In Part 1 we discussed how to be in position to take great photos of baseball and softball. This time we will discuss what you need to know to get your camera to give you the best quality photos.
If you aren't sure that you know how to focus your camera, chances are you don't! You MUST if you are going capture the action at the ball game. Here is a tutorial I did to help explain how to be deliberate about achieving proper focus. There are many good tutorials out there, but the most important source of information for you is your own camera manual. Find. Read. Really! Once you know how to focus,
2. Decide how you want to play the fence.
If you keep working at it, you will get some beautiful shots! You will also have to delete quite a few, but it won't cost you a dime, and you will have PLENTY of opportunity to practice. (By the way, this works at the zoo, too, if you want a photo of an animal that is well beyond the fence or netting.)
3. Use your "burst" or "continuous shooting" mode.
I sure hope you didn't put your manual away yet. My favorite photos are pretty much always in a series, as the pitcher goes through her delivery, or when a play is unfolding. Recently my son was involved in a play as the pitcher when he and the third baseman were trying to catch a player stealing home. The catcher and several other players got involved until the runner was finally trapped and tagged out.
My camera is always in continuous mode, so I focused and just held the shutter down to keep firing until the play was over. At one point I had to zoom out to get all the action, and then set my focus and start shooting again.
Notice how zooming out brought the fence back into view. If you want to blur the fence out, you need to zoom all the way in. However in this case, I was able to capture all the action by zooming out, and it was a very worthwhile tradeoff.
Keep shooting until the play is over and the umpire calls time!
4. Don't forget the dugout and the fans!
When something good happens on the field, there is nothing better than having your camera ready to capture the celebration. Don't forget that the celebrating is happening in more places than on the field. Get the players, of course! But then, check the joy in the dugout. You can get both of those, and the parents will probably STILL be celebrating after that.
When I arrive at a ball game, I typically sit down with the other families and enjoy some good conversations. If the ball park and light are especially conducive to beautiful photos, I might go ahead and start shooting. I keep folders of the best photos I have taken of each player, and sometimes I'm aware that I still don't have any shots of a certain player batting or base running, for example. But if there is nothing special suggesting that this is a great opportunity, I will wait to take the camera out. Here's why: once you have gotten beyond T-ball, some games are games that you would prefer to forget. I will almost always wait until our team has two runners on base with less than two outs before I take the camera out. Then, if possible, I will position myself to photograph them running from third to home, or if not, then second to third. I think it adds to their sense that good things are about to happen.
If there is a game with bad weather, poor lighting conditions, a lot of mistakes or frustrating calls, I tend to leave the camera put away for another day. I also refrain from posting non-memorable moments. If I take some great shots of a batter who, in the end, doesn't get on base through the whole game, it doesn't matter how good the photos are, the memory is a frustrating one.
6. The details complete the story.
I don't photograph little details in every game, but each year I try to include some pictures of a bucket of balls, a cap and glove, the bats all lined up, and maybe some Gatorade and sunflower seeds. It's all part of the package that together celebrates a year of team. You know, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, but always, the joy of belonging. Your camera wants to help you capture the story of your season. Take it out of your bag and get started! You'll be so glad you did.