How to Take Great Photos of your Kids Playing Sports
Tell A Story
Taking action photos of kids playing sports has gotten soooo much easier over the last 10 years. Affordable digital cameras and zoom lenses have flooded the market and I'll bet your child's team. My children are on numerous teams and each team has at least 3 parents with quality photo equipment. The advanced photographer would explain how you need to learn how to use your camera and use the manual settings to optimize the shutter speed, depth of field, color, white balance, etc. But I'm taking a different approach - don't get me wrong I read those articles and I try to mess around with the settings and have even thought about trying to submit photos for money - but I'm just not that good to compete in that market. But I can take some really good sports photos of my kids to enjoy and have wonderful memories. With that said - if you want - use the auto focus and the sports setting or the green rectangle and start taking great photos.
Take Lots of Photos
You probably are doing this already with the ease of digital and no expense. Taking a large quantity of pictures isn't a problem. But are you starting early enough? I took these pictures of my daughters soccer team running in a city wide 1 mile fun run. You can see I starting taking pictures when they went to the starting line - not early enough. I missed the prerace routines - putting on numbers, welcoming teammates, nervous expressions and the girls interactions. Remember you can always delete. Check your pictures during the event. Set you camera and start taking pictures but review, review, review to see how you are doing. I know this can be hard in the daylight to see your screen - you can buy a Z Finder from Zacuto which allows you to look at the screen in full sunlight. I don't have one and I just zoom in on the pictures I'm reviewing to determine the quality of my photos. This is especially important if the light is low. Remember I'm assuming you are using those auto settings so you might need to bump up the iso if the images are blurry. Keep taking pictures even when your child is not in the action this will give you practice and will help tell the story of the event. Don't forget to take pictures afterwards too, emotions are so different after the game - don't miss them.
CROP CROP CROP
Don't be afraid to crop your pictures. How you want to tell the story dictates how you crop the picture. If I want a picture showing the section of the course with my daughter then I'm just going to cut out the people immediately to the right that distract from my daughter. If you look closely you can see her shoe is untied if that had been important I could crop just her feet. You can see the next to two pictures are all about her expression - I wanted to capture the tongue being out and her new black & green shoes. The last one shows how she is looking into the sun and crinkling up her nose - if you don't crop close enough you 'll miss the little details. With the automatic settings you might find in low light with a high iso ..grainy zoomed in cropped pictures. This is ok for one or two pictures but not for the lot. Get closer to your subject if at all possible. Don't be afraid to change the zoom. I didn't move location in any of these three photos but I zoomed in and out to change the concept. Do not go overboard on continuous shooting by holding down the shutter button because your subject will go out of focus.
Angle, Height, Composition
Angle, height and compostition help tell your story and give your photos some polish. The two pictures above are very similar but taken at different locations. My photo is before the finish line and my friends is after. Because I decided to take pictures on the halfway point I couldn't squeeze into the mob of parents taking pictures behind the finish line. Hopefully you noticed the story Lori's picture makes is more colorful and meaningful than mine. Yes the guy in the green got in the way so we can't see the time and there are lots of distractions in this picture but as her mom this is the better picture for me. So where you take pictures is very important. I have some awesome soccer pictures of my kids but the parked cars that I can't crop out reuin them. Of course think about the angle of the sun I would recommend taking pictures in the sun and with the sun behind you. Change it up - take pictures on the ground, from the side, behind, in front, over head (balaconies). If you always do the same thing you'll soon find that all your pictures look the same.
Pick and Choose
What...I can't just post all my pictures to shutterfly? NO now comes the hard part you have to go through all those photos I told you to take. Don't be afraid to delete pictures that are out of focus and meaningless to you. KEEP out of focus photos if they have meaning to you. I have a picture of my son and one of his teammates planking after a score - total impromtu moment. I almost missed it, I'm sure many parents did but my picture isn't in focus but I LOVE it so it's a keeper for me. You will have plenty of pictures where a player in front or to the side of your subject is in the way or the camera focused on them instead...delete delete delete. You are trying to tell a story so pick pictures accordingly. For instance if I'm trying to tell the story about the team running this race I'm going to pick the picture of all the girls above. But if I'm telling the story just about my daughter I'm going to use the more intimate picture of her and her other three teammates. I'm not a big fan of processing the pictures afterwards, nothing wrong with it just my preference, but I will always use the red eye reduction wherever needed.
Now you need to document your story. There are plenty of options I couldn't list them all. I do use Shutterfly for team pages very useful and easy to post pictures, videos, calendars, and parents can order prints if they want. Since the free site has unlimited albums it can become overwhelming searching for pictures if every parents posts all their pictures - YIKES. There are several places you can upload and create scrapbook pages or photo books to have printed as your keepsake. Of course you can also blog blog blog....happy shooting!