Thanks to Vincent Pugliese from Sports Photo School for writing this post on some quick tips for taking great photos of your kids playing sports.
I see the frustration at almost every one of my kids’ games. No, it’s not from the players. It’s from the parents. Being that I’ve been a pro sports photographer for the past 23 years, the questions seem to come to me.
“Why can’t I get better pictures of my kids?” everyone asks.
Getting great pictures of our kids playing sports is more difficult than, say, shooting a portrait because we don’t have control over the light, where they are going or how fast they are moving. And as frustrating as that can be, there are things that you can do to improve your pictures, and capture those memories. Because not only are our kids moving fast on the field, their childhood is moving fast as well. And we all want to capture those moments. So I wanted to give you three quick, easy tips that will improve your pictures today!
Get off the Bleachers
This is such a simple tip, but it’s incredibly effective! Before you think of buying a new camera, lens, or anything else, just get closer. There is a good reason why the professionals are positioned close the the field or the ice. The closer you are, the better your pictures will be. Robert Capa, one of the most famous photographers in history had a saying. “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”
Getting off the bleachers is something so simple, that as parents, we overlook it. I never get tired of seeing the look on a parent’s face after I give that advice, watch them get closer to shoot some images, and then come back and talk to them a little while later. I’ve seen them looking at the images on their screen with huge smiles on their face.
“Oh my goodness,” one mom said to me. “That made all of the difference in the world!”
When you get off the bleachers and get closer, other things about your photographs will improve as well. The backgrounds will become more blurry, so your kid will stand out more in your pictures. You won’t have to see your kids through fences, poles and other distractions. And if you are shooting indoor sports, like basketball or hockey, the light will actually get better because the light will reflect off the floor, and brighten up your kid for the picture!
Positioning is a key in great sports photography, whether it’s the Super Bowl or a little league game. And unlike the Super Bowl, you don’t need layers of clearance to shoot from the field at a youth game!
Often, the difference between a good and a great sports photograph comes down to whether the photographer is standing or kneeling.
Years back, when I was a newspaper photography intern in Michigan, I overheard a conversation that made me laugh but opened my eyes at the same time.
One of the staff photographers, Don, was tall. Really tall. Like six foot, six eight inches tall. And his pictures always lacked the feel and energy of his co-workers. After another month of not winning any awards in the state competition, he plopped down in the chair and questioned out loud what was wrong.
Another staffer looked at him, and with exhaustion and empathy said three words.
“Dave, knees bend.”
Dave’s picture were all taken from his perspective while standing up. And they all had a distant, impersonal feel to them. Dave immediately began to kneel down and get close to the ground while shooting, especially kids. The quality of his photography changed for the better immediately. He began winning awards and getting better assignments.
Just by getting low.
And when it comes to photographing your kids playing sports, this is huge! Most parents shoot from their perspective while standing up, and get results similar to what Dave got. But getting down low, although it might be a little tough on your knees, will do wonders for your photographs!
When you get low, two things will improve immediately.
- The backgrounds will be less distracting. It will eliminate many of the poles, advertisements and other distractions.
- Your kid will look like the hero! The lower you get, the bigger they look! It’s the perspective the pro photographers use while shooting the big time sports, to make the athlete look larger than life.
To prove it, if you watch the NFL or college football this weekend, look at the photographers along the sideline. Chances are, most of them will be kneeling or as low to the field as possible.
So get low, and improve your photographs immediately!
Shoot through the fence!
This might be my favorite. I think because it’s so unexpected. When shooting baseball or softball, we get so frustrated, or just give up, because of the giant fences that block our view of the playing field. But what if there was a way to make the fences disappear? Well, there is!
Here’s what to do. The next time you are shooting a baseball or softball game, go right up to the fence. Find a good spot where you are shooting through the open part of the fence and position yourself towards the area of the field where you are looking to shoot. It helps if you are shooting straight into the fence, not turning your camera diagonally. (That will cause the fence to show up in your pictures). But when you shoot straight through it, magic happens.
Then, bam! You have eliminated the fence as on obstacle!
This method isn’t perfect, because you won’t be able to shoot all of the areas of the field. But it’s perfect if you are focusing on a pitcher or a specific position which your kid is playing. It’s a quick, easy and effective way to get great images that all of the other parents won’t even think to do!
And it’s a huge secret to getting you to save time, frustration and wasted photographs while shooting from the bleachers and getting more of the fence in your photograph than your kid. It saves you a ton of time of having to move all around the outskirts of the field to find a decent spot to choose from!
I hope you found these tips helpful, and that you go capture and preserve awesome memories of your kids doing their thing on the field. Their sports playing days go by in a flash, so let’s make these pictures as awesome as possible.
Parents, if you want more, Kyle Schultz and Vincent Pugliese at Sports Photo School created a free mini-course for you. One quick tip per day is delivered right to your inbox. The lessons take 5 minutes and you don’t need a professional camera to use the tips. Your athlete will only be little for a moment; capture them perfectly!