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.

    Looking for a photographer?  Give me at call

    Moon Shot

    f8 - 1/160 - ISO 400

    f8 – 1/160 – ISO 400

    A couple of nights ago, while walking into my kitchen I saw this beautiful moon outside my back window.  It was dusk, slightly hazy and the moon hung just above this leafless tree.  I had to get the moon shot. What you don’t see in this shot are the rooftops of my neighbors homes, for which I’m glad.  I was able to frame the shot without including them.

    Not wanting anything to change, I didn’t have time to get my tripod and set it up, work out my exposure, etc.  I grabbed my camera out of my bag, which already had a 100mm lens on it,

    Square Crop

    Square Crop

    took some rough readings and shot about 15 frames with very slight variations.  The winner turned out to be the shot above, shot at f8 at 160, ISO 400.

    Color Version

    Color Version

    I converted the image to B/W so to add to the drama of the moon and a seemingly dead tree. I also did a couple of different crops to vary the feeling a bit.  My only regret, yes I have those as well, is that the moon was bit too close to the tree.  It would have been, IMO, a slightly stronger photo is the moon took up a bit more of the negative space to the left.  I could have easily moved the moon using Photoshop but I had two issues with that.  First, it wouldn’t be integrous. I know, I probably could have argued ‘artistic license’ but NO!  Secondly, upon looking at the image longer I began to appreciate the emptiness to the left.  It says something of the night.

    There is one other version that I did publish, and that was a square (1×1) version for Instagram.  I do like the square version but, it also reinforced that, again, I really like the negative space.

    Aperture – What is in focus?

    © Joe Randeen :: 3 Penguins Photography

    F 2.2 – 1/4000 – ISO 500 | © Joe Randeen :: 3 Penguins Photography

    When I teach photography, one of the common questions is that of aperture. It’s a part of a larger subject – exposure. Exposure is the relationship of aperture, shutter speed and ISO. We are not going to tackle that in this short post.

    The other day I was shooting an event. I saw these 3 sisters and asked them to gather together. If you notice, they are staggered from front to back. I opened up my aperture to f 2.2, which is relatively wide. As such the only thing that will be in focus is what I focused on and anything on that same plane.

    I focused in on the sister in the center, resulting that they other two sisters are out of focus. I did this on purpose, for effect. I had plenty of light (speed was 1/4000), so I could have closed my aperture down to 8 or more and had all three girls in focus.


    Depth of Field

    So, what this photograph illustrates is that the larger the aperture the smaller the focus depth.

    If you’re taking pictures of more than one person, you’ll have to either have both people on the same plane or reduce your aperture size.

    Hope this helps.

    For more information about private or small group photography instruction contact me via

    Why does your food look different in the advertising than what is in the store?

    Why does your food look different in the advertising than what is in the store? The reality is – if the ads looked like the food you purchased, you won’t buy it. The truth is, A LOT goes into food photography and giving our clients what they want and need.

    Okay, it’s from McDonald’s but I still think you’ll find it interesting.  Especially for those that seem to think that photographers just take pictures.  A tremendous amount of time goes into getting “the shot”.  Enjoy.


    Flashpoint White Shoot Through Umbrella – other uses

    Under an UmbrellaWhile writing a review for the Flashpoint 180 Monolight and the 71″ Glow Grand Softbox I wanted to test these two products in a bright environment, where I really need to kick a lot of light on my subject since I was using a white shoot through umbrella as my background.

    As you can see from the photo on the left, there’s been some post production work, but that’s neither here nor there. Nor is this about my review. (see initial review) What I wanted to touch on was using something other than a classic backdrop or something found in nature.  In this case I wanted to increase the light hitting the back of my subject but not have to deal with direct sunlight.  Seen that done too many times and frankly I’m bored.

    I remember seeing a high fashion shot about a year ago where the photographer used a huge white shoot through umbrella.  But, that was shot in a studio with very controlled conditions.  Beautiful shot though.  I wish I could remember where I saw it because I would love to share it with you.FlashPoint-Umbrella

    Back to my story, I purchased this 7 foot umbrella from Adorama about a year ago.  It’s HUGE and works great when you’re outdoors and need to soften that noon time sun.

    I had my subject drape it over her shoulder, standing with her back toward the sun so that the umbrella lit up.  Then I took the Flashpoint 180 Monolight and the 71″ Glow Grand Softbox and placed it right in front of her, about 10 0r 11 feet away.  Turned the monolight up to full power and got a beautiful shot, in my opinion at least.  I liked the umbrella ribs behind her and with quasi high-key effect I think it works.

    My point – experiment with different backgrounds to create something out of the ordinary for your portraits. Now go out and shoot.

    Joe Randeen : 3 Penguins Photography