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- Follow the Action: Great lighting of boring action doesn’t do you any good. Your job as a photographer is to capture the best action possible with the best lighting possible. To do this, sometimes you have to think differently. When the action dictates that I face the sun, then I try to face the sun directly. What this does is to “rim” the entire person in sun and not burn out anything but the rim of the person. You would usually need to switch to manual exposure or if shooting in av mode dial in some exposure adjustment override because your meter will get fooled by the high contrast of light in your viewfinder. The ideal situation is having the background behind the subject in shade, just as the subject’s face is in shade. This effect makes for some pretty good photos. Another tip here is to eliminate as much grass from the photo as possible. The grass (field) will appear brighter than normal and usually is a little distracting in the photo when your exposure is made for the subject.
- Crop: In most cases the tighter the crop, the better the photo. Action is usually more dramatic with a tighter crop. Why waste all that space in your picture for unrelated data such as the train in the background or the refreshment tent. There are times when some of the background elements support the story of the particular photo, but for the most part, the closer you get to the action, the more dramatic the image. If you are supplying images for publication remember to leave plenty of room for them to crop to their requirement. One thing I try in my own photography is to vary the crop of my images. While tighter is better than looser when it comes to cropping, sometimes a little looser or even too tight a crop makes for a good image if your intention is to show several photos on the same page. For example, my shots will end up on my web site and probably on the team’s web site, so if I don’t vary the crop the resulting web pages will appear boring. Make sure you include some close-ups and a few wider angle shots.
- Camera Angle: When shooting field sports like Rugby or Hockey, you can’t vary the vertical axis all that much. I have been known to get down very low for some shots, so a good way to get some variety is on the horizontal axis. Move around the pitch if you can. I know that I will probably get the best shots from behind the goal, but after a while, all the shots look very similar. There are nice shots to be had from behind the subject too. A image of someone shooting on goal from behind is sometimes a welcome variation when you already have a hundred shots from the opposite angle.
- Don’t Forget the Defenders:It’s easier to shoot the offensive players because their action is usually facing you and they’re usually closer. Defenders like photos too, so I usually stay at the same end for all the periods of play that way I get defenders and forwards from both teams.
- Composition: You want some flow to your pictures. If you can get the players with their hands, legs, and sticks forming an interesting shape, then so much the better. A leaning body is more appealing than a straight up and down body and a falling body is even more fun to look at. If you are able to have the focus drop off, so that the background is not distracting, then try to select a background that has some interesting colour. You don’t want to pick colours that distract too much or conflict with your subject. You don’t want a red background if the teams shirt colour is red, so try to look for contrast if possible.
- The Ball: In most cases having the ball in the shot makes for a better image as it brings relevancy to the photo. It’s not just a picture of two people running down the field, it’s a picture of one person trying to do something relevant while another is trying to prevent their success. It helps tell the story. You will be able to have some decent photos without the ball, but you’ll find that the ball brings some excitement that just isn’t there without it.
Okay, there you go… that gives you an understanding of how I approach my sports photography. Hopefully, this will come in handy when it comes to shooting your own events and local teams.