By Bradley Wilson
1. Learn about the sport.
As with any event, the first rule of success is to find out as much about the event as you can. Meet the coach and players. Attend – and shoot – practices. Go behind the scenes and learn anything you can. It’ll open up new ways of looking at the sport and the athletes as well as new opportunities for pictures. For big events, plan your coverage, assigning different photographers to cover different aspects of the game.
2. Don’t just shoot the game.
Sometimes, the best, most memorable pictures come from players preparing for the game, reviewing plays in the locker room at halftime, or celebrating after the game. Further, don’t just shoot the athletes; consider spectators potential subjects for photographs as well. You might even find an interesting visual story in the coverage of the concession stand.
3. Wait for peak action.
The biggest challenge when shooting action is predicting what could happen next and making sure you’re in a position to cover it. If you’re in the wrong spot, have the wrong equipment or just have the camera pointed in the wrong direction, you’ll miss the peak moment.
4. Remember all those basics.
The best action shots can be ruined by a distracting background, bad lighting, having an unintentionally blurred subject and lacking a center of visual interest. To avoid such problems, use low depth of field, watch the direction of the light and avoid backlighting, use a fast enough shutter speed to stop the action, move up close and fill the frame.
5. Use the right equipment.
Having a 300mm f/2.8 lens helps get better shots at some sporting events, but most sporting events can be adequately covered with a 50mm lens and a 70-210mm zoom. Sure, fancy equipment helps improve variety, but it’s not the only answer. A good photographer will find unique shots by moving around, getting down low and moving up high to find unique angles. When more than one photographer is covering an event, make sure each one has equipment appropriate to the type of coverage they’re doing. Finally, make sure you have the right kind of film. Don’t hesitate to use high-speed, 3200ISO film for night-time, outdoors games. Don’t hesitate to use 200ISO or 400ISO film for daytime games. Just make sure the film you use allows you to get a fast enough shutter speed to stop the action. And when necessary and possible, consider the use of flash.