Sports Photography Auto Focus

Sports Photography For Parents – Auto Focus Mode

I see more and more DSLR’s at kids’ sporting events. It’s sports photography opportunities for proud parents. Some parents have even moved beyond their kit lens and purchased a zoom lens.  Cameras, like lenses, come in varied qualities. The quality of the equipment does have an consequence on the quality of the pictures you take.  You, the ‘picture taker’, can increase your chances of capturing that great shot of your kid catching the ball, making that block or scoring that shot.  Here is one suggestion.

Most parental sports photographers I meet up with shoot in one of the many program modes.  Knowing this, as smart as  your camera is, until you get off the program modes and on to manual or semi-manual modes, your pictures will never be GREAT.  That said, one thing you can do is change the AF (auto focus) mode on your camera.  If you have a Canon, set it to AI SERVO.  If you have a Nikon, set it to AF-C (the C is for continuous).  Refer to your manual to change the AF settings for your particular camera make and model.

What this does is when you depress your shutter button, half-way, the camera will continue to focus on the moving object.  You can also fully hold the shutter down and the camera will auto focus while shooting. When doing this, your camera will enter “release priority mode” and it will take pictures when the shutter is down regardless of if the image is in focus or not. This will increase your chances of getting an in-focus shot when your kid is running down the field.  Take into account some lenses focus quicker than others.

Taking in-focus photographs is dependent on more than just your AF Mode, and we will talk about those in future articles.

If you’re interested in private lessons give me a call.  You can also check out the Lessons page.

Oak Show Choir

Shooting In Low Light: Show Choir – Closing Night

The Oak Show Choir had their closing night performance for the 2015-2016 season.  I had to pleasure to photograph this last concert. The biggest challenge was shooting in low light conditions.  This was overcome with fast glass and high ISO.  I couldn’t sacrifice shutter speed due to the fact that the kids were dancing.  But, I couldn’t go too fast as my shots would have been far to dark.

Other challenges included: Irregularly lit stage (many hot and dead spots), not being able to move from my location, and stationary items that sometimes blocked the kids. That said, challenges are meant to be overcome.  Get the shot no matter what.

The low-light was overcome by, what I mentioned earlier, fast glass.  Fast glass refers to lenses with large apertures. The aperture is the opening of a lens.  I shot with a f 2.8 and a f 2.0.  I used the f 2.8 only for a short time.  It is a wide angle lens and I wanted shots of the entire ensemble. This did not work as I had hoped since the piano player, in the live band, was right smack in the middle of every shot.  So, I switched to my f 2.0 zoom lens and focused in on single or small group shots.

I also mentioned that I shot at a high ISO.  It wasn’t too high, 1600 ISO.  Most cameras today can easily handle this.  That being true, due to the low-light there was some graininess. Don’t be afraid of grain though.  Far too many think grain is a bad thing.  We are getting so used to High Definition TV’s that we want everything crystal clear.  The end results is that we think that any grain is bad.  It’s not.  So, don’t stress on it. In the days of film, we didn’t stress on it. What is more important, in this case, is capturing a point in time that is very important to these kids and their family. If it was a commercial shoot, that would have been a different story and we would make allowances to address it.

I ended the evening with around 300 really nice shots.  If you’re a parent or student, and you wish to purchase any shots, please contact me to view a private gallery.

Added Person - Joe Randeen

Adding a Head to a Group Photo

There are times when we (photographers) have to take group photos (staff or family) when someone is missing.  In this specific case, I had to add a head to a group photo. Since Photoshop has become an everyday verb, the client asks me to “Photoshop him/her in”. Depending on the situation, that can range from relatively easy to virtually impossible.  If you know in advance that someone is going to be missing from the photograph then you (photographer) have an opportunity to set the shot so that photoshopping will be somewhat easier.

Staff Photo Joe Randeen

Photo 1 – Group Shot

Photo 1 is the group photo I shot.  In the spirit of full disclosure, this is the second group photo I shot.  The first one was missing one of the shorter ladies in the front.  It is far easier to add a person standing in the back than in the front, for obvious reasons.  When we scheduled this second shoot, everyone was present but by the time we shot it, one of the people went missing.  Since we ran out of time, I shot the remaining people and had to shot the missing person at a later time.

Missing Person

Photo 2 – Missing Person

Photo 2 is a shot of the our missing gent.  Luckily he was the tallest of the group.  When I shot the group I left a spot where I knew I wanted to place him. I didn’t leave too much room as I was unsure of the lighting and other conditions that I may encounter.

Uncropped Group Shot Joe Randeen

Photo 3 – Uncropped

Finally, Photo 3 is the finished, uncropped photo. I got his head in the shot okay but notice he’s got no legs.  Thus, the final shot had to be cropped in such a way that no legs would be shown.

Having to “Photoshop” in someone that was missing into a photograph is never ideal but it can be done.  You need forethought as to where the missing person is going to stand or sit, in addition to making sure the background and lighting is a similar to the original shot as possible.  Plus, you need know something about masking in Photoshop.

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Bands of Santiago Sharks

Great Year With The Band

I am nearly finished spending a great year photographing BOSS (Bands of Santiago Sharks).  These young musicians led by Kris Parish and Joe Dudek comprise the award-winning bands that have marched in the Rose Parade and performed at Carnegie Hall, just to name two.

It started off just before school started, at “band camp”.  Three days of MARCHING under the hot sun.  Most of the kids didn’t know me, nor where they entirely comfortable having a camera pointed at them.  This quickly changed.  Over this past year they have learned to ignore me, in a good way.  It’s been a combination of me becoming somewhat invisible to them and they becoming more comfortable with the camera.

The first half of the season they MARCHED – football games, parades and competitions.  The second half, they performed in one of four bands and/or one of four jazz ensembles.  In being the photographer, documenting there growth visually, I had the added honor of hearing them grow as musicians.  This is especially exciting since my son is involved, playing multiple instruments in multiple bands. I spent a large portion of my life in the music business as a player, audio engineer and producer.

It’s been an amazing ride.  I got 7 more years to go with BOSS, can’t wait to see what is captured.

For more images go to 3penguins.shootproof.com/santiago

Joe Randeen
3 Penguins Photography
714.225.7674

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