Robert Beck is a staff photographer for Sports Illustrated magazine. For over 20 years, he has been behind the lens shooting sporting events all over the world. From golf to baseball, surfing to skiing, Robert captures athletes in action. He shared his secrets to great sports photography with us yesterday in a webinar hosted by our friends at Lowepro.
Robert’s Gear for Sports Photography
-DSLR Body – He uses a Nikon D3s
-70 – 200 mm lens with f2.8 aperture
-Lens hood to protect his lens (instead of a filter)
-UDMA CF Cards in the fastest available speed, 4 GB – 8 GB
Nice to have
-200 – 400 mm lens, f4
-24 – 70 mm lens, f2.8
-16 mm fisheye lens
Which Camera Settings to Use
1. JPEG and RAW – Shoot camera RAW to capture the most information and have the most flexibility in post-production
2. Autofocus ON – You can change how fast your camera acquires the autofocus info. Set the speed of autofocus to correspond with the sport your shooting. Primarily uses the center dot as the focus pointHas the back button set up so he can focus first and then shoot a general area without the camera re-focusing
3. Vibration reduction software OFF
4. Auto white balance ON. Auto white balance is pretty good on new DSLRs Outdoors set it to “cloudy” to add warmth. Indoors match the light type. in the arena
5. Exposure mode MANUAL. Robert shoots completely manual to have the most flexibility. Underexposed is better than overexposed
6. ISO as low as possible for the lighting conditions. For example, if it is sunny use 100 ISO, cloudy use 400 ISO. The higher the ISO, the more noise (pixilation) will occur
What Makes Sports Shots Good?
Every published photo is one out of 100s or 1000s of photos taken. This is where practice comes in. The more you shoot, the higher percentage of the photos you take will be good ones. Bottom line: if you want to become a better photographer – SHOOT! SHOOT! SHOOT!
Backgrounds are the most important thing to pay attention when you’re shooting sports. Find a background that is the least distracting possible to bring your subject out. You want it to be obvious to the viewer what the subject is.
Light – pay attention to the lighting conditions and work them to your advantage.
-The golden hour when the sun is low in the sky (early morning or late afternoon) is a great time.
-If you’re shooting in the middle of the day, put your subject against a darker background.
-Keep shooting even if its cloudy, rainy, snowy – let the action speak for itself!
-Play the light – Good front light is also good backlight. Try and get both perspectives.
Aperture – Set it to F2.8 or F4 for a shallow depth of field. This makes the background drop out dramatically so the viewer focuses on the subject
Composition – shoot a mixture of tight and loose shots. When in doubt, shoot looser. You can always crop-in during post-production.
Shutter speed – 1/1000th of a second is the slowest speed if you’re shooting action sports.