Sports & Action Photography in a Day for dummies

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  • Chapter 1

    Getting the Right GearIn This Chapter Picking the right camera for the job Complementing your camera with accessories

    Sports and action photography is like most things in life if you want to be the best at it, you need to have the best gear. Luckily for you, lots of options are available when determining the best gear based on your level of experi-ence and expertise.

    In this chapter, I help you determine what youre going to need including what type of camera and any necessary accessories based on what you plan on photographing and how comfortable you are behind the lens.

    The Internet contains a wealth of information, but nothing beats asking other photographers what theyre using. You can share in their camera jubilation or avoid the same pitfalls that they fell into by purchasing that bargain point-and-shoot camera that didnt turn out to be such a bargain after all.

    Choosing the Best Camera for the Job at Hand

    Whether youll be taking photographs at your daughters soccer game or trying to make a career out of sports photography, having the right camera for the situation will make all the difference. In the past, very few affordable cameras could capture action as well as the pros gear. However, todays market is full of completely viable options,

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  • Sports & Action Photography In A Day For Dummies 4from professional dSLRs (digital single-lens reflex), to compact point-and-shoots that you can take everywhere you go, to smartphones with surprisingly impressive cameras good for the candid shots on the go.

    This abundance of quality options presents a different sort of problem. Picking a camera can become an overwhelming experience.Thats why, in the next few sections, I detail each type of camera and exactly what you need it for.

    Smartphone camerasCamera phones (see Figure 1-1) are great for one simple reason theyre incredibly convenient. Almost everyone has one in their pocket every time they leave the house.

    Figure 1-1: Smartphones like the iPhone 4S just dont cut it for shooting sports.

    If youre planning on taking pictures of flowers, sunsets, and family gatherings, the cameras included in smartphones are great. Many smartphones carry cameras that can take 8 megapixel (or even higher) photographs. These are actually really good quality pictures that rival some of the point-and-shoot cameras from not that long ago.

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  • Chapter 1: Getting the Right Gear 5However, when it comes to shooting action photography, theyre better left in your pocket.

    The main problem with smartphone cameras is that they all have fairly fixed settings. Smartphone cameras dont have settings like the Sports mode (see Chapter 2) with a fast shutter speed. Even if you can take a high-quality photograph (meaning no pixelation or anything of that sort), your subject will probably be blurry because of a slow shutter speed. The lack of a serious zoom is also a big problem with smartphone cameras because many of the pictures taken with a zoom are shaky and grainy not quite something youd want to share with your friends.

    So if you find yourself somewhere with the urge to take a picture and the only thing you have with you is your smartphone, try not to zoom in on anything moving too fast. Otherwise, you should be alright just getting a quick snapshot.

    Point-and-shoot camerasIf you simply want to try your hand at sports photography as a new hobby, a point-and-shoot camera with a nice zoom on it could be the right camera for you. The compact nature of the camera (see Figure 1-2) and lack of many external accessories might just be appealing enough that you wont mind having to get a little closer to the action than you would normally.

    Figure 1-2: Compact point-and-shoot cameras are great for the hobbyist.

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  • Sports & Action Photography In A Day For Dummies 6

    In addition to possibly getting closer to the action, point-and-shoot cameras might also require you to deal with things like slower focusing and a little bit of shutter lag (the time between pressing the shutter and when the image is actually written to the card). Shutter lag isnt a huge amount of time, but it can affect your ability to capture fast moving objects.

    Although you might be sacrificing a little quality for the convenience of using them, a compact point-and-shoot camera can still do a great job. Theyre universally much cheaper than a dSLR and are a great choice if you want to pick up photography as a fun new hobby. And like a smartphone, many point-and-shoots are compact enough that you can put it in your pocket and take it with you everywhere. After all, who knows where youll see some action you want to freeze forever in a photograph?

    dSLR camerasIf youre truly serious about your photography and are committed to getting the best photos possible, a dSLR camera is far and away your best option. dSLR cameras are much more versatile maybe not in their size or ease of transport, but rather in their capabilities as a camera than fixed-lens cameras like your typical point-and-shoot.

    The versatility of dSLR cameras gives you the freedom to change lenses, add an external flash, and take advantage of many more accessories. And the professional feeling you get carrying around a big bodied camera with a large lens on it at a sporting event isnt bad either let me tell you, people get out of your way so you can get your shot!

    Figure 1-3 shows one variation of what professional photographers use the Canon EOS 7D dSLR camera.

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  • Chapter 1: Getting the Right Gear 7

    Figure 1-3: A dSLR camera is ideal for shooting action shots.

    With some things in life, you can get by purchasing knock-off versions of the brand name items (I mean, who really needs brand name bottle water?). But when it comes to big ticket items like a dSLR camera that youll be using for years, look for that brand recognition. Companies like Canon and Nikon have been around forever for a very good reason they make high-quality cameras and have the customer service to back them up. So as long as youre spending the money, spend it on a company thats earned your business.

    Heres a list of all the things you need to consider to ensure youre getting the most bang for your buck when purchasing a dSLR camera:

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  • Sports & Action Photography In A Day For Dummies 8 Camera weight: Go to the store and actually hold the

    camera for a few minutes just to make sure it feels comfortable in your hands. I personally use a slightly heavier body because thats just one more thing that differentiates my professional dSLR from a recreational camera. You may find a lighter body preferable, but thats definitely something youll want to know before you make a purchase.

    How well the body of the camera is constructed: Some high-end camera bodies are practically invincible whereas others are more susceptible to letting dust and grime get into the cracks, which comes with being constructed with lesser quality plastics. As with most of the things on this list, if you can somehow spring a couple thousand dollars to get a camera with an indestructible body, do it. Otherwise, the decision depends on how much your trust yourself to take care of your equipment and/or whether youll shoot in harsh locations.

    Mode selections: You want a camera with a full range of modes, or given presets, including one that allows full manual mode (I cover modes in greater detail in Chapter 2). Im pretty sure that almost any dSLR you find nowadays will offer many specialized modes, so no need to worry too much about this one.

    Image quality: Image quality is expressed through megapixels, or MP. Its almost not worth buying a dSLR with less than 14 MPs as many of them have significantly better image resolution than that. Cameras with 18 or even 24 MPs are becoming more abundant and affordable seemingly every day.

    Shutter lag: Shutter lag is the time between when you press the shutter release and your camera actually captures an image. If a shutter delay or lag occurs, how significant is it? Maybe try another model. Ideally, a camera should never have unintentional shutter lag.

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  • Chapter 1: Getting the Right Gear 9 Shutter speed: Shutter speed refers to the amount of time

    that your cameras aperture is open and your sensor is exposed to the light. Especially for shooting sports, a camera that cant shoot at a speed of at least 1/5000 of a second wont cut it.

    Supported file formats: Good dSLR cameras provide JPEG, Raw, and TIFF file format options. In fact, most dSLRs these days can shoot JPEG and Raw at the same time. Im not saying that you need to shoot with both of these formats at the same time (one or the other has always worked for me), but some people like the added security of knowing theyve captured an image using both types of formats.

    A JPEG file is a compressed version of the photograph you captured. A JPEG file loses a little bit of quality, but you can store a whole bunch of them on your memory card. Raw files are just that: Theyre the raw data from your sensor when you press the shutter-release button. Raw files are hu