With 30 years of professional experience under his belt, Patrick Murphy-Racey has spent countless hours watching games from behind his camera’s viewfinder. Specializing in sports photography, his job is to be ready to capture the adrenaline and electricity that comes and goes at a moment’s notice:
To create the best images possible, Murphy-Racey must stick to a few specific guidelines. For the burgeoning sports photographer, he offers the following tidbits of advice:
1. Turn off auto ISO
When making any sort of photograph, it’s important to be in total control of the camera’s exposure. What the camera may perceive as a “correct” exposure may not necessarily align with the elements within your image. Without paying attention to the ISO at play, you may run the risk of subjects blending into dark backgrounds or bright skies in order for the camera to capture other, less important details
2. Set your exposure manually
When shooting athletics, you’ll usually want to use the fastest shutter speed you can to freeze your subject’s movements. Above all, capturing motion is the most crucial element of an action shot. Don’t be afraid to open up your aperture and sacrifice depth of field in order to ensure that you are grabbing all of the action in a scene. Of course, slower shutter speeds can be used in certain cases to emphasize quick movements, but more often than not you’ll want the subject to be crisp, clear, and suspended in motion so as to show the crucial fleeting moments that may not be visible to the naked eye.
3. Don’t be afraid to get close
The farther you are from the action, the more trouble you’ll run into getting the shot you want.
Use lenses with longer focal lengths. This will create the appearance of being in the heat of the game, when in reality you’ll likely be relegated to the sidelines. Longer focal lengths also do an excellent job of obscuring background elements and bringing the viewer’s focus to the game.
4. Learn to recognize “the moment”
It’s easy to rapidly expose hundreds of frames over the course of a few seconds, but when training yourself to identify the peak photogenic moments of a game, it’s best to start out by taking one frame at a time. Soon, you’ll pick up on cues in your subject’s body language that will help you anticipate when to press the shutter.
When push comes to shove, mastering sports photography is a matter of cultivating a keen sense of observation and being quick with your camera. There’s no getting around the fact that developing these particular skills takes time, practice, and patience. However, following the simple technical and logistic rules Murphy-Racey abides to will ensure that when the your finger hits the shutter, your camera will be able to keep up.
“Look for true moments…If you’re trying to get good at it, precision is the key.”
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