How To Get The Best Photos At Your Child's Next Big Game

So you want to take photos of your children playing their favorite sport?  Read through this guide to help you find the best shots throughout the season. 

1.    Know your camera

There are so many cameras on the market today that it is difficult to give a blanket suggestion for all cameras.  Instead I will break things out into the two main camera types—the digital SLR and the point and shoot

Digital SLR Tips

SLR cameras will produce the best photos for sport photography, but the price of these cameras will often put them out of the range of most parents.  If you are lucky enough to own a dSLR camera, be sure to set it to continuous shooting mode when shooting sports photography.  In this mode, if you hold down on the shutter, your camera will continue to take pictures until you release the shutter.   This is a great way to rapid fire a number of shots in succession to catch some fast-paced action.  Also, this may seem self-evident to some, but make sure that your camera is set to autofocus. 

Point and Shoot Tips

Unlike the dSLR camera, which gives users complete freedom, most point and shoot cameras have a number of preprogrammed modes that are optimized for different shooting conditions.  When shooting sports photography with a digital point and shoot camera, be sure to set your camera to “Sports” mode.  This will oftentimes look like a little man running on your camera’s menus or dials.  This mode changes the cameras setting so it will catch the quick action of sports. 

 2.    Use the right settings

No matter what type of camera you own, adjusting a few settings will create the best photograph possible.  Nowadays, most point and shoot cameras have “sports photography” mode that automatically chooses these settings, but sometimes you might want to tweak your camera a little bit for the best picture.  As discussed above, you need to know your camera and understand how to adjust these settings to best suit your needs. 

Set your camera to a high shutter speed

The first setting you will want to look at is your shutter speed, which controls how long your shutter remains open.  For sports photography, the shutter speed usually should be as high of a number as possible to freeze the action.  Slower shutter speeds often result in blurry sports photos.

Set your camera to a low f-stop

The f-stop controls how much of your photograph is or is not in focus.  Generally, you will want to set your f-stop to the lowest number possible for sports photography.  This will allow the largest amount of light to enter into your camera and will thus allow you to capture the fast-paced action of a sporting event.  With this low f-stop, a smaller range of your photo will be in focus.  This should not be a problem with the advanced focusing systems on most of today’s cameras. 

For photographing indoors—adjust your ISO

When photographing indoor sports, you still need maintain a high shutter speed to freeze the action.  If you have your shutter speed and f-stop set to the desired settings, your photographs will oftentimes come out underexposed (or too dark).  To correct this problem increase the ISO settings on your camera.  Be careful with a high ISO though--setting it too high will results in a very noisy photograph.  Try gradually increasing your ISO to find the right settings.  To see if your photographs are too noisy, simply zoom in on the files using your camera's viewfinder.  If there is too much grain, turn your ISO back down. 

Youth Sport Photography Tips

3.Get in on the action

Ask coaches and referees/officials how close you can get to the field of play before photographing an event.  Obviously, you should not wander onto the middle of the court or field, but there might be some areas near the field of play that coaches and officials do not want you standing.  Be sure to keep an eye of for an errant ball or an overzealous teammate hurdling over the sidelines. 

This might take some getting used to, but you should train yourself to look through your camera with one eye and observe what is happening around you with the other eye.  This will keep you safe and will also give you a better ability to anticipate the action. 

4.     Position Yourself

You cannot control what where a player stands, but you can easily adjust where you are taking your pictures.  You must anticipate where you will find the best action shot whether on or off the field.  In volleyball this might be right against the net, but in baseball, you might be by the dugout to watch the reactions from a big hit.  

Youth Sport Photography Tips - A Clean Background5.     Find a simple background

When positioning yourself, be aware of what is happening in the background as your pictures will look better if you have a simple, clean surroundings around your subject.  During instances when this is not possible, zoom in as much as you can to blur out the background. 

6.  Get the right equipment

For those who are fortunate enough to own a dSLR camera, a zoom lens in the 80 to 200mm range should definitely be in your camera bag.  With this lens, you should be able to take photographs that feel like they were taken on the field while you are safely sitting on the sidelines.  A powerful zoom lens is a great tool to focus on a facial expression or intimate interaction. 

If you are in the market for a point and shoot camera, you will want to purchase one with at least a 10x zoom, which is equivalent to a 200 to 300mm lens on a dSLR camera. 

7.  Tips for Team Pictures

Use a fill flash

When photographing outdoors, a camera set to auto mode will rarely fire its flash.  You can easily change this on both point and shoot and dSLR cameras by the press of a few buttons.  Look at your user manual if you do not know how to do this.  By forcing your flash to fire, you will even out the harsh shadows produced by the sun, thus resulting in a better picture.

Get consistent lighting

One of the most common mistakes amateur photographers make is to disregard the light.  Whatever you subject might be, you always want to make sure the lighting is consistent across their face and body.  For your team portraits, this means that you will either want to have the team stand completely in the shade or out in the sun.  You will need to use a fill flash in both cases to lighten up the shadows.