Need Comments/Critique/Help with Kids Football Shots

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Jay Jennings, Sep 17, 2007.

  1. Jay Jennings

    Jay Jennings TPF Noob!

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    I'm taking pictures of my son's football games and am getting some good (I think) shots, but I seem to take a couple hundred shots per game in order just to get maybe 10-15 that are really decent.

    I think one part of my problem is that I'm using a Canon 80-300 zoom lense (pretty cheap, I think somewhere in the $300 range a few years ago) and we seem to play games only on cloudy days -- so my shutter speed isn't what I'd like a lot of the time.

    My camera is a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT and I just put it on (I know I'm going to get yelled at for this) the "Action" setting and leave it there while shooting the games.

    Below are a couple shots and there's also a link to a page with about 20 of what I think are my best shots.

    Any suggestions to help me get more/better shots would be really appreciated. Some of the parents are asking me for copies, so I'd like to be able to give them some good shots of their kid.

    Thanks!

    Jay Jennings

    I Gotta Dance - I know the shadows are pretty harsh, but I just love the stance I caught.
    [​IMG]

    Hole in the Dike - Kid coming through the line like that? Someone didn't block!
    [​IMG]

    Everybody Wants Some - Dodging and weaving to make more yards.
    [​IMG]


    More pics here, if you like
     
  2. Digital Matt

    Digital Matt alter ego: Analog Matt

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    Well, I won't yell but, yes, it's time to shoot in one of the manual modes. You are the photographer, not the camera. A simple way is to use Aperture Priority mode, (Av), and set your aperture to wide open. Don't be afraid to shoot at high ISOs. Your camera can handle them fine, and it's always better to have a well exposed, sharp noisy picture vs one with camera shake.

    I think your compositions need a little work. Try to isolate the action a little better, and as best as you can, eliminate distracting background elements. I'm assuming you can get pretty close to the field, and your lens is certainly long enough to get in close, so go for it. Robert Capa said, "If your pictures aren't good enough, then you aren't close enough". He was a photojournalist, but the idea applies equally here I think.

    If you find that you want to upgrade your lens to a better one, the 70-200 f/2.8 L is a good choice for you.
     
  3. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Welcome to the forum.

    The shots look pretty good, especially with the cheap lens you are using. Shooting sports like football is one of the most demanding types of shooting...meaning that you need long lenses and large apertures in order to get fast shutter speeds. Long lenses with large apertures cost a lot of money, and are large and heavy. A typical pro photographer at a football game, may be carrying $10,000 worth of cameras and lenses. Quite a difference from a parent with a $300 lens.

    However, you have gotten some good shots and you can get more...and it will help if you understand the basics of exposure...then you won't have to rely on 'action' mode.

    Your main goal will be to freeze the action, so you will need fast shutter speeds. To get the fastest shutter speed, you should be using your maximum aperture. On your lens, that is probably a range of F4 to F5.6...give or take. Keeping the aperture on the max (lowest number) will give you the fastest shutter speed...and that's basically what Action mode does. I suggest using Av mode and dialing the aperture to F3.5 (or F4), what ever is the smallest F number you can get at the short end of the zoom. It will change to F5.6 when you zoom.

    This may or may not be fast enough. The next thing you can do, is to set a higher ISO. The higher the ISO, the faster the shutter speed. The trade off is digital noise...the higher the ISO, the more noise. However, noise is usually easier to deal with than blur. So don't be afraid to set your ISO up to 800 or 1600. That will be the best you can do with your equipment...the rest is up to you...and you seem to be doing a good job with that.

    *edit*
    Or, as Matt says, you could get a 'faster' lens. Something with a larger maximum aperture like F2.8.
     
  4. The_Traveler

    The_Traveler Completely Counter-dependent Supporting Member

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    There is more in your pictures than you are showing.
    A little post-processing to lift shadows and cropping to help composition will help a lot.

    [​IMG]

    bb

    [​IMG]
     
  5. Jay Jennings

    Jay Jennings TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the comments, Matt and Mike.

    I'll try using Aperture Priority mode and see what happens -- two of our upcoming games are evening games so it'll be a good chance to see what happens with that.

    I've read quite a few messages here about the 70-200 f/2.8 lense -- but right now I feel that even with the 300mm I'm often too far away to get what I want. But maybe that's just inexperience in not knowing what I should be shooting.

    Traveler, where should I look for info on post-processing to lift shadows? Does that technique have an actual "name" that I can search on?

    I'll play around with the cropping, although I wonder if that isn't a more subjective thing than shadows.

    For example, the first shot (now I know why I'm supposed to number my shots!) you did looks better cropped, I think, but the second one loses part of the story without the kid on the ground showing where the runner came from.

    So how do you know where to crop? If it's for someone else do you crop where you think most people would like it cropped? Or do you crop according to YOUR parameters/perceptions/likes and they can just live with it?

    Thanks!

    Jay Jennings
     
  6. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Cropping is certainly a personal thing...but there are a few guide lines or general rules that do help when making those decision. On of them is that you seldom want your subject to be in the dead centre of the frame. See 'Rule of Thirds'. Also, when you have a moving subject, like a football player...it's usually best to leave more room in front of them, than behind. So they are running into the frame, rather than out of it. This is art, and of course, rules were made to be broken...so if you have a reason to crop a certain way, then do so.

    Also, part of cropping (or framing when shooting) is trying to eliminate a distracting or empty/useless background. Ask yourself if the background is adding anything to the shot, and if it would be better if you cropped closer.
     
  7. Jay Jennings

    Jay Jennings TPF Noob!

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    Okay, that makes sense (crop out what doesn't add anything). So following are my cropping efforts on four shots -- first the original, and then what I turned it into.

    Would you (generic you, whoever would like to answer) have done it differently?

    1.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    2.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    3.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    4.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Okay, on #4 there are several places one could crop -- I personally like the one above with the blank space to the left, because it's the "place of safety" for the QB, it's his goal at the moment.

    However, here are some other cropped versions -- do any or all of these work better?

    4a. Just the main action
    [​IMG]

    4b. Like the original, but cropped to just above helmets.
    [​IMG]

    4c. All the players, no blank space.
    [​IMG]

    Thanks!

    Jay Jennings

    PS - You know, I said I like the one with the blank space to the left, but the more I see 4c and even 4a, the more I like them. Argh! So even my preference is fickle? =:)
     
  8. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I think you have a good handle on it. It does really help to try it different ways and see the pros and cons of each. After a few years of doing this, it should be easy to see the crops before doing them...or even before shooting the image.
     
  9. The_Traveler

    The_Traveler Completely Counter-dependent Supporting Member

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    There are probably many possible decent crops on any photo.

    I follow some 'rules' for myself.
    (altho everyone will tell you tell content and composition dictates the crop, strange crops draw attention to themselves rather than the image)
    1) I tend to try to have 'tight' crops that guide the viewer to what is important to look at. These are pictures not illustrations of strategy.
    2) I virtually always crop in a standard format, or really close, That will save lots of money when printing and framing. (if you are close to a standard format you can alway use a mat to get it there) (see below)
    3) I think that crops in portrait look funny at 4 x 6 and better at 4 x 5.

    The Shadows/highlights tool in PS lifts the shadows but you can do this with levels/curves also.


    [​IMG]
     
  10. JIP

    JIP No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Honestly, all cropping suggestions aside the thing that is going to help you is a new lens. You are axtremely limited with what you can do with the gear you have right now. You need a faster lens and of course you need to stay long. I guess it all depends on what you would be able to afford in a new lensbut that is what is really going to improve things for you.
     
  11. Jay Jennings

    Jay Jennings TPF Noob!

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    Okay, *that* really spoke to me. I just spent the last hour or so going back through about 80 pics and cropping to what is most important -- and I'm really pleased/surprised at what a difference that makes! I know, I sound like a newbie (well, guess what?). =;)

    I'm going to include all the raw photos on a CD for the parents at the end of the season, though, because some kids just don't get the ball and so seeing them to the side blocking someone for the runner will be better than no pictures of that kid at all.

    But for the main slideshow I'm putting together, it's crop city! =:)

    Thanks for the help!

    Jay Jennings

    PS - No PS here, too poor. But I do have Fireworks and saw there's a Level feature in that. Played with it and saw what it can do -- but I also saw how easy it was to oversaturate the whites (not sure if that's the correct term, but it feels like what I'm seeing). Looks like maybe there's some tightrope walking you need to do when playing with levels?
     
  12. Jay Jennings

    Jay Jennings TPF Noob!

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    Yeah, I'll print that out and show my wife, but I don't think it's going to swing the deal. =;)

    Since I'm not a "professional" I can't justify spending the money for a new lens (not enough disposable income to get one "just because"). However, if I can come up with some way to make money with the gear I have, then investing in a new lens is a no-brainer.

    So my plan at this point is to get better with what I have and keep my eyes open for any reasonable opportunities to make some cash with my current stuff.

    But thanks for making me even more dissatisfied with what I have. =;) Maybe I need to start watching yard sales and such to see if I get lucky.

    Jay Jennings
     

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