Regardless of whether you are one of the millions of lucky spectators, camera in hand, at the Olympics, or you are at your local high school track meet, here are some tips from the New York Institute of Photography to help you take exciting pictures at your favorite sporting events. According to Chuck DeLaney, Dean of the world's largest photography school, "These tips will help you get great photos regardless of whether you are at an Olympic swim meet or your child's soccer game".
1. Fill the frame. Try to fill the frame with a player's body, rather than simply showing him or her as a distant speck. The type of picture you're looking for is a closeup action shot. A shot that fills the frame with just one or two players in the heat of a basketball game or a gymnast swinging from the parallel bars.
How do you get such a picture? Well, of course, it would be best to get as close as you can to the action. But be realistic! Unless you are a coach, you won't be on the sidelines at an Olympics baseball game. So, unless you are close to the floor or at a local game where you can get closer to the action, don't expect to get photos to rival your favorite sporting magazine.
If you're way back in the stands, you'll need a long lens - 200mm or longer - and use a tripod if allowed to steady the shot and fast film to stop the action - ISO 400 or faster. Hint: When something exciting happens everybody stands up! So, if you're sitting in crowded stands, don't be surprised that at the height of action, when something is actually worth photographing, the guy in front of you jumps up and gets in your way. The solution is try and sit where there is no one in front of you which might happen at a local game but certainly won't be an option at major events in Sydney.
2. Indoors don't use strobe. Most indoor arenas don't allow it. Anyway, you'll blind the athletes. Rather, take advantage of the arena lights. Since they're incandescent, however, make sure you use "Indoor" color film.
3. Use a fast film. Since you want to stop the action, use a fast film. ISO 800 is a good choice. The 800 films produced by Kodak and Fuji show very little graininess.
4. Focus. If your camera does not offer auto-focusing, use "zone focusing" - that is, estimate your distance to the point where you expect the action to be, pre-set your camera for this distance, and then don't adjust it when you shoot each picture. This works especially well if you are using a small aperture - f/8 or smaller- which will increase your depth of field.
5. Subject. If you are shooting basketball, baseball or soccer, try to show the ball in the picture. Whether you're shooting the batter taking a mighty swing or a goalie protecting the net, the picture is more effective if it shows the ball too.
6. Anticipate where the action will be. Know the game so you can plan ahead. Aim your camera where you expect the action to be, and pre-set the focus and exposure for that area. If you are photographing a race or swim meet, pre-set the focus and exposure to a spot where you expect the runner or swimmer to be.
7. Look around. Finally, don't forget to look for reaction shots too. Yes, the action on the field during the battle may be intense. But many a great picture of tragedy and triumph occurs after play is over or on the faces of the fans.
Reprinted with permission from the New York Institute of Photography website at http://www.nyip.com. For more tips on taking great photos at the Olympics or local sporting events, read the complete article on Photographing Olympic Sports at the New York Institute of Photography website. Illustration copyright © 2001 by Run The Planet.