20 May 2009

Sports Photography Tips and Techniques

Victory in sports is about practice and performance - the best athletes prepare better than anyone else, training their bodies and minds to perform when winning and losing matter most.

It's no different with sports photography. Those one-of-a-kind photos you see don't happen by accident, or just because the photographer was in "the right place, at the right time."

If you're serious about sports photography, then you need to do more than show up a sporting event with a camera. You might luck into a nice photo people will compliment you on, but if you take these tips to heart, you can rest assured you'll take great photo after great photo.

Know your sport.

I mean that literally. If you are going to photograph a sporting event, you have to understand the strategy well enough that you consider it your sport. That doesn't mean you have to play it or even know all the rules, but you must know what the point of the game is, as well as what is considered excellent performance.

For example, in ice hockey, a player on the offense who is near the goal will sometimes pass the puck away from the goal and into what is seemingly empty space. To someone unfamiliar with the sport, it looks as if that's a mistake. But in reality the player is passing to empty space knowing that his teammate is going to time his skate to meet the pass, and take a shot on goal. It all happens in the blink of an eye, but if you have your camera trained on the momentarily "empty" space, you have a good chance of catching the instant the player strikes the puck with his stick. Or you could focus on the goalie knowing that a shot is coming.

Focus on the players that will give you the best photo.

A lot goes on during a game. There are a lot of great pictures that you'll probably miss. Focus on getting the best shot you can in any particular moment, and don't worry about the ones you missed. During a tennis match, take time to focus on one player's serve. Then, switch your attention to the other players return. Very quickly, you will find yourself becoming a part of the rhythm of the game. And once you reach that point, you'll see opportunities as appear.

While photographing a high school basketball game, I focused on the best player on each team. Now, I knew that other players would make great shots, but I also knew that teammates would look to both of these players. When the ball came to them, I took pictures. When they passed the ball, I took pictures. I avoided getting too distracted by other action. Both of these players went on to be stars in college, one of them played in the NBA, and I got some great shots that night.

Be prepared.

When those opportunities for the "money" shot do appear, don't get caught unprepared. I've known photographers who've forgotten to take their lens caps off and missed something great. Or, they may not have changed their ISO setting from the last time they used their camera. If you want to manually control the settings, then be sure to take your camera off automatic so the flash doesn't pop up when you least want it to.

Remember, you're not just there to watch the game. You're there to take a great photograph or two. Keep your camera in your hands, with a clean lens, the right lenses close at hand, and make sure your battery is fully charged.

Also, pay attention to weather conditions. Just because it's raining doesn't mean you can't take great photos. In fact, the drama may be increased by the presence of water on the field. If it's going to be a bright sunny day and your daughter's soccer game is at 7:30 on a Saturday morning, then you'll want to make sure you account for both the glare of the sun and the glint of dew that's sure to be on the fields.

Know your equipment. 

Of course, in order to be prepared, you need to know what your camera can and can't do. The last place you want to become familiar with your equipment is at the sporting event you paid $100 to get into, or at your daughter's TaeKwonDo National Championship competition. If you have relatives or friends who play on sports teams, ask if you can take pictures of their events. It will be good practice for you, and they will love to see the pictures you take.

If you don't already have a SLR camera with a telephoto lens, I recommend you get one. A point and shoot camera is good for portrait shots before and after the game, not fast moving action. And don't be too intimidated by SLRs or telephoto lenses. They behave much the same way as point and shoots do when you set them on fully automatic. But you gain a lot of flexibility that point and shoot cameras simply don't have.

Location, location, location and timing, timing, timing. 

These are the two most important things to keep in mind in sports photography, and they cannot be separated. You have to be in the right place at the right time in order to get a truly great sports photograph. And it doesn't have anything to do with luck. If your son's high school football team is marching down the field for a touchdown, then don't get so caught up in the game that you forget to rush to the back of the end zone. From there, you can get the perfect shot of a receiver catching a touchdown pass or a fullback barreling into the end zone.

Don't be shy about getting into position, either. I'm not recommending you sneak onto the sidelines during the Super Bowl and risk arrest. But at many events, if you ask politely and explain what you're doing, officials will let you on the sidelines. Also, you can check ahead to see if you can get a sideline pass. They aren't reserved solely for the media. It's good to check well before the event, but if you can't, try asking at the ticket office when you arrive. After all, the worst they can do is say no!

Sports stir the soul - for millions of fans, watching their favorite teams fight for victory, even if they end up in defeat, inspires them in their day-to-day lives. Your photos can have a similar impact.

Imagine a parent's delight when you present them with a picture of their child scoring a touchdown or goal ... imagine your lasting memories when you take a picture of your own child's moments of glory. It will affirm their dedication - and yours - and inspire you both for many years to come.

Matt Smolsky develops marketing programs and has written articles for a variety of clients, including Hoorray, a photo sharing website that offers a free online photo album to new members and is the easiest place to create a digital photo album, calendar, and other photo keepsakes.

PictureCorrect Comment: The Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS USM Lens is probably the best track/field sports lens available. It is a super telephoto L-series lens with an Image Stabilizer that works great for all different kinds of sports situations.

Tips for shooting star trails pictures

Trails (2008-10-19_ 40D_100-0746)
Picture by Antoine Khater


Star trails photography is at the same time easy and rewarding, it can produce results that will leave most viewers in awe with very little effort.
I will try to cover in this article the basic photography technique and equipment needed for star trails photography.

Get away from the city

It is no secret that one should get away from the city to be able watch the stars, the same holds true for star photography.
Light pollution in the city is just to dense ! Head instead, for some remote camping siteor other unhabitated locations with a clear view for the sky.

Pick a starry night

Yea right ! I know it is obvious but still wanted to pin-point it! Also you might have a better visibility on a moonless night or when the moon is still low on the horizon.

What to Pack?

So let’s take a look at what you should take with you

  • Camera: Don’t go without it
  • Lens: You will need the fastest lens you have. Well pack 2 one long and one wide. I use a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 (at 24mm) as my wide and an Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 as my long.
  • A few memory cards: Star trails is the type of photography when you’d expect to shoot a lot of pictures and keep only a few so make sure to have enough storage with you
  • A spare battery: Since we’re going to shoot long exposures you’d better have one or two freshly charged spare batteries with you. Specially that at night temperature goes down and batteries drain faster.
  • Remote shutter release:If you don’t have one you can always use your camera’s timer.
  • Camera cover: You’d probably need to protect your camera from dew and condensation.
  • Tripod: This one should rarely be left behind.
  • Flash light: Make sure to include on in you bag, you’ll need it not only to lighten you way.
  • Warm clothes & gloves: They might come in handy if it gets too cold.

Camera settings

  • ISO Settings: You will need to crack up your ISO settings at at least 800. Although it is very common to use ISO 1600 and 3200 for these shots it is a safe bet to start doing test at ISO 800 and check if there is a need to go higher
  • Noise reduction: If your camera has a noise reduction feature make sure to turn it off or else you’ll end up waiting for your camera to finish processing unable to shoot between every 2 pictures.
  • White Balance: Knowing that a star is a far away sun then, logically, the correctWhite Balance should be daylight. However this WB setting will generally lead to a very odd sky color, I’ve had much better results using Tungsten white balance.
  • Mirror lockup: To minimize camera movements to the max you will want to enable the mirror lockup and, if you don’t have a cable release, enable the timer on your camera.
  • Shoot Raw: RAW is much more flexible in editing afterward and specially effective for tweaking white balance settings.

Go wide and include a foreground

It is interesting to include an building/tree/rock or any other object or scene in the foreground. It gives a sense of familiarity to the viewer as seeing a normal scene in an incredible way.

Go long for abstract effect

Another option would be to compose your shot to include only stars. This will lead for a more abstract effect.

Get Creative with light

If you chose to go for a wide angle shot you can also use the flashlight to “light paint” the foreground. This will lead to have a nice foreground with details instead of only a black form.

Taking the shot

  • Secure you’re camera on the tripod
  • Pick your composition
  • Set your Camera to manual exposure and RAW
  • Set ISO speed 800, Aperture to the widest possible and shutter speed to 30 second
  • Enable mirror lockup
  • Don’t forget your white balance
  • Put your lens on Manual focus. If you have live view focus in that mode if not simply set your lens to focus at infinity.Be careful most lenses can focus past infinity you have to be sure focus is at infinity.
  • Put your remote release to continuous shooting mode, this will lead your camera to take repetitively shots of 30 seconds each keep noise minimal
  • If you don’t have a remote release, simply press the shutter button gently every 30 seconds and make sure you have your camera set to 2 seconds timer not 10 seconds
  • Keep warm and enjoy your night. Don’t forget to give light painting a try!

Photographing the Micro Landscape

Written by: David Bigwood

When I began making pictures of the landscape, it was always the big picture that figured and I suppose it's the same for most of us. It was a case of a few exposures and then move on to the next grand view.

Then came the day when I 'needed' to make some pictures - photographers will know what I mean - and the weather was against me. Uniformly grey cloud and lousy light are no recipe for great landscape shots.

With the itch in my shutter finger unsatisfied, I had to find a subject so I began casting around the area and, what do you know, there were dozens of them. Of course there were for those who have eyes to see. The big picture is made up of thousands, maybe millions of smaller pictures and this is what I had been missing.

And, it's not only the weather that can be against the making of the big picture. Sometimes it is hard to avoid the crowds in a popular spot for example but if we are attuned to looking within the scene for its components and are able to recognise potential pictures among them then our frustrations at not being able to make pictures because of situations that are beyond our control can be relieved.

And the same applies when the big picture just isn't right. Maybe it's the light that is wrong - from the wrong direction, at the wrong time of day - or something in the scene is just not photogenic and it can't be got around by moving it or moving our viewpoint. This happened to me recently when I went to the Snowy River in the New South Wales high country in Australia. The attractive scenes that I knew from five years ago had disappeared in the disastrous bush fires of January 2003 and the area had not fully recovered. There were dead trees everywhere and the whole area had a scrubby look about it. Its former beauty will come back but it will take a lot more time. Big picture scenes were out, so I concentrated instead on close ups of some of the spring wildflowers that were brightening the river bank.

And, when I spent a week last year on England's Cumbrian coast the weather was less than kind but nevertheless I found subjects to shoot between the bursts of sunshine by looking into the landscape.

It was the weather that first forced me into exploring for the smaller pictures but now it is my natural approach to landscape photography. I do not shun the big picture but now I am loath to leave a place until I have made some images that show something of its intimate details. I have learned to not only look but also to see.

And, that is the first step to making pictures of the micro-landscape, the bits that make up the whole. You may have heard the comment by camera club judges, "a well seen picture" and that is what we have to be aware of when considering our photography. We have to look and then, more importantly, we have to see the picture opportunities that present themselves. We have to take our time. We have to immerse ourselves in the area. We need to feel for the place. We need to experience wonder at the age of rock formations and how, over millenniums, they have been fashioned by wind and water; at the way in which trees and other plants survive in less than perfect conditions and how they cling to life and overcome obstacles by growing round and over them. We need to be in awe of the power of nature.

I try not to have pre-conceived ideas of what I am looking for as subjects when I begin to explore. To do so would defeat the object of the exercise which is to first look and then to see. However, depending on the location, there are some obvious subjects that crop up repeatedly. For instance, in Britain's ancient woodlands the twisted and contorted trunks of old trees, the bases of the same trees which often incorporate huge boulders, and in the moorlands, the wildflowers that fill the meadows in high summer, the fallen golden leaves of the deciduous trees in autumn and, in the winter, the plants that brave the snow, the streams winding between snowy banks and the footprints of animals and birds in otherwise undisturbed snow.

On the coast, there are the rock pools, gouged out by centuries of water action, and their inhabitants, rippled sand, flotsam and jetsam, the plants that bind the sand, the multi-coloured pebbles, and the many wonderful shapes of rock platforms and the strata in cliffs.

Wherever you are, look up. Sometimes a wonderful, and generally fleeting, cloud arrangement will make a great image. And there may be a photogenic arrangement of leaves on a tree or at your feet. Check the trunks of trees, especially after or even during rain when the bark of some trees, especially in Australia, is magnificently coloured. Watch the swirling water in creeks - apart from anything else flowing water is very therapeutic and calming - especially where it ripples over boulders.

Then there are the grasses, especially when back lit, or flowers or fungi, or fallen trees or...the list is infinite. Those are just some examples but it doesn't matter where you go, you will find subjects to fill your viewfinder if you really look.

As far as technique is concerned, the important thing is to ensure that your subject is sharp and, possibly isolated from the background by using a large aperture. Unless you are using a fast film or ISO setting a tripod will be useful, if not essential, to ensure that your camera stays focused where you want it and that camera shake does not ruin a precious picture.

If you want to make close-up pictures a macro lens or a set of extension tubes will be necessary. I sometimes find focusing when using extension tubes a bit difficult especially when the lens is practically touching the subject. It is sometimes easier then to move the camera backwards and forwards to establish correct focus rather than using the focus adjustment on the camera.

Close-up images of flowers are often better when made under overcast skies as the reduction in contrast suits the subject and enhances the colours. I carry a plastic sheet when expecting to do close-up work at ground level to make the job a little more comfortable.

As the light level on grey days or in woods is sometimes a little low, you may want to use some fill-in flash to enhance your subject. If you can adjust the output of your flash gun, aim to produce a flash about two stops under the exposure setting of your camera which will produce a natural looking image. I have been able to produce quite good results at times with a very basic flash gun by shooting through a couple of layers of a white handkerchief. Not very scientific but it has worked. But, do experiment with your equipment before you leave home!

Aluminium foil can also be useful to bounce light into your subject and it is worth carrying some in your camera bag. I have a Space Blanket which I bought many years ago which is very useful as a reflector. I can also wrap myself in it if I get lost and have to spend the night outdoors in low temperatures! One question that crops up every now and then about the photographing of the natural world is: do we take the picture exactly as it is found or can we move things around and even import an item from somewhere else? As far as I'm concerned, that is up to you!

For the record, I do clear away distracting items, some grass for instance, and I have been known to introduce a greenish leaf from a few centimetres away on to a pile of autumn coloured leaves to provide some contrast. But, if I can, I leave it as I found it. If I do make changes they are only minor. But, it's your picture and your choice.

I have used film and digital to produce my micro-landscape pictures but what you use is immaterial. It is the result that counts and that result will come from your ability to see the picture in the first place and then from your technical know-how which will enable you to make the image.

About the Author
David Bigwood is an Australian based writer and photographer who sells his words and pictures regularly. He was a columnist for F2 Freelance + Digital magazine for three years. His website is http://www.bigwoodpublishing.com where you will find some of his published articles.

PictureCorrect Comment: Many professional macro photographers also carry a ring light which is a special kind of light for extreme close-up photography. The Sony HVL-RLS Macro Ring Light uses bright white LED lighting to provide absolutely true color reproduction. This is ideal when taking macro pictures of flowers, insects and other detailed close ups

Black and White Zones

Written by: Tedric Garrison

Back in the early 1970's I learned a lesson about depth during the "String Art" craze. It was so popular it was actually being taught in schools. Basically put; you created geometric shapes, placed a certain number of points on those shapes, and connected those points with different colors of thread. The end result looked like a "Spirograph" drawing (another 70's classic), but these were more 3-dimensional. When I first learned this, the school had us poking holes in poster board and then stringing it. My family regularly attended arts and crafts shows.

We started doing something similar by using wood covered with felt, then using ½ inch nails in place of the holes. Gradually we tried bigger nails like 1 inch and 1.5 inch in size. We found that by creating more depth physically, it also created more visual depth.

Most "String Art" Kits only used the ½ inch nails and would only do five or six rows of thread. By adding more depth in the physical dimensions (the nails), we were able to create images with ten to twelve rows of colored thread. Eventually; I designed a coffee table that stood, three feet tall with inlayed glass. This creation was twenty four layers deep.

Recently a student asked me the following question: "Color impacts both the mood and emotion of a photograph; yet some people still prefer black and white, why is that?"

My immediate response was this: "Those who learned B/W photography first, were taught more art concepts. A great photo has to do more with leading lines, composition, and contrast than a single color theme. Most B/W photographers learn to capture the full range from black to white (the Zone System), most people who only see color rarely create as much visual depth."

In pondering my reply; I realized that there is very likely a whole generation of photographers out there who have either: A) Never heard of the Zone System or B) May have heard of it, but don't understand how it applies to images today. Let me see if I can simplify this.

If you listed the ten greatest photographers of all time, Ansel Adams would no doubt be on that list. He and another man by the name of Fred Archer developed the Zone System way back in 1941. Realizing the limitations of the media, they were striving for a way to create more visual depth. "Expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights," was the phrase that many photographers used to explain what they were doing when they used the Zone System.

Imagine a set of stairs. The bottom step represents pure black (Zone 0). The top step represents pure white (Zone 9). The step in the middle (Zone 5) represents the 18% gray that all cameras (traditional or digital) believe to be the correct exposure. From the mid-point (Zone 5), each step or zone (up or down) represents a change of one f-stop. Therefore, Zone 4 requires an exposure of one f-stop less than your camera indicates. And of course, Zone 6 requires an exposure of one f-stop more than your camera indicates.

Since Adams and Archer were shooting mostly Black and White, the second half of the system had to do mostly with "Pushing" or "Pulling" of development times. Most color films are not that forgiving with changes in development times; however . . . digital media and digital photo editing software (like Photoshop) can literately put you back in the Zone. If you learn to how use your "exposure compensation" on the camera, you too can expose for the shadows. If you shoot in "RAW" mode, the information you need to pull out the highlights will still be there.

In a normal shooting mode, if you use exposure compensation to take the image at Zone 4 you will darken the entire image. But since RAW mode saves all the exposure data (both shadows and highlights) it would be similar the second part of the Zone System.

Let's say you want to photograph an interesting rock formation with a blue sky and fluffy white clouds. The rock formation is shadowed but has lots of interesting textures. You want to bring out as much detail in that rock formation as possible. You meter the shadow areas of the rock, which indicates a shutter speed of 1/60 with an f-stop of f/2.8. Then, you meter the sky, which indicates the same shutter speed but with an f-stop of f/16. Keep in mind that in high contrast scenes, you MUST expose for the shadows if you want to show those details. You decide the shadows fall within Zone 2, (very dark, but not a true black.) By using your Exposure Compensation Settings, you would stop down three stops and shoot at 1/60 at f/8. In other words: Zone 5 - Zone 2 = 3 stops less light.

If you follow the steps above, you get the details in the shadows that most people miss. The next step would be to transfer your image to you computer and start playing with the sky. Obviously, this will vary depending on what type of software you are using, but by being both camera smart and computer smart you will have an edge over 99% of the tourist that just point and shoot.

When I was young, I learned to go beyond the basics by creating more depth. Creating depth by physically changing the rules is one thing; but when you deal with a photograph, paper is still paper. To get more depth in a photograph you have to increase the visual range beyond what most cameras want to give you. Regardless; if you shoot with film, or you shoot digital . . . the best way to achieve more depth is still the Zone System.

This Article Written By: Tedric A. Garrison Cedar City, Utah
Award winning writer / photographer Tedric Garrison has 30 years experience in photography. As a Graphic Art Major, he has a unique perspective. His photo eBook "Your Creative Edge" proves creativity can be taught. Today, he shares his wealth of knowledge with the world, at: http://www.betterphototips.com.

PictureCorrect Comment: There are many methods of converting regular digital photos into black and white photos. Most professionals develop some sort of style in Photoshop with various adjustment layers and tools. CS3 now offers productivity and work flow enhancements for processing many photos.

Hall of Fame Pic Gallery

In this tutorial we will Create a hall of fame style picture gallery.  Very useful for photography websites, DVD covers and a host of other promotional graphics.




Start by creating a new document.  Press control J. to duplicate the background layer. Double click the layer to open layer style window and apply settings as shown. will create a background for the Hall of Fame picture gallery.



Insert an image.



From filter menu select Distort >> Lens Correction.




Apply settings as shown below.




At another image and apply setting for lens correction as shown below.





Similarly insert more images and applied the same filter with different settings so that it appears like the images are displayed in a hall of fame.


Select and merge all the images. Create a duplicate layer. Press Ctrl+T, right click the layer and select flip vertical.


From bottom of the layer palette click on "Add vector mask". Press D to reset the foreground and background colors to default B&W. Select gradient tool. Apply in linear mode to create a soft blend. The will create a mirror reflection of the images on the floor.



Type the text of your choice on top of the document.



Create a rectangle using rectangular shape tool. 



Press Ctrl+T. Right click the layer and select Warp. From preset warp shapes at the option bar on top selct "Arc". Apply settings as shown below.




From bottom of the layer palette click on "Add vector mask". Press D to reset the foreground and background colors to default B&W. Select a large soft rounded brush and apply on top area of this la ityer so that a smooth bl moveended bottom side ring appears.




Create another rectangle using rectangular shape tool. repaid the above-mentioned steps and use a different value of the Arc distort and again create a soft blend as used in above steps.



Create one more such layer with different value of the distort.



Group these three layers.  Create a duplicate layer. Press Ctrl+T, right click the layer and select flip vertical. Place it as shown below.



Create a new layer.  Fill it with grey colour. From filter menu select Render >> Lighting effects. Apply settings as shown below.




Press Ctrl+T. Right click the layer and select Warp. From preset warp shapes at the option bar on top selct "Arc". Apply settings as shown below.





Change layer mode to linear light.



From bottom of the layer palette click on "Add vector mask". Press D to reset the foreground and background colors to default B&W. Select gradient tool. Apply in linear mode to create a soft blend from the top. 


3 ways to create a border

Method 1
1) Open a picture in Photoshop
2) Go to Image » Canvas Size (Ctrl+Alt+C)

3) Check Relative

4) Enter a value for width and height. Leave the Anchor with default settings. Go to Canvas Extension Background and choose a color for your border. Click ok.
5) You are done.

Method 2

1) Open a picture in Photoshop
2) Select Rectangle Tool (U) and draw a rectangle of any dimentions.

3) Go to Edit » Free Transform Path (Ctrl+T) and stretch the rectangle until the margins snap with the picture margins.

4) With the layer selected, right click » Bleending Options
In Fill Opacity, set Fill Opacity 0%

5) Click Stroke. Choose a color for your border and also the size in pixels. Set Position »Inside. Click OK

6) You are done.

Method 3

1) Set your background color in the Tools Palette to black (for a black border)

2) Choose the Crop tool (C) and draw a rectangle of any dimentions.

3) Stretch the rectangle until the margins snap with the picture margins.

4) Hold down SHIFT+ATL to constrain proportions, and drag one of the corners, until you have the right size.

5) Press Enter and you are done