Use the Rule of ThirdsIn the following two figures, you see that there are two acceptable ways to frame-up your photo or crop your photo afterward. The upper horizontal Rule of Thirds line can either lay over the horizon as in the first image, or it can be raised a bit to meet the right-vertical line to create an intersecting point on the athlete’s head as in the second. Both of these compositions are acceptable. Also, notice how the runner is running into the picture space? Try not to center the runner. Rather, have the athlete enter the composition for a better sense of visual flow.
Pan your camera to create motion blurA panning type photo means that you physically move your camera from left to right, or right to left, to follow a fast-moving athlete. Depending on how bright it is outside, you can usually create some pretty cool sports photos that border on fine art or abstract photography.
Take a look at the following figure. Can you see that everything has forward motion blur except a few of the Canadian maple leaf stickers and a part of the athlete? A successful panning photo is one that conveys a sense of speed. You want your viewer to feel that they are there, in person, experiencing the rush of forward motion.
As long as one section is sharp, all the rest can be blurry. If everything is blurry, just press delete and try again. Follow the athlete with your camera, moving your arms at the same speed, and take the photo mid-pan. This technique should produce a blurred background with some parts of the athlete remaining sharp.
Choose the best-looking strideAll good running photos require that the athlete shows a good stride, which means that they have good form, and their legs appear to be in a classic running position. A great example of stride is shown in the following figure where the image on the left has an unattractive stride, and the photo on the right has a good looking, or classic, stride.
It’s easy to capture the perfect stride for any of your running photos, whether they be for the next marathon or your child running in the backyard. Simply set your camera to Burst mode and then pick the photo with the best-looking stride.
But that’s not all! If you’re photographing a track and field meet and are photographing at a right angle to the athlete, choose a burst photo where the athlete appears to be suspended in mid-air. This is a classic sports photographer trick that shows a sense of speed, agility, and a winner’s attitude.
This technique usually only works when its sunny out, as it’s the shadow below the runner that shows that neither of their feet are touching the ground. This figure gives you an example of how the shadow looks and how it provides a sense of levity to the sports photo.
Photograph from a lower position
As with fashion photography, it’s often better for you, as the photographer, to position yourself lower than the height of the athlete. If your mobility allows for it, kneel or crouch down to a lower position while photographing the athlete moving toward or past you. This lower position makes the athlete look more impressive, both physically and metaphorically.Packing a small foldable camp seat can help you comfortably get low, so you can photograph from a low position without hurting your knees. The snowboarder in the following figure looks more impressive because the photographer was both down the slope a little, as well as photographing from a waist-height position.
Create contrast between athlete and backgroundWhile not always realistic due to the fact that you can’t control athletes, when possible, situate yourself so that the background visually favors the athlete’s face and upper body area. The following figure shows a side-by-side example of this technique. Take a look at the photo on the left side. The photographer chose to position himself so that the snowboarder’s light skin tone would be contrasted against the dark background of the trees. On the right side, you can see that the snowboarder’s face loses a bit of prominence due to the snow being a similar luminosity as her skin tone.
For darker skinned athletes, the reverse would apply. If possible, you may want to search out a position where you can photograph that particular athlete with more of a lighter toned background.
Regardless of skin tone or color, what you as a sports iPhone photographer want to do is make your athlete look the very best possible. And one way to do that is to find a composition where your athlete’s face doesn’t get lost and muddled with the background. Think contrast!
How to photograph athlete group photosHave you ever been asked to photograph a large group of people with your iPhone? It’s not easy! The following tips can help you create those sports memories that in the future will end up being a valued historic record of you and your athletic friends:
- If it’s sunny outside, position your group so that the sun illuminates their faces instead of their backs.
- If it’s cloudy or overcast, compose your group to include the surrounding track, rink, field, or court. The background will provide context for your viewer.
- If you have enough people to need two or three rows for the group picture, try to find a position where you as the photographer can be higher than the group, such as in the following figure. This higher position allows for all faces to be included and also shows off the sports field or location that you’re in.
- Use Burst mode to take four or five rapid photos. Burst mode allows you to choose the photo where everyone looks good. Inevitably, at least one person will be blinking in a large group photo.