Sports portrait tips

I shot baseball kids yesterday.

When I do this, I see a lot of parents photograph their own kids, and with some exceptions, most get, well, basically, um, everything wrong. Sufficient reason for me to write this post with tips.

I want to get pictures like this – photogapher Mel standing in for a softball kid (see how she is swinging the camera like a bat)  while I get my settings and light right:

And you might do this as follows.

  • Position the subject in indirect light.
  • Find a background with vegetation – green, in other words, if at all possible.
  • Use an SLR camera with longer lens – in the range of, say, 50-100mm.
  • Use a flash on the camera, without modifier.
  • Shoot at person level, with the camera parallel with the horizon- avoid shooting up or down much.
  • Focus on the eyes – the closest eye.
  • Leave sufficient margin for later cropping to various aspect ratios
  • Ensure the kid looks good: shirt tucked in, no watch, hat on but slightly up so you can see the eyes!

My camera settings starting point:

  • Shutter speed priority, 1/200th second, at 200 ISO.
  • Exposure compensation -1 stop (on Canon. On Nikon, you may not need any, or even slightly +).
  • Flash on, aimed straight at the subject.
  • White balance set to “flash”.
  • Flash compensation 0 stops (on Canon. On Nikon, you may well need compensation, perhaps -1 stop).

Now I aim for an aperture of f/5.6. If I do not get close to that, I change ISO or shutter speed (the latter must stay within the camera’s flash sync range, i.e. usually 1/200 or 1/250th second). Watch this regularly!

I shoot TTL in these shoots, so when the player wears white, I need to increase flash compensation. When a player wears black, I need to decrease it.

These techniques will get you started. Of course you can, and perhaps should, consider hiring a pro!


2 thoughts on “Sports portrait tips

  1. It might just be me, but I would expect the background to be baseball related, chain link fence and bleachers or a base and some grass with chalk lines that looks like outfield.

    • Indeed… when the shots are taken in a baseball environment. But when they are taken in a public park, or when the baseball environment is in the bright sun, this is better for player pictures. The uniforms, caps, bats etc tell the story in that case.

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