Sports Photography, Tutorial, Part 4


Been a little behind, but I’m back with Part 4, and the final chapter of my little tutorial that gives you an idea on where to start when it comes to shooting sports photography.  In the previous editions, I’ve covered gear, positioning and settings.  In this part, I’ll cover a little bit about composing a good sports photograph.   In fact, I just came in a little while ago from shooting some t-ball and football practice, so I should be amped up a little bit.

Although I believe that prep is the key to getting a good image; that is picking a solid spot and tracking/panning a particular subject while it is motion will set you up for success, after you’ve gotten home and loaded up the memory card to the computer, you might be seeing images that don’t make a whole lot of sense at first.  I’m somewhat of  a spray and pray type shooter; that is I’ll track the action while keeping the shutter button engaged.  There are other shooters out there that don’t do this.  One in particular, Darren Heath, his images are freaking fantastic.  I’ll get home and have 1,000 images to sort through.  Not a light task by any means.


F/5.6, 1/1000 SEC, ISO 200

Now here’s an image that I shot a few hours ago.  Right off the top, there’s two issues with it that gets it sent automatically to the round file.  First, the horizon is off.  Second, there’s just too much “static” with this image in it’s stock form.  When I use the word “static,” I refer to the background and dead space.  Although there’s some action, there’s just too much to draw the viewer away from the receiver, which is where I want all of the attention drawn to.


Now here is that same image, cropped and rotated.   The viewer is now drawn automatically to the receiver missing the ball.  The viewer’s eyes are not going to be forced to follow the line of the horizon down from right to left like it is in the original image.


1/1600 SEC, ISO 400

The previous image shows what we really don’t want to throw out there to the viewers.  We want to draw that viewer in by using the faces of the players.  That’s where the emotions are.  A lot of the story within the image can be told by a player’s face.


1/2000 SEC, ISO 400

Now this shot here, I’ve narrowed the image down.  If you can imagine a rules of third grid overlaid, the player’s face would be in the upper left intersection.

Another thing you want to look for is a shot within a shot.   Every once in awhile, I can look at one image and I will be able to pull out two images.  In the previous shot, we can probably take away from it that the player is looking for the ball carrier.


Now I’ve opened up the crop somewhat and there’s the ball carrier.

Lastly, when I’m shooting sports, I like to find those images that don’t show action, but have something to do with the event like maybe a team on the sidelines getting that last second pep talk, or a driver lined up at the start line, getting ready to get the green flag.   Everyone likes to look at sports action, but people love to step beyond a simple football play and be able to step into another world.


Thank you for reading.  Please feel free to comment on this post, or any of my other posts.   Follow Black Mesa Images on Facebook and in my next blog post, I’ll cover the DIY shutter release cable I recently made.


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