Here are a few quick answers to some questions I get on a regular basis, or I see asked a lot online.

Why are my photos so grainy?

Images become grainy when shooting in low light and being forced to use a high ISO. Sports photographers are used to having grainy images because sports require higher shutter speeds. Personally, I will push my ISO as far as I need to get sharp images. I recommend you test your individual camera to find your high ISO comfort level and then adjust the other settings accordingly.

How do I get good photos in poorly lit arenas?

This is a constant struggle for sports photographers, especially those of us who cover a lot of non-professional sporting events. My quick answer is to use the widest aperture you can and a high ISO, while balancing a reasonable shutter speed.

Why aren’t my photos sharp?

There are a several reasons for this, assuming your focus point was correctly positioned over the subject. Here are a few possibilities and potential solutions.

  • Shutter speed isn’t high enough.
    • Raise your shutter speed to a minimum of 1/500, but higher if light allows.
  • Not using continuous focusing.
    • Cameras usually have two focus modes, single and continuous. Continuous will track a moving subject if the focus point is on them, and you are holding down the focus button.
  • The background is in focus, not the subject.
    • Sometimes AF systems will randomly lock onto elements in the background even when the focus point is over the subject. There isn’t anything you can do once the photo is taken, so try to be aware while shooting.
  • Optically your lens isn’t that good.
    • If you bought an older lens or an inexpensive super zoom, this might be the problem. Do research before purchasing lenses and make sure a specific lens isn’t known for being soft. I would also recommend you invest more of your budget in lenses over bodies.
  • Focus motor in camera/lens isn’t fast enough.
    • The camera or lens may not be able to turn the focus motors fast enough to track, or the lens may just be slow. To avoid this before it happens, do research before making a purchase.

Why are lights different colors in different photos?

This is caused from lights flickering faster than the naked eye can perceive. Often the two hues I see are green and magenta, as well as an exposure shift. To fix this problem, you can turn on flicker reduction in the camera.

Some cameras give you the option to switch between 50Hz and 60Hz or even dial in an exact shutter speed (this option is only available on select mirrorless cameras). If you are still having a problem, or your camera doesn’t have flicker reduction, you may have to use gradient color/exposure temperature filters when post-processing.

How do you get access to events?

I recommend you start covering what you already have access to, whether that means events at your college or your child’s little league game. As you build a portfolio, you’ll be able to contact the local high school’s Athletic Director and ask for a pass. If you’re a college student, especially when in a photography class/program, people will usually be happy to help you get experience by giving you a pass.

How early should I arrive?

Aim to arrive a minimum of 30 minutes before high school level events start. Arrival times at higher level competitions will vary depending on the event, but about an hour is usually sufficient for typical games.

Make sure you give yourself ample time to get a good parking space, find the media room, get set up, and scout the locations you want to/are allowed to shoot from. It’s also good habit to shoot some pregame warm-up photos.

What editing software do you use?

My two main programs are Photo Mechanic and Photoshop/Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). I use Photo Mechanic to import, cull, crop, and caption. From there I open the raw files into Photoshop, which automatically opens ACR, where I can tone and export them.

Is jpg enough?

Yes and no. For my personal workflow, I like having the flexibility of a raw file. But in well-lit arenas or outdoor events with relatively low contrast scenes, jpg files will be fine for most needs. If you are in a high contrast scene, some of the highlights/shadows may clip in the jpg file.

That being said, when shooting for a wire service, speed is very important. For this, I typically shoot raw + jpg, split between different cards. Due to the size difference between jpg and raw, I’ll only keep the raw files from my favorite photos or ones I feel need more post-processing.

Have a specific question? Feel free to fill out the Contact Form or DM me on Instagram and I’ll do my best to answer as quickly as possible!