Sports Photography With A Pentax - Part 2

Matthew Kelly shows us how to take great sports photos with a Pentax in part two of his technique.

07/08/2012 - 00:00

Matthew Kelly is a professional sports photographer. Take a look at his website here.

Camera Settings & Technique


I either shoot in shutter priority or manual.

If the light is likely to change I choose shutter priority (usually 1/640th or 1/1000th). This is when there are clouds in the sky that are likely to blot out the sun every now and again.
If the light is constant (floodlights, all clouds or all blue sky) I’ll shoot manual, keeping my shutter speed as above.

I wont go over ISO 1600 on my K7 or about 5000 on my K5, but I’ll keep it as low as I can get away with, usually about ISO 800.

I generally use centre point for the autofocus and set the frame rate to Hi.

Finally, I’ve disabled the shutter-release for focussing and use my thumb on the AF button on the rear of the camera. This means I can concentrate on timing and leave the AF to take care of itself. My “hit-rate” of focussed images improved dramatically by switching to this method.

AF Button

As I mentioned earlier, I’m always on my knees when shooting sports as this makes the players look taller and more imposing (knee pads!).

Finally, get in as tight as possible, either in-camera or by cropping your pics later. Only have in the frame enough to tell the story.

RAW or JPEG?

I know that this may, and probably will, divide the audience totally. There are some photographers who swear by RAW and sneer with malicious intent at others who shoot exclusively in JPEG. Well…I shoot a mix of both, but never RAW+.

I use RAW if the occasion is really important, if it’s floodlit (noise reduction) or I want to email a shot quickly from pitch-side (I’ll get to that later).

I shoot JPEG if it’s a “normal” match, usually at the highest resolution.

BUT…when I shoot a sports event and will be printing the images on site, I’ll shoot JPEG at 2 megapixels. This speeds up the transfer rate from card to computer and from computer to printer – time is money! 2 megapixels is plenty enough data to make a quality 9x6 print.

Try scoring

Flash?
Never. Unless it’s before or after the game (team pics, etc).

Pitch-side Editing

I always edit on the fly. If a pic looks no good on a tiny 3 inch screen it’s certainly going to be no good on a computer monitor. I know some people never delete in the field “just in case”, but I do. It saves time later.

I’ll usually take about 300 images at a rugby or football match. This is edited down to 150ish pitch-side and further edited down to about 60 on a computer. Why delete so many? Only keep the best. Also, how many appear in the paper? Just that 1 killer pic. That’s all you need.


Shot Selection

There are two types of sport pics to try and capture – players with the ball or players showing real emotion (elation, dejection, fury – sport will have it all).

Here’s a BIG tip for football – you don’t have to get the goal scorer (even if they score a hat-trick) in the act of scoring. They’ll usually look better celebrating a goal or in even general play with the ball at their feet.

Also, in rugby if you’ve already taken a pic of the goal kicker in action (just after striking the ball AND the ball is still in the shot) don’t waste time in getting another. Even if he kicks the winning points an hour later use the shot you’ve already got from earlier in the match. Simple.

BUT…if your son, nephew, etc, is playing the get as many of him as you can!

Why do I shoot RAW (the biggest file size) to ease emailing images at pitch-side? Why do I use Micro SD cards?

Simple, to get the jump on the other photographers.

At half time I scroll through my RAW images and edit the best one(s) using the in-camera RAW converter. Then I save them as a new JPEG at 2 megapixels. I insert the Micro SD card into my BlackBerry and locate the images. The BlackBerry doesn’t read RAW files so I can scroll through them really quickly to find the newly saved JPEG versions. Send them as an email to the press, etc. That way even if there’s another photographer at your event your pics will get there faster and it’s your shots that appear in the paper. Unless, of course, they’ve just read this tip, too!

(If you try this with JPEGs, the phone reads the image and takes forever to scroll through the large JPEG files and the second half begins before you know it.)

I hope this helps you to nail those sports shots!

Take a look at more of Matthew's work here.


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