What If I Was a Sports Photographer?

“When is the next time you’re going to a basketball game?” 

My friend Harry Thomas turned with a raised eyebrow to my inquiry. We met two years ago through a mutual acquaintance and connected through our appreciation for film and TV. At the time – photography was barely a blip on my interest level. I was still intrigued by sticking my nose into video production and expanding my horizons as a field reporter. 

I still dig the nature of videography, however my passion as a shutterbug slowly took shape (ironically enough) after I attended my first basketball game at Mohegan Sun. Ever. Strange, I know, especially when you consider the fact I was a former native resident of New York, and yet, I never set one foot in Madison Square Garden for anything sports-related. So you can imagine how much of a treat it was after my industrial partner-in-arms extended an invitation to see the Connecticut Sun play. The experience ultimately gave me a small taste of what’s involved with properly taking exceptional photos. 

While having no formal training, my first effort was a respectable effort. At the time, I carried a Canon Rebel T4i which was bundled with a basic 18-55mm lens. Harry had scored a set of courtside seats – y’know, the ones that are generally reserved for patrons with big pockets, celebrities, or charisma. And it’s safe to say that Mr. Thomas meets all three categories. 

Don’t get caught up thinking that the results of your photos is due to poor gear, especially if you’re not fully knowledgeable of how the relationship between ISO, aperture, and shutter speed works.

Well, that was two years ago – I always wondered if my experience at Mohegan Sun was short-lived. My aptitude for photography matured and desire to establish a diverse portfolio. Weddings, concerts, photoshoots – I became well-rounded; but there was something missing. I didn’t have anything sports-related. 

“Next Friday. . .” This brought a huge smile to my face. I’d finally get to see how much my talents had evolved. The timing was impeccable as this was the first home game of the season for the Connecticut Sun. It was a nail-biter from beginning to end, but sadly, the Suns were unable to seal victory for their return to New England. Fans didn’t seem too disappointed, despite being a short of a three-pointer to take the game into overtime. 

I was still thoroughly excited for the obvious reason that I had captured a solid batch of candid moments of the entire game. Sports photography is honestly a challenging field to tackle if you’re not fully comfortable using your camera. I’ve found many aspiring photographers often attend events with lenses that aren’t suited for their subject matter. It’s easy to get caught up thinking that your limited by your photography gear, but the simple truth is: you must know the camera inside out. 

Don’t get caught up thinking that the results of your photos is due to poor gear, especially if you’re not fully knowledgeable of how the relationship between ISO, aperture, and shutter speed works. And most importantly—natural light, as there will be situations when you can’t rely on using a speedlight to aid the quality of your photos. 

Here’s a sample shots I took from this weekend. . .

My gear consisted of:

  • Canon 7D Mark II
  • Tamron 2.8 70-200mm 

(I also brought along my 85mm and 2.8 24-70 II lenses, but saw little reason to swap to my secondary camera.)

Most of the shots were either shot in Manual or Shutter Priority as sports photography requires you to use much higher shutter speeds and the latter gives you the freedom to just focus on setting the ideal ISO level while the camera calculates the shutter speed. . .very handy when players are sprinting up and down the court. 

I also maintained my shots on Burst Mode, which allows you to review various key frames and decide on the best shot from the set. This is by far, very effective as well when you’re looking to capture that “money shot” and take a gamble on using the default Single Shot mode that could have easily caught the subject with their eyes closed or an unflattering facial expression. Something that I’ve encountered all too often when shooting competitive events. 

If you’d like to see the full Connecticut Sun album from this weekend, click the link below: http://www.ptbpro.org/Sports/Connecticut-Sun/

I must say that my second effort was even more remarkable and was very proud to share my album with friends and family. As you may have guessed, I’ve already approached Harry about upcoming games throughout the season, such as the All-Star game that’s slated to go down in July. With any luck, I’ll have the opportunity to sit with him courtside again and share the new collection with you.