16 tips on how to shoot kids sports like a pro

Weekend warriors with dslrs are a common sight on the sports fields around the world. So how do you really capture a great shot of your kids playing sport?

Gear tips

Dslr or mirrorless – it doesn’t matter so long as your gear does the basics that most dslr cameras do. The technology is changing so fast that as soon as this is published, something new will have been announced.
Continuous autofocus – an absolute necessity to capture the moment. Most cameras will have the option to shoot continuously, some offering both low and high speed versions. Always choose the highest speed as with action sports we are talking micro-seconds between an average a great shot.
Centre focus point – unless you have a $7,000 camera with the most advanced focus tracking available, always select the centre focus point of your cameras viewfinder. Refer to your cameras manual if required.
Shoot jpeg – otherwise if you shoot raw the speed of shooting and the amount of shots you can take in one burst will be very limited. You’ll also chew up so much space on your memory card that you’ll quickly run out of space.
Spot metering – what’s metering? Well spot metering will ensure that the centre focal point you’re now using will expose correctly most times, meaning the photo will not be too dark or too light, most times.
AWB – stands for auto white balance. Use it as you wont have the time to fiddle with this function.
ISO – leave it on auto, as again you wont have time to fiddle with different ISO’s as you’re carefully watching the action. Let the cameras computer sort that out for you.
Continuous focus button – if your camera has one, use it. It’s often referred to a “back button focus”on Canon cameras. By continuously pressing on this button with your thumb (on Canon cameras), the focus is continually readjusting whether you’re touching the shutter button or not. I find it helps me get more keepers in focus.
Lens selection – you’re going to need a lens for the distance from the action and lighting. For indoor sports, something like an 85mm f1.4 lens will help let in more light and give you the reach from the stands to the action, e.g. basketball. For outdoor sports you’ll need a 70-200 or 70-300 to reach football games, athletics, swimming etc. Again it depends on where you’re standing. In bright conditions outside an f4 or higher will be fine, but at night you may need an f2.8, but they are really expensive.

Shooting tips

Anticipation – if you know the game, you’ll generally get better pictures because you’ll anticipate what’s going to happen. Learn the game and it’s easier to find great shots.
Framing – otherwise known as composition. Better to keep everything in the frame that you’re shooting because you can digitally crop later, depending on your sensor and lens selection.
Where to stand – again know the game. Look for interesting angles, high, low, right around the ground/court/etc.
Ask and be polite – if you’re not sure where to stand, rather than become a hazard to players and an annoyance to coaches, just ask politely and often many people will give you better access than you image.

Post processing

Choosing the best shots – be very selective to choose only the best shots, and crop/frame them to enhance the action. Think about the rule of thirds.
Jpeg and Perfectly Clear – shot jpeg and process in Perfectly Clear, its easier, quicker and gives just as good results as spending hours processing one shot like it’s going to be mounted in a museum.
Dropbox and being a sharer – remember to back your photos up, and I find Dropbox perfect for that purpose. It’s also very good at sharing your pictures with other parent/friends who were at the game and would really appreciate a picture of their child scoring the winning goal. They’ll be very thankful, and after all, using photography to share special moments is what it’s all about.

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