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Alley Cat's tips to great photography

Alison Watkins

It is extremely fun to experiment with diffrent angles. I was laying on the ground to take this shot and ended up catching them in mid-air, thanks to my high shutter speed.
Aliosn Watkins

ABOVE: Hockey is very fun to shoot. It's nice and cold in the rink, and the games are quick.
BELOW: Girls basketball is not the easiest, but flashes are a great help. For this shot the flashes are behind the players and still created a nice scene.

Alison Watkins
Follow this column for photography techniques and advice from Alison Watkins.

Chapter 14: The Challenges of Sports Photography

I hope you’ve figured out by now that photography is not just taking pictures, it’s about capturing moments. Whatever the event is photographers should go early and stay late, in light of not missing any of the action.

There are a whole lot of unexpected moments waiting to be captured at sporting events, ranging from the people in the stands to the players to the coaches.

Depending on the sport, there can be different lighting situations you’ll have to deal with. Sports like swimming, tennis, and cross country will have a lot of outdoor sunny opportunities; but sports like football and soccer are mostly outdoors in the dark of night. A camera on automatic can take "okay" pictures outdoors in the sun, but not everyone can take pictures in the dark.

At an outdoor night game there are stadium lights, which look nice and bright to our eyes, but to a camera’s sensor, there is very little light. Settings for such lighting are around 3200-6400 ISO, 1/320 Shutter speed, and as low an F-stop as possible (on the other hand it’s best to not go lower than 2.8). You need a high shutter speed to capture the players’ motion, unless you’re trying for some blurred motion shots. Again, these are only starting points.

Indoor sports photography is another story. Volleyball, wrestling, and basketball are all indoors and work best with a flash. You're usually not allowed to have a flash attached to your camera as to not distract the players; however detached flashes are allowed but cannot be near the players' eyes. I've used flashes attached to the walls with PocketWizards (radio transmitters), which are the best.

On a side note, having flashes on the wall versus on the camera reduces red eye. This way you don't get demon athlets.

I’d suggest a lens that can zoom to or past 200mm for most sports. You can’t exactly get right up in their faces while they’re playing. This doesn’t mean you can’t slap a wide angle lens on a camera and go shooting. It means you’re going to photograph the other action at the event, not the players necessarily, but maybe the crowd or coaches or cheerleaders.

One thing that I’ve noticed that I do a little too often is “chimping,” which is looking at the photo right after it is taken. Every. Single. Time. Especially don’t do this at a sports game because you never know when that “money shot” is going to happen. This is a bad habit of mine that I’m trying to break, and you should too. Once you have your settings suitable for the environment you shouldn't have to check every picture, maybe a couple times to check if the light is still the same.

After the winter break I'll be discussing studio photography with all the little gadgets and gizmos available. Check back at the same Alley Cat time, same Alley Cat channel!


Alley Cat's
Photo Tips


Start shooting
Sunrises and Sunsets
Black and White
Long Exposure
Shoot in RAW
Back Button Focusing
The Challenges of      Sports Photography
Studio Photography
FX and DX
Street Photography
Painting with Light
Bokeh vs. Blurry
Tripods and Mounts

-Motion Photography

-Naming and Organizing
-Printing and Resolution
-Paid Gigs
-Gadgets and Gizmos


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