Constructive Criticism for Shooting Kids Baseball


TPF Noob!
Jul 4, 2013
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Hawaii, United States
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This is the first season I'm not on the field coaching, so I'm enjoying trying to take some halfway decent pictures for an end of season keepsake. I have just about zero experience trying to learn photography, aside from taking snapshots. I've been reading up lately about exposure, ISO, shutter speed to stop action, and sports photography. I'm hoping to get good enough to take some memorable shots instead of snapshots. Equipment up to this point has been a Nikon D40 with 55-200mm VR lens. I switched recently from Sports to Program shift mode to Shutter Priority mode. Future pictures will be with a Nikon D5100 using the same lens. Criticism, advice, or anything that could help me is welcome. On to the pictures...

1. A fraction of a second late.

2. Does this crop using the third baseman to frame work?


4. Ball not in frame. Background too busy to crop horizontal. Is vertical a good crop or is this a trash candidate?
Faces and expressions are the holy grail of action sports photography. So is getting the ball in the shot, and choosing angles that use light effectively while also minimizing background distractions.

In #1 you have so much depth-of-field the background is also in focus and a major distraction. The left 2/3 of the frame add nothing to the shot. We tend to look where a photo subject is looking but in #1 that takes the viewers eye right out of the image frame to - nothing. By contrast, in #3 the subject is in the left 1/3 of the image frame leaving 2/3 of the image frame as natural space for the direction of his gaze.

The rule-of-thirds (RoT) is just one of many visual image composition guidelines, but is one that is pretty powerful. Composition: Using the Rule of Thirds

Controlling depth-of-field (DoF) so you can use 'selective focus' to blur the background so your subject is better separated from the background is a goal worth pursuing. Understanding Depth of Field in Photography
Optimizing exposure is another digital photography goal - Digital Exposure Techniques
Optimizing Exposure

Lastly, the making of high quality action sports photographs requires anticipation of the action, good telephoto lens reach, and the ability to either blur backgrounds or otherwise separate your subject(s) from the baclground.
You will need to disregard the statements above about being able to "separate the subject" from the background at ANY non major-league baseball stadium in America. Chain link fencing has become the accepted norm at youth, high-school, and minor-league baseball fields and stadiums, and being able to throw the chain link out of focus shooting from 3rd baseline over to 1st base/home plate is impossible without a MASSIVE, wide-aperture telephoto, shot wide-open. Even with a 400mm f/3.5 lens and DX Nikon, shooting the first base area from the 3rd base dugout area, the chain link at the SF Giants' farm team's home stadium (where I have shot a half dozen or so baseball games) is...impossible...the distance is so long and the chain link along the 1st base line all the way to far right field is so close's going to be in focus.

For keepsake pictures of little kids, you want FACES, yes. Getting peak action is less important than getting the kid's face shown. For example, the last shot of the kid in his batting stance. Yes, the highlights are blown. And no, the ball is not in the frame--but it's maybe the only good,sharp picture the boy's parents or grandparents might have of him involved in an actual game. So, it's a keeper shot. Many people refer to these as "vanity shots"...sports shots that basically document the "my kid played this sport" kinda' thing. You know, for the record type photos. This is not action sports photography,really, it's something else.

If you're using a D5200 and modest tele-zoom, just focus on getting good,sharp,clear shots of each player.
Thank you both for the tips.

KmH, in #1, would you say the flow of the picture is more important than the context? Using that image as an example I originally cropped it with the fielder in the left 1/3 but recropped to show the base. Would the crop allowing the eye to flow left to right be a more important aspect than showing what position she was playing? I will read up on the links you provided as well as shoot from a different angle to try to remove distracting backgrounds.

Derrel, thanks for your view. I think I may have been giving up some vanity shots waiting for the action shots. I still want to get good quality action shots, but I will stop thinking they are the ONLY thing to shoot. You are right, at some fields it is hard to blur the background with the equipment I do have. I think moving closer and shooting through the chain link may be a good option to reduce the amount I need to crop out and increase background separation.

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