame rate can be something of a distraction. It can mess with your sense of timing, and if you lean on it too hard, you end up with boring sequences that seemed entertaining in the camera, but just don’t quite tell the story. It can also make it difficult to make sure that your autofocus, if you are using it, is doing what you want it to do.
I also like to have the ball in my sports photos. I think it adds an element of storytelling that helps draw the reader in without having to do much explaining about that is happening.
I shoot a lot of sports, and my community tells me they like my work. I try not to bore them, and every time I can find a moment of human conflict to show them, I feel I’ve done my job well.
Thanks for the tutorial! I’m going to have my yearbook staff read it, also!
Very nice explanation, Richard.
When I started in sports photography, I had little-to-no instruction, as you can imagine. Someone said to me: “Face, ball, and number, in that order of priority.” The rest I had to learn for myself.
(It doesn’t help that so many teams these days don’t put numbers on the fronts of their jerseys anymore… To other readers: we often use jersey numbers to I.D. players, until we become familiar enough with the team.)
I do want to emphasize: “at least cursory understanding of the sport you are working.”
This helped me quite a bit, since I was already a sports fan, and so it was a little easier for me to look for those moments. (Note: those moments don’t always happen, especially in baseball games with good pitchers…)
Also, too many people rely on the multi-shot burst. I’ve found that timing the shot works better for me.