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A Look Back, Then Some Sport!!

Photography Tips by Ken Finegan

This week I want to start by looking through what we have covered over the last few weeks. These tips are the basis for a good understanding of photography fundamentals.

In the first week we discussed focus and YOU telling the camera where you wanted to focus and you selecting the subject of the photograph. The 3F’s (Focus, Frame and Fire) are an invaluable part of photography and one which I use on a daily basis. Being fussy and accurate about focus and composition improves your images immensely. It may be a little slow at first but speed comes with practice.

Another tip in week 1 was in portraiture. Focus on the face, as this is the first part of a portrait we usually look at. Always take at least 3-4 images for a portrait to make sure you have a good selection to choose from. Also remember do not take one picture and then look at the screen. This distracts the subject and they will come over and look at the image as well, meaning you lose contact with the subject and you have to set up the picture again.

In the second week we concentrated on composition and common mistakes that people make with portraits and landscapes. We discussed the ‘Rule of Thirds’ which assists us to make really good landscape images by NOT putting the horizon line right down the centre of the picture. Remember put the horizon line (where the sky meets the land) either in the upper third or lower third of the picture.

With portraits we also said that one of the most common mistakes is to place the subjects head in the centre of the image, wasting all of the lovely detail at the top of the frame. The other would be rushing and cutting the top of the subject’s head off!!! Remember, a slow thoughtful approach will give you better images.

In week 3 we looked at exposure and making the image the correct brightness level. This is done on the camera phone by touching the screen to get a ‘sun’ symbol. Then drag either up or down to brighten or darken the image. This can be really important if you are taking a picture or video of a band on a stage. This will allow you to expose for the area of the picture you want at the correct exposure.

In using the DSLR on automatic or semi-automatic modes you can use the EV button to do the same thing by either over or underexposing the image until you get the exposure you require.

We also discussed taking multiple shots when required by pressing and holding the shutter button.

In week 4 we discussed the first semi-automatic mode on your DSLR. This was Aperture Priority.

Aperture Priority allows you control the aperture and the camera sets the shutter speed. As I said then, this is a good mode to start getting off the fully automatic mode as you will get good pictures.

We also discussed what aperture does by introducing you to ‘Depth of Field’ which basically means how much of the image appears in focus. Remember if you use a small f stop number, like f3.5 only a small part of the image will appear in focus. This really makes the subject stand out from the background and a large f stop number such as f11-f16 is great for landscape photography making sure most of the image is in focus.

Last week we discussed the second semi-automatic mode, Shutter Speed priority which introduced us to showing movement/blur and stopping movement for sports images for example.

Sports photography would probably be the genre I like best. As most of you know the images in the Argus cover all sports from junior soccer, GAA, NEFL Soccer, to Rugby, golf and athletics.

Shutter speed priority is very suited to sports photography. Keeping in mind my ‘Rule of Thumb’ from last week ‘to stop movement use a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second or faster’, this will keep you right and ensure you get good pictures.

In sports photography though, it’s not only the technical you have to know. A good knowledge of the sport is essential and better still if you know the players and what they tend to do when they get the ball, how they pass, which way they turn etc. A general rule of sports photography is ‘if you see the ball in the picture by the time you press the shutter release button the ball will be gone’.

Timing and basically guessing when the ball will appear in an image, such as two midfielders jumping for a ball in the middle of the field is very important. You get them on the way up to their highest point to catch the ball. Quite a lot of people would say we would put the camera on multiple shots (continuous) and you’re guaranteed to get the ball.

Not necessarily so. I’ve seen a ball come into a picture and leave the picture in a matter of milliseconds. My general rule is that I shoot in bursts of 3-4, refocus and shoot again.

By refocusing you are ensuring sharp images. Shoot another burst of 3-4 and refocus again. With action pictures I again, especially in Gaelic Football, Hurling and Soccer like to get the actual challenge. When two or more players collide generates fabulous pictures with faces reacting to the challenges.

All sports pictures don’t necessarily need to be full flight action. Some ‘action’ can happen off the ball. I’m including some of my favourite images over the last few years.

For most sports you’ll need a ‘long’ lens. This generally means a focal length from 200mm upwards. I generally shoot my sport on a 400mm. This allows me to get closer to the action but also brings its own problems with very little or no depth of field, meaning you have to be accurate.

The lens I would suggest for beginners is a 70-300mm, that we mentioned last week. You should be able to buy it for around €300. To begin with, use it outdoors in relatively good weather/light to get used to it and the way it focuses.

In sports photography you will make lots of mistakes but when that one special image appears, it will be worth it. Remember all sports pictures don't have to have people moving!!!

So till next week, keep shooting, keep safe!

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