Sporting events are the perfect opportunity to take vivid and dramatic photos of your kids in action. They are also one of the most difficult things to photograph because everything is in motion. But there are some techniques you can use to take better photos of your kids regardless of whether or not they are playing a soccer game or chasing each other on the playground.
Better pictures with a DSLR Camera
If you already own a DSLR camera, you’re ahead of the game (pardon the pun). Using a DSLR camera can make taking action shots much easier, but you have to know how to use it properly. There are several ways to get the clearest images when shooting a sporting event.
Use a Faster Shutter Speed
Shutter speed will make the biggest difference in your action photography. When using a DSLR camera, you’ll want to use the camera’s “shutter priority” mode. On most DSLR cameras, this setting is found under Manual mode (designated by an M), and found next to the A for “aperture priority” mode and the P for “programmed auto” mode.
Shutter priority mode allows you to adjust the shutter setting while the camera adjusts the other settings like aperture and ISO for you. Start by setting the shutter speed to 1/500th of a second. Take a few test shots to see if this is right for your needs.
Pro Tip: If you notice blurring, you can set the speed to something faster like 1/1000th of a second. A shutter speed this fast is best for sports like motor racing.
Open the Aperture
Using faster shutter speeds means you’ll need a wider aperture to allow more light into the camera, compensating for the fast shutter speed. This is crucial if the sporting event is inside.
Aperture settings are measured in f stops, and each f stop has a corresponding number that tells you the size of the aperture. This can range from f/1.4 to f/8, and the larger the f stop number, the smaller the aperture size. An f stop of f/1.4 is the widest aperture and f/8 is the smallest.
Not every lens has the full range of aperture sizes or f stops. Find out what the range is for your lens and use the largest aperture you can.
Pro Tip: If you’re lens is a zoom lens, don’t zoom in all the way on your target to get a tight shot as this will narrow your aperture.
Increase Your ISO
If after taking several shots, the exposure of each picture doesn’t seem to be right, you’ll need to adjust your ISO. For shooting sports photos, you’ll want to use the lowest ISO setting. There will be times you’ll need to use a higher ISO (especially on overcast days), but always keep in mind that noise in a photo is much better than blur.
Pro Tip: If you have to use a higher ISO, remember: Photoshop can remove noise.
Use Burst Mode
Burst mode is a great way to take a ton of shots in a very short amount of time, increasing the likelihood that you’ll get that amazing shot. You’ll want to make sure that you have a large enough memory card in your camera since burst mode will use quite a bit of memory.
Pro Tip: Always have a backup memory card on you, just in case. Also, always use a card with a 95mb/second writing speed so your camera doesn’t freeze in the middle of the action.
Use Continuous Focus Mode
Continuous focus mode refocuses the lens for every shot, keeping all the images crisp and clear. Also make sure your camera is set to single-point focusing and that point is centered. This will keep the center of your lens focused wherever you point it.
Turn Off the Flash
When it comes to action photography, unless you are right up next to your target, the flash is useless. For most sporting events, you’ll be in the stands or on the sidelines, so getting close to your subject isn’t an option. Using the flash will just waste your battery.
How to Take Better Pictures with an iPhone
If you don’t have a DSLR camera and the only thing you have is your iPhone or Android, you can still take awesome pictures at any sporting event. But you’ll need to use burst mode. Both iPhones and Android smartphones have a burst mode option in the native camera app. By using burst mode, you’ll greatly increase your chances of getting that perfect shot.
You can also download an app for your smartphone that turns your camera into a smartphone version of a DSLR. Then use the tips above to take better photos of your kids in action.