November 25, 2006 / Five Simple Ideas / Photography / Winter 2006

Five Simple Ideas for…Sports Photography

Written by Terry Durnell

Capturing sports photographically has always been one of, if not the toughest, assignment faced by any photographer. For some students, the challenge is welcomed. For others, just the word sports puts fear into their hearts. However, patience and practice can help any photographer become less afraid of the dreaded sports assignment.

1. Start out shooting sub-varsity sports.
If a photographer has never taken action photos before, do not begin with varsity sports, where the action is faster. Sub-varsity sports are often slower paced. Also, outdoor sports such as football and soccer usually are played in the evening where the lack of light adds another obstacle. Most sub-varsity teams play in the afternoon when light is plentiful. Just be sure to shoot away from the sun. Once a photographer has become comfortable with the sub-varsity sports, then he or she can move on to the varsity level.

2. Photograph several games.
The only way a photographer can become better is to practice, and the only way to practice is to take as many photos as possible. Often a yearbook spread will only have photos from one or two games. This indicates the photographers only went to two games. This does not help a photographer improve, and it is a disservice to the sports season. One or two games rarely represent an entire season. A good rule of thumb is to require photographers to take photos at least at a third of the home games. This should provide plenty of choices for the yearbook and help the photographers become better.

3. Take a buddy.
Having two photographers on an assignment increases the chance of good photos. Each photographer should stand in different places to obtain shots from various angles. For example, at a football game, one photographer could stand behind the line of scrimmage where hand-offs and passes could easily be captured, while the second photographer could be in front of the line of scrimmage to capture receivers catching the ball or a player running downfield.

4. Shoot safe shots.
These photos can tell a great story. It is the coach talking to the players in the huddle. It is the athletic trainer helping an injured player or fans screaming from the bleachers. A sports spread should not be filled with safe shots, unless that is the focus (for example a spread on trainers or fans), but shooting low-action shots insures a better chance of having in-focus photos on the spread.

5. Cover the entire sport.
Shoot everything from before the game begins until after it is well over. Many yearbooks have spreads that basically repeat the same shot, just with different people. Cross country often only has photos of players running. Golf will have every photo showing a player hitting the ball. What about practices or warm-ups? Ask a coach if it is OK to capture the big locker room talk before a game or during halftime. Cover the tears or cheers after the game. Stay while parents console or congratulate. Often, those shots truly tell the story. Every sports spread needs game shots, but cover other aspects to tell the entire story.

  • Terry, as my work continues in improve, how can I market my work to coaches and A.D’s ?

    Thank you,
    Tom

Terry Durnell