When I first came up with the idea for “The Picture Coach” I wanted to find a way to get out in the real world to work with students. I liked the idea of hovering over their shoulders to offer suggestions or talk about how I might approach a shoot.
On Saturday night, I was able to try out my idea at a local football game. Yeah, I know some of you are already wondering if I have my sports mixed up. If it’s June and it’s football, then it must be Women Professional Football. Our local team, the DC Divas, had a playoff game, and I was able to give three students a press pass,We spent the whole game on the sidelines, John, Meagan and James to help them understand the finer points of shooting football I was wearing a wireless microphone and I had a video camera pointed at me all night for an upcoming DVD project – an instructional video. It turns out I look pretty good on camera.
A special thanks to Paul Hamlin and Rich Daniel for making that happen!
I’ve posted a few of their photos and will be offering a mild critique with the images.
Ask any magazine picture editor and one of the first things they will tell you is they love to be surprised (in a good way) when a shooter’s work comes in from an assignment. John really got my attention with his first picture. My gut reaction was I wish that it was my image, but I put my battered ego aside to really study the photo. He was shooting with the Canon 300mm 2.8 and he clearly knew how to make great use of that lens. By shooting wide open at f 2.8 and moving in really close, he made cool things happen with that lens. Most of the picture is out of focus—except one very important thing—her right eye. BOOM, he really nailed it.
Magazine photo editors I’ve worked with over the years always have commented when I’ve gone out of my way to give them options. Sometimes it was as simple as shooting the same photo both as a vertical and a horizontal. This won’t work with every situation, but when you can do it, you look like a pro. John gave me options in this action sequence he shot from early in the game. I keep looking at these two images and can’t decide which one I like better. That’s a good problem to give an editor.
In the first shot (with her head down), I love the way the defenders hand is right on her facemask (yes, the ref did throw the flag) and the way the ball is held away from her body. In the second frame, you can see her face, which really helps all sports pixs and there is that great interaction with the arms.
You immediately notice a quality both pictures share—they’re both very clean. When pro shooters use the term “clean” they’re talking about how the background looks, which helps the image jump off the page. In these photos, the background doesn’t have other players, or light poles, or stupid cars in a parking lot. Just blank out-of-focus football field and the action is really easy to see. Again, when shooting the 300mm lens wide open (F2.8) and you really fill up the frame, you can get these kinds of sports photos. Did the photographer ask them to run over where the background is nice and clean so it would make a better photo?—Of course not. But you can be aware of what a “clean background” is and use it when you have an opportunity.
To be a good sports photographer you need to have good timing and you must learn to anticipate the action. Generally, a picture of a quarterback getting ready to handoff the ball is not a keeper. But this image has the defender charging through the line and almost getting to the QB. It’s that big arm inches away from the ball that keeps this photo from the reject pile.