So You Got A Fancy New DSLR Camera… Now What?!

jeshoots-com-219059You have probably been thinking about getting a DSLR camera for a while now. Maybe you want to capture special moments in your family’s lives. Maybe you have always had a photographer’s eye and want to improve your skills. For whatever reason, you have made the investment in a beautiful new DSLR camera and now… you have no idea what to do with it. There are so many dials and functions and your owner’s manual seems like its written in a different language. Does this sound familiar?

Before you shove the manual in a box, set your camera to “Auto,” we have some tips for getting started with your new DSLR camera.

So if you just got your DSLR and are not completely sure what to do to start making the most of your investment, then you need to follow these steps!

  1. Get the right memory card for your camera

Most cameras do not come with built in storage so you will definitely want to save all of the incredible photos you take with your new camera! DSLRs can accept Compact Flash (CF) and Secure Digital (SD) cards. There are several versions of SD Cards: SD, SDHC and SDXC. SDHC stands for High Capacity, usually between 2 and 32 Gigabytes. The SDXC has an even higher storage capacity, up to 2 terabytes. CF cards are bigger in physical size and they use flash memory to record data. You can find CF cards with storage space from 2 GB to 128GB. You will want to check your manual to find the right memory card for your camera.

You will want to pay attention to the storage space of your memory card as well. Be sure to consider the amount of data a memory card can hold. DSLRs typically produce images that have larger file sizes than point and shoot cameras so you want to make sure your card can store your images. As you can see above, you have plenty of options when it comes to the size of your memory card. Determine how often you are going to use your camera and how much space you really need.

Finally you want to look at the speed and class of the memory card. Class ratings determine how fast data can be written to your card. Classes range from 2-10, with 10 being the fastest. A Class 10 card can write at least 10MB/second, while Class 4 card can write 4MB/second. The speed is important because the faster your can write data, the more photos you can take in a row. Sports photographers usually need faster speed memory card because of the fast pace of the action.

2. Understand the difference between RAW and JPEG photos

DSLRs can save images in two different formats: RAW and JPEG. JPEG photos are processed and compressed in the camera.  The processing means that the camera automatically adjusts for contrast, brightness, noise reduction and sharpness.These files are finished and can be printed immediately after the shot. and RAW photos are unprocessed or uncompressed and therefore not ready for print immediately. RAW photos will usually look flat and dark when they are taken. They need to be processed by software. RAW photos are usually bigger file sizes and take up more space but if you prefer to do editing in Lightroom or Photoshop, RAW is usually a better option for your photos. Whether you choose to use RAW or JPG files, it’s up to you. That all depends on how much editing you prefer to do. However, it is important to note that if you are using your camera for sports photography and shooting burst sequences, you will be able to shoot more photos with the JPEG format.

3. Practice with your manual setting.

The dials and settings can feel overwhelming in a DSLR but they will help you to shoot better photos. It can be really easy to just set your camera on automatic mode and start shooting but we can guarantee you will have a higher quality of photos and feel more experienced as a photographer if you take the time to learn about manual settings. You will want to understand aperture, shutter speed and ISO to help you shoot better photos (We wrote a blog post explaining your camera settings here!)

4. Read the manual (or at least skim it)

We know that the manual to your camera is not the most entertaining thing to read and it is much less fun than actually using your camera. However, the manual will explain the technical parts of your camera to you so you can understand its full capabilities.

5. Experiment without using the flash

We recommend not using the internal flash on your DSLR. They often take unflattering photos and don’t always achieve the look you were going for. If you are using your camera for sports photography, you absolutely should not use your flash as it’s distracting to athletes. Luckily camera manufacturers have been improving cameras so that you can take better photos in low light. You can experiment with increasing your ISO and shooting without the flash to learn how to capture sharp and well-exposed photos without the internal flash.

6. Shoot lots of different subjects and shoot often

You can learn a lot about photography and your own personal interests by experimenting with different types of photos. Maybe you purchased your camera to capture fantastic landscape photos for an upcoming vacation. You can improve your skills by experimenting with shooting events or action photos. Or if you purchased your camera to shoot your children’s athletics, you can experiment with shooting portraits. Shoot often and shoot a variety of subjects. This will help you get more comfortable with your camera!

Most importantly, have fun! You probably purchased a new DSLR camera because you enjoy photography and you want to improve your skills. You don’t need to feel like a pro overnight. Take time to just have fun using your camera and enjoying learning a new skill!

Are you in the DC area and interested in taking your photography skills to the next level? Learn about our interactive sports photography classes! 

How to Get Started Using DSLR Camera Settings

StockSnap_4CLVYHVZ2LIf you recently purchased a fancy new DSLR or you are thinking about making the investment, you might feel overwhelmed at all the options and settings on it. Too many amateur photographers invest in great cameras but stick with the automatic mode and never learn how to properly use their camera. The advanced settings and modes in your DSLR camera were designed to help you shoot even better photos. If you feel overwhelmed or don’t understand what all the buttons on your camera mean, this article will explain the basic camera settings in your DSLR.

  1. Aperture

Aperture can seem confusing at first but it’s an important concept to understand for photographers. If you look at your lens, there is a circular opening where light comes through. The aperture settings control the size of that opening. If you widen the aperture, the opening will get larger and more light will be allowed in. If you narrow the aperture, the opening will get smaller and the less light you let in. If you narrow the aperture, more of the photograph will appear to be in focus. If you widen the aperture, less of the photograph will be in focus.

The important thing to know about aperture is that it’s represented in numbers called f-stops and that if the number is lower, it is a wider aperture and lets in more light. If the number is higher, it’s a narrow aperture and lets in less light. For example, a small f-stop, such as f/2 lets in more light than f/8.

You want to think about the lighting and exposure in a photo, as well as, the focus of the photo when you are experimenting with aperture. If it’s an extremely sunny day, you will probably want to use a higher f-stop so that you don’t let in too much light and over-expose the image. But on a darker evening, you will want to let more light in and use a lower f-stop. Read our in-depth beginner’s guide to aperture here.

2. Shutter Speed

The shutter speed refers to the amount of time it takes for the aperture blades to close to take a photo. It is usually just a fraction of a second. Shutter speed and aperture go hand in hand to creating a well lit, properly exposed shot. When you set the aperture and push the shutter-release button, the shutter will open and close allowing light to strike the sensor for a certain length of time.

Generally, you want to use a faster shutter speed, especially if you are shooting action shots. A faster shutter speed can help you capture the very instant of action.

However, you may want to shoot with a slower shutter speed if you are feeling creative and you want an intentionally blurred or overexposed photo. For example if you wanted to blur the fans in the background of a track meet, you would use a slower shutter speed while panning along with the runner.

3. Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority ModesStockSnap_HBBR93DVH6

Now that you understand shutter speed and aperture, you can understand these two modes in your camera. Aperture Priority is designated as Av or A on your camera dial and Shutter Priority is designated as Tv or S. These separate modes are often referred to as “semi-automatic” shooting modes.

In Aperture priority mode, you as the photographer will chose the aperture value and the camera will automatically set the shutter speed. In Shutter Priority mode, you choose the shutter speed and the camera will automatically set the aperture.

When you want to experiment with depth of field or motion blurs or action photography, we recommend experimenting in these two modes. If you want to have everything in focus or practice with background blur, use Aperture Priority. If you are working on action photography, use Shutter Priority. They can help you learn and feel more comfortable with aperture and shutter speed while still allowing the camera to do some of the work.

4. ISO

ISO measures how sensitive the camera is to light. It essentially controls the amount of light required by the sensor to achieve a certain exposure or brightness in your photo. Low ISO settings require more light to achieve an exposure. Generally if there is a lot of light already, say you are shooting outside on a bright sunny day, you will only need a low ISO number. But if you shoot in darker conditions, such as inside or in the evening, you will need a higher ISO number.  The important thing to remember when using high ISO number is that the higher the ISO, the grainier or noisier the photo will be. Most DSLRs have an “auto-ISO function,” which is very useful for new photographers.

5. Focus

You want to make sure that the subject of your photo is in focus, no matter what settings you use. DSLRs come with auto-focus modes, making it easy for you to set your focus. Focus modes rely on focus points in your camera. When you look through your viewfinder, you will see a number of squares or dots across the screen. When you press your shutter halfway down, one of these squares will be highlighted in red. That means it is the active focus point of the shot.

This is an overview of your camera settings and it should help you get started feeling comfortable with your camera.

We always suggest that you keep practicing with your camera and experimenting with different modes and settings. The more you play with your camera, the more you will improve!

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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.


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!


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.


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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Georgetown vs. Duke Men’s Lacrosse

This past weekend, DC Sports Photography Academy and our newest student, Bill, were on the sidelines when the Georgetown Hoyas took on the Duke Blue Devils in men’s lacrosse.

Bill has long been a photo enthusiast. When he son began playing youth sports,  Bill began photographing his games. He enjoyed photography so much that he began to upgrade his equipment and turned his passion for sports photography into a full-fledged hobby. He currently photographs for a George Mason men’s basketball blog and he loves doing it. He will also work for his alma mater, Elon University, when they are in town.

Before the game, we worked with Bill on setting up his camera for fast action and finding the right shooting location. It can be difficult to find the right spot and get focused during fast action play but as the game continued, Bill became more comfortable.

After the game ended, we talked about the best techniques for editing photos. We went through his photos together so we could offer him pointers on how to edit each photo so that the finished photo is truly spectacular.

As you can see in the incredible photos below, Bill caught on quickly! Now that Bill is armed with more knowledge and skills, we can’t wait to see how Bill takes his lessons with DC Sports Photography Academy and continues to shoot fantastic sports photos!


Are you ready to start shooting like a pro, like Bill? All skill levels are welcome at DC Sports Photography Academy! Visit our Packages page here to learn more about our packages and book your game today!

How To Build An Incredible Photography Portfolio

_CS10836If you are interested in taking your photography skills from hobby to profession, you need to have a great photography portfolio. Much like more traditional jobs have resumes and CVs, photographers need to have a portfolio to show off their work. The process of creating a portfolio can seem daunting. You may feel like you don’t have enough photos or that you need to sort through years of photographs. Perhaps you are not even sure how to get started creating your portfolio. If you want to take the step from hobbyist to professional, they you need a portfolio. Whether you are new to photography or have been shooting for years, learn how to build an amazing photography portfolio by following these tips!

Print vs. online

Before the age of the internet, photography portfolios had to be printed. But not technology has allowed for more options. With an online portfolio, you can quickly email your portfolio to potential clients or employer. However there is power in a high quality beautiful, well crafted printed portfolio. To determine what works best for you, evaluate your audience and your budget. Printed portfolios are typically a higher investment than digital portfolios but if you are frequently going to in-person interviews, then it may be more beneficial for you to have a printed portfolio.

Identify your target audience

It is important to ask yourself why are you creating your portfolio and who do you want to see it? Is your portfolio for editorial work or advertising work, for event works or are you hoping to be featured in a gallery? Do you want to only focus on a certain type of photography, such as food photography, so your target audience may not be impressed with wedding photos or portraits.

If you understand who your audience is, you can try to understand what they are looking for from a photographer and how they search for photographers. This can even help you determine if your portfolio should be printed or online.

Know your goals and choose a theme or style

It is essential that your portfolio has a goal. Why are you creating this portfolio? What type of people are you attracting to look at your portfolio? What type of photography are you interested in? What is your unique style? Perhaps you specialize in artsy black and white portraits and want your work featured in a gallery or you enjoy capturing moments during events and want to be hired as an event photographer. These two different styles would be two very different portfolios. At this point, you may have shot many different types of photos but you want to be clear on the theme and goals of your portfolio before you start choosing your photos.

Quality over quantity

Choosing photos are often the hardest part of creating a great portfolio. You do not want to use all of your photos for your portfolio. Remember that most people don’t have hours to go through your portfolio. You may also want to have a trusted friend help you with this as many photographers like to choose their favorite shots. While you will have your favorites, it can be hard for you to judge your own work. Find a friend or mentor whose judgement you trust to help you choose the very shots.

Beginning and ending

People are more likely to remember and be impacted by the first few shots and the last few shots in your portfolio. You want to pay special attention to the first few photos in your portfolio. Do they set the right tone for your portfolio? Are they going to keep your audience looking at your portfolio? Will your last photos leave a lasting impression? These are important factors in your portfolio!


The sequence of your portfolio can also be very important. You want the portfolio to feel like it flows naturally. The right sequence can help bring emotion to your portfolio, which can evoke a strong reaction from your audience. Strong reactions will help your audience remember your work!  You can sequence by mood, movement, color or composition.  You can choose one sequence or you can mix them in together.

Other Content in Your Portfolio

Your photos are only a part of your portfolio. If you wish, you can add more content to the portfolio to make it stronger and more memorable. You may wish to write an artist statement, which is a statement explaining your work or outlining your concept. You can also include a list of shots included, titles for shots or date and locations of the shot or a thumbnail contact sheet.

Building your portfolio can be daunting but it’s an excellent project for you to get a better idea of who you are as a photographer and the type of work you really love! If you want to add more sports photos to your portfolio, book a game with DC Sports Photography! It’s the perfect way to gain experience and photos of sporting events for your portfolio.

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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.


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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The Right Camera Settings for Great Action Shots

It’s essential that you get yourself set up for success before the action starts in sports photography. Before the starting whistle blows and the game begins, get your camera set up with the right settings so you can shoot like a pro!


Check your shutter speed and set it to the appropriate speed. Remember this depends on what you are shooting and how fast the subject is moving.

Set your camera to the lowest possible ISO setting for the amount of light you have to work with. If you are shooting outdoors, use ISO 100 or 200. If you are in low light, use higher ISO numbers. It’s important to note that the higher the ISO, the more “noise” or graininess a photo will have. It’s important to find the right balance between noise and blurriness when finding the right ISO setting for your event.

Adjust your aperture. The aperture is the opening of a lens that light passes through and it is calibrated in f/stops. It can be a little bit confusing when you first start off. The lower the f/stop means that the larger the opening in the lens and the higher the f/stop, the smaller the opening. A larger aperture (meaning a lower f/stop) will help you increase your shutter speed and give you a shallower depth of field to help isolate players from the background. This will also help you have a fast enough shutter speed to stop the action.

Try burst or continuous shooting mode. Continuous shooting mode can take multiple shots at a time and can be best for certain types of fast-moving sports. However, remember that your memory card will fill up faster with burst mode so be sure yours has enough capacity or you will have to delete shots at half time or time outs.

If you are shooting an indoor event, you will need to adjust your white balance setting. The preset daylight white balance setting will usually work for outdoor lighting. Because indoor lighting is artificial, you may want to set up a custom white balance or it can impact your camera settings and change the colors of your shot.

You also need to turn your flash off! This is key! Flash photography can distract the players. If you have a slow lens that requires flash, you may want to invest in a faster lens or rent one from DC Sports Photography Academy.

Remember, above all, that sports photography is something that requires consistent practice. Get your settings correct and remember that with each game, you will improve more and more.

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How to Find the Best Camera Equipment for Sports Photography

Sports photography requires you to capture fast-paced action and in order to do that, it is essential you have the right equipment for the job. DC Sports Photography Academy requires its students to use a DSLR camera that allows for the removal of lenses. This allows our students to get the best shots.

If you don’t want to make the investment just yet, we rent professional photography equipment for your classes. But if you are ready to invest in an exceptional camera for your sports photography, this article will give you details on what to look for in a camera.


A DSLR camera is a digital SLR or single-lens reflex camera. It allows for detachable lenses that deliver precise photos. DSLR cameras are necessary for sports photography because they have faster internal processing so you won’t experience a lag time after you push the button to take your photo. You can capture the moment instantaneously with DSLR cameras. DSLR camera also make it easy for you to shoot many frames for long sequences in a single burst, which is perfect for capturing continuous action. DSLR cameras give you an unparalleled level of control and speed.

Now that you know you want a DSLR, what should you look for in one before your purchase?

There are DSLR cameras available for all skill levels. Be sure to check the sensor size, frames per second and the lens mount so start with. Another feature to look at is maximum ISO for shooting in door or low light action. The higher the ISO you camera is capable of, the more environments you can shoot in.

It’s also important to pay attention to lenses for DSLR cameras. The DSLR gives you the ability to switch lenses, depending on what you are shooting. If you are a beginner sports photographer, you may want to invest in a kit. The kits include both the camera body and a lens. Purchasing a kit can often be a better investment than buying a body and lens separately. More experienced photographers may want to purchase more specialized lenses to help enhance their sports photography skills. The more advanced your photography becomes, the more you will learn about using lenses and choosing the right one for your camera and situation.

You will also want to make sure you have a high capacity memory card and a camera cover in the event of bad weather. As you progress in your sports photography hobby or profession, there will be more extensive lenses and equipment you can purchase. For beginners, finding the right DSLR camera is more than enough to get you started shooting like a sports photography pro!

You can find the best cameras for sports photography online or at an electronics or photography store.

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5 Tips For Taking Great Action Photos

Have you ever tried to snap a photo of your child running and it came out blurry? Or you wanted to get a great candid photo but your subjects were moving too quickly? Photographing action is necessary for sports photography but it can be a handy skill no matter what you choose to photograph. Although it may seem impossible to get that perfect action shot at first, we promise that it’s easier than you think! Follow these five tips to start taking fantastic action photos, follow these five tips.


  1. Use a faster shutter speed

A fast shutter speed is one of the most important things to capture action shots. The right shutter speed will depend on how fast your subject is moving.  We recommend choosing a shutter speed of  1/400 for indoor motion and 1/1000 for outdoor action and taking some test shots before the action begins to see how sharp your images are. If you notice any blurriness, increase your shutter speed.

2. Find the right vantage point

Vantage point is key for a great action shot. You don’t just want to have a clear view, you also want to have the best vantage point. Consider the different angles of your subjects and how you can best see their reactions and movements.

3. Learn to pan

Panning refers to moving the camera along with the object you are trying to capture. Don’t wait for someone to run past you to catch their photo. Instead turn toward the subject and follow it as it moves past you. This increases your chances of capturing a sharper image. Ensure you have a steady stance and keep your feet firmly planted. Then twist from the waist to follow the movement. When the moment is right, fully press the shutter button.

4. Pay attention to lighting

Lighting can make a big difference in any photo but it can really make a difference in an action photo if you are not paying attention to it. Increasing your ISO can help you in these situations. Raising the ISO can help you to see more light when you shoot at a higher shutter speed. Be careful to test this as if your ISO is too high, the images could appear grainy.

5. Always keep shooting

The one thing you don’t want to miss is the action! Keep your eyes on the action and don’t stop to look at the photos you have already taken. You can do that once the game is over and the action has finished. You could miss a crucial moment and the more shots you take, the more likely you are to capture that perfect action shot.

These five tips will help you improve your action photography skills which can lead to fantastic sports photography or a truly beautiful photo of your child in motion. Whatever your photography goals are, it’s time to practice! Let us know what was the best tip for you and tag us @DCSportsPhotographyAcademy in your Instagram photos so we can see your amazing action shots!

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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!