As a parent though, none of my major league experience has trumped the basic joy I get from photographing my own children playing sports. Along with my wife Joanne, who is also a professional photographer, our three children have been as well documented as any MVP!
I actually take a similar approach to photographing kids’ sports that I employ in my professional career. Here are a few tips that I use:
Fast is the norm in sports photography. You want a camera with high shutter speeds to stop the action and a quick motor–drive for continuous shooting. Using faster lenses if you can (i.e. lenses with wider maximum apertures, and lower f-numbers — like f/2.8) that let in a lot of light allows you to use faster shutter speeds to capture moving subjects. Don't be afraid of higher ISOs like 3200 or 6400 if they let you get that faster shutter speed, especially when you’re indoors, or outdoors in low light. A little noise in your digital file is better (and more fixable) than a blurry image! A telephoto zoom like the Canon EF-S 55-250mm, or an EF 70-300mm, is a nice starting point for outdoor sports in daylight. The Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS II USM lens is a go-to lens for a lot of sports.
Carry your gear in an easily accessible manner so that you can be ready to get the shot. Some people use a vest, others a belt system. I personally use a small pack or pouch around my waist, with a few essentials like an extra lens, batteries and memory cards. Stick with one solid camera and lens combination until you are ready to upgrade to multiple bodies for different lens options.
Sports are played in all types of weather so plan accordingly. It is usually a good idea to minimize equipment in inclement weather. Sometimes I pare it down to just one body with the lens that is best for that game. If possible, invest in a waterproof camera rain cover. You’ll be glad that you did if you get caught in a torrential downpour. A wet or cold photographer is an unhappy photographer, and one with water-logged gear is even unhappier! It’s hard to concentrate when your fingers or toes are freezing. Outfit yourself for a wet or cold weather event so that you can photograph without letting the elements affect your concentration.
One of the hardest elements to master as a sports photographer is to stay focused on the games as they unfold. When you are photographing your own child it becomes even more difficult. The tendency is to drop your camera and watch the game. It’s almost impossible to make a memorable photograph without having the camera up to your eye. Enjoy the game, but keep the camera up to capture the action.
Your work doesn’t end when you’ve finished the event. Put together a system for your post production and archiving so that your images are easily available for review, sharing and printing. Use an archiving system that puts your images in multiple places so that if a hard drive fails you have a copy of them in another storage device. Nothing is more frustrating than losing an image you have worked hard to capture to a computer hard drive failing. Be sage and back up in multiple places.
Check out our Canon Online Learning class, "Intro to Workflow: Storing, Editing and Sharing Your Photos" to learn more.
Photographing your children’s sports events can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. Nothing beats the thrill of knowing you have captured a special moment in their lives. Practice new techniques, try different lenses, experience your child’s highs and lows, but most of all have fun, knowing that you have preserved memories that will last forever.
I own a lot of Canon cameras and lenses but I mostly use a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II as my principal camera. Depending on the sport my lenses range from a 16-35mm f /2.8 to a 600mm f/4.0. I especially like the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS and the Canon 400mm f/2.8 lenses. Canon makes a range of great gear that translates well to sports photography, so having professional grade gear is definitely not mandatory to making your best sports photographs.
Canon Explorer of Light - Damian Strohmeyer
Damian Strohmeyer discusses his career and passion for photography in our series of videos introducing our Explorers of Light.
For more information on Damian, please visit his Explorer of Light bio page.