Photographer’s Secret: Don’t Shoot the Same Game Twice

Different photography jobs require different approaches. This is especially important in sports photography when every sport and, really, every game is unique. You can’t set up and shoot each game the same way. Sports photography is about telling a story and almost there is a new story every day. It is important to approach each game differently, depending on your assignment and the specific situation.

In other words, don’t shoot the same game twice.

We approach every game differently and that helps us capture compelling photos across different sports and games. Preparing your mindset and your plan to shoot for the game you are at instead of approaching every game the same will improve your skills and, of course, your photographs. Here are three tips for preparing for every game.

Baseball vs Xavier
Baseball vs Xavier

Understand your assignment.

This is the perhaps the most important thing to do to prepare for your next game. It’s important to understand what your client is looking for and what is important to them. Are you being hired to cover a specific team? Or are you being hired for editorial purposes? Perhaps your focus is on a specific player. If you are a team photographer, have their been underlying stories in the team all season long? Try to think about what story you are telling.

Spend some time getting in the mindset of what your client wants. If you don’t have clients, then experiment on your own. Create an assignment for yourself to practice getting in the mindset or planning for different games.

Study the game. 

This is one of the basic tenants of sports photography and it pays to brush up on the game, no matter what. Shooting a baseball game requires different legwork, different angles and different focus than shooting a lacrosse game. Track and field has a different rhythm than basketball. All of these things matter when you are setting up, preparing your shots or planning where you want to start shooting.

Study the players and the teams involved. _RS17029

You are telling a story in sports photography and you are doing more than capturing action, you are capturing moments. It’s beneficial to have a general knowledge of the players and the teams and perhaps, the stories that have been evolving in the season. Is there a specific player who is known for making big plays? Does a team have a certain pre-game ritual or celebration tradition that you want to capture? These are just some of the things you can pay attention to and try to capture but only if you know them ahead of time by doing your research!

If you are a team photographer, you probably have a really good understanding of the team you photograph on a regular basis but you might also want to get to know their opponent to see if a pitcher is known for spectacular strike outs, a goalie is known for big saves or any other skills that can translate into great action.

Athletes always prepare for their specific opponent and as a sports photographer, you should too! No two games are the same but that is part of what makes sports photography such an exciting experience and a fun challenge!

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Using Wide Angle Lenses in Sports Photography

Sports is normally shot with a long zoom to bring the action closer to the viewer, but what if you want to bring the viewer to the action?

A wide angle lens is perfect for this. Because of its short focal length, a wide angle lens requires the photographer to get up-close-and-personal with their subject, therefore bringing the viewer along with them. In the photo below, we caught our expert teacher, Rafael, shooting with his wide angle lens.

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Wide angle lenses will add depth to the photo. They help you keep everything with the frame in sharp focus and the view from a wide angle lens will make the viewers feel like they are part of the action. Can’t you feel the action in this photo? That’s because we were shooting with a wide angle lens!

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Wide angle lenses are about capturing close up moments and being a part of the action. To use a wide angle lens correctly, we recommend getting as close as possible to the action. You want to be sure you are focusing the camera on your subjects. Sometimes this means getting low and down where the action is! This will create depth and help your subjects stand out in the photo in a way that draws the viewer into the moment. An example is the photo below, you truly feel as if you are in the circle with the team.

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With more elite sports, you may not be able to get into the action to practice shooting with the wide angle lens. However, if you are shooting youth sports, there are plenty of opportunities to get near the action and practice shooting wide angle. Have a photo that you took with a wide angle lens? We’d love to see it! Tag us in it on our Instagram or Facebook @DCSportsPhotographyAcademy.

If you would like to invest in a wide angle zoom lens, you have many options. Here are some of the excellent wide angle zoom lenses for Canon and Nikon cameras!

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Understanding the Three Types of Sports Photos

Sports is more than just action shots. A great sports photographer captures each part of the sporting event, telling an entire story through their photos. You can also do this by focusing on three different types of photos you can take during a sporting event.

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Action Photos

As the name implies, these photos focus on the action in the game. It’s the jump shots, the goalie saves, the finish line crosses. These photos require you to anticipate the action of the game and be scanning the field and moving with the action.

To capture great action photos, we recommend having a basic understanding of the sport you are shooting and positioning yourself in a place where the action might take place. Sometimes that means running to home plate to catch a runner coming home.

Men's Basketball vs FordhamEmotion Photos

There is more to sports photography than the actual action. Sports photographers also capture the emotions of the athlete and the game. You want to think about the bigger story of the game, more than just the plays. It may be capturing an injured athlete being support from his teammate. Or the fans reactions after a game-winning shot.

If you want to capture emotions in your photos, it is important to continue shooting even after the whistle blows. Some of the best emotions occur just after the play. And remember, it’s not only the players who have emotions throughout the game. Remember to shoot the coaches, the team members not in the game and the fans as well. Those types of shots can add to the story.

crowdlas02.jpgGraphical Photos

Graphical photos are not as well known as the other two types of photos but they are often the most spectacular shots. In graphical photos, photographers tell the story through little details and small moments. For instance, in a group photo where the helmets of the players are all pointed to the coach, giving his pre-game speech.

It’s the details that help add to the story like  the shot of a challenge flag lying at the coach’s feet or the catcher’s mitt lying alone on the bench. These powerful photos will add to overall story and look great in a portfolio. So be on the look out for visually appealing graphical moments during the games and look for the tiny details.

When you add these three different types of photos together, you are able to truly tell the story of the sport though your photos, which is exactly what a great sports photographer does in every game!

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Georgetown vs Providence Women’s Basketball

Last week Georgetown Women’s basketball took on Providence Women’s basketball and DC Sports Photography Academy was there to capture it! Our student Rajani had experience with photographing still life portraits, social events and parties but he wanted to enhance his skills and build a sports photography portfolio.

One of the areas we focused on during this game was the art of keeping up with the speed of the game. It can be tricky in sports photography to stay on top of all of the action. It is key to keep people in focus and compose the shot properly.

Over the course of this game, Rajani was able to keep up with the fast-paced and captured some incredible photos!

The Hoyas also scored a win, defeating their opponent 72-70 in overtime! Nothing like an overtime game to help you learn how to manage the fast pace of sports photography.

Take a look at the amazing photos our student took below!

Want to be a sports photography pro too? We have packages and prices for all skill levels available!

George Mason vs Saint Louis Men’s Basketball

Michael wanted to experience a basketball game from a photographer’s point of view after spending a couple of years working for a women’s team as a manager. Having a bit of photo equipment, he decided to use his camera and a couple of lenses and have some fun.

This is a great example of how using a slow lens (f/5.6) and a cropped sensor camera affects the quality of your photos. Because the lens is not allowing as much light to enter, Michael had to compensate by bumping up the ISO to 6400 and dropping his shutter speed. This created images with motion blur and a high level of noise.

George Mason vs George Washington Women’s Basketball

Jenni recently graduated from high school and is looking to improve on the sports photography skills she learned while in school. She wanted to play with alternative angles, so she grabbed a 300mm lens and headed up the the concourse level to shoot. It’s a great vantage point for basketball and she made the most of her opportunity.

She had a blast shooting the game and is interested in covering more games with DC Sports Photography Academy.

George Mason vs George Washington Women’s Basketball

Bill decided to take a long break between games but his photos show that he didn’t miss a beat. It’s a great mixture of loose and tight shots for both teams.

I hope had a great time with DC Sports Photography Academy and I’d love to see him out on the sidelines again sometime soon.

George Mason vs VCU Men’s Basketball

For his final game, Charles took on the virtual role of VCU’s team photographer assigned to cover just the team. With having to concentrate on just half of the players on the court he was able to get a few more details that would have otherwise escaped him.

He seems to have grasped to concept of shooting sports fairly well in a short while. Only time will tell if he decides to continue with sports or will stick to what he knows best.

Georgetown vs Marquette Women’s Basketball

Feeling a bit more comfortable with the speed of college basketball games, Charles’ next game had him take on the role of the team photographer for the Marquette Golden Eagles. He seems to have gotten a better idea of what to shoot with only having to deal with one team. By only having to deal with five players instead of ten, he was able to pick out some details that he missed on his first outing.

Georgetown vs DePaul Women’s Basketball

As with most photographers that try to move to sports from other photographic genres, they realize that it’s a different beast than what they are used to. Charles is an experienced photographer, so we were able to skip the camera set up lessons and the basics of settings and move right into covering the game.

The biggest stumbling block we encountered was proper focus. It takes a lot of practice to be able to get consistently sharp focus shot after shot and it was immediately clear that Charles needed some work. Stationary people were no problem, but once they got moving, sharp focus was harder to achieve. Better results will come from more practice.

With two more games to practice with, let’s see if we can sort out the focus issues and make bigger strides in capturing great basketball photos.