Summertime Sports Photography

I am always trying to expand my photography skills and shoot different topics, events, and subjects.

It isn’t often I have full permission from my  daughter to take my camera (Canon Rebel  XS) to her softball game. So when I got the chance I took it, and did I ever experiment with night action sports photography. Not easy, but I finally did get the hang of it.  I set my camera on manual and just played until I got it right.

Summer Softball- photography lesson

The above picture was taken with at 1600 ISO, 5.6 F stop, and a 1/160 shutter speed, 75 mm zoom with a continuous burst with the camera file size at small for a faster response.  With the exception of the graininess at the high ISO I’m pretty happy with the results.

Pitcher concentration

Pitcher concentration

Again graininess with 1600 ISO, but right now I can’t see anyway around it, 800 was too dark with the needed shutter speed. The second photo was on large/RAW file size and was a little dark in the original image. With the lens resting on the fence I shot through the chain link at 300mm focal length, 1/160th of a second at a 5.6f

I increased the exposure in Lightroom, cropped the original horizontal shot to vertical, decreased the white and decreased the shadows. Don’t like how the grain distorts the background player, but couldn’t figure out a way to compensate.

Day of Softball and Summer

400 ISO,  1/125 sec, f10 focal 105mm  Aperture Priority

The last photo was obviously taken earlier in the night before the sun went down. All I did here was decrease the exposure, increase shadows, and warm the white balance. My camera tends to shoot cool (blue) and a the sun was glowing on all the players. I try really hard for realism in my editing and this is what my eye saw.

My daughter has played softball since T-ball in preschool starting at Elmwood-Murdock, then Lincoln Y-league, Eagle, and the past three years for Louisville. The Louisville team joined the Omaha league a few years ago and the first year they didn’t win a game. Competition was a little harder than their previous league and the girls had to try a little harder. The record the next year was about a 50:50 record.

A lot of the girls play on two teams, most of the teams are Select and have the intimidating matching travel bags, and “muscle” jerseys.  Most play school ball, but it doesn’t matter what they look like, can they play? My daughter loves the game, she only plays during the summer and she has a mean steal and isn’t afraid to use it and slide to where she wants to go.

Photography Tips

  • Anticipate your shots, know when the pitcher is going to throw.
  • Push your ISO as high as you need to get a 1/200 speed exposure
  • Use a lower aperture, backgrounds will blur, but you will accent your subject.
  • Use a tripod, monopod, or rest your camera on a steady surface. Fence gaps work well
  • Get the “personality” shots, the concentration of the pitcher, or first base.
  • Shoot in RAW for “still” shot, JPG continuous for action
  • Use your longest zoom for outfield shots, even 2nd base is a long ways off

I’m a big proponent of shooting in RAW, but there are many instances that a regular JPG photo will work just fine, especially if you taking the photos for yourself and just going to post to Facebook and share with friends. If you’re goal is to enlarge the photos, post them for sale, or use them commercially, then a camera with a wider range of options is necessary.

4 thoughts on “Summertime Sports Photography

  1. Good shots and nice story. I think you are being a little hard on yourself re: grainyness. Goes with the conditions. You could possibly do better if you don’t have the fastest lens available, but that tends to be pretty expensive on the equipment side.

    1. Thanks for the comments, I was pretty happy with what I accomplished that night, last year I couldn’t have achieved half the results. I’m trying to push the limits on my camera and work with what I have.

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