Look, I get it. Not everyone wants to spend a bunch of money on camera gear. Maybe you have more pressing financial responsibilities or maybe all your spare cash is reserved for other stuff. (Hey, I don’t judge) No worries, even if you don’t have a fancy schmancy camera, I’ll bet you have an iPhone (or a roughly equivalent Android phone) in your pocket with a pretty amazing camera built right in. Sure, there are limitations compared to a DSLR or even a good point-and-shoot camera but you can still capture some fantastic images at your kids sporting events and, lucky for you, we have a few tips that will help. You’re welcome.
When you see people taking pictures with their phones, have you noticed that many hold the phone vertically? It probably feels natural since that’s how people hold it when doing most other tasks too. But guess what, you can turn it horizontally too (it’s true, I wouldn’t lie to you). Depending on the sport, framing your photos horizontally will allow you to capture movement and action easier, especially when you’re panning (moving the camera to follow a moving player or object).
LET THERE BE LIGHT
Lots of light—especially natural light—is the main ingredient for any kind of photography, mobile or otherwise. And even though smartphones have amazing cameras in crazy small sizes, it’s ability to freeze action in low light settings is limited. Shooting outdoor sports during the day is easily doable—especially if you’re using the burst mode feature—but indoor sports can get a little tricky. In those instances, try looking for opportunities where the action has a slight pause such as when a basketball player catches a pass and sets him/herself for an outside shot. There’s often a half second of stillness where you can freeze the action even without a super fast shutter speed. Of course, knowing the sport you’re shooting is super helpful for predicting when those kinds of moments will happen so you can be ready to shoot at the perfect moment.
One of the biggest limitations with any mobile phone is zoom capability. There’s a reason why those telephoto zoom lenses you see professional sports photographers lugging around are bigger than your car (Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration but you get the point). I won’t bore you with the technical details but it has to do with light and focal lengths and such. Your phone doesn’t have that luxury so it uses software magic to magnify images digitally. The digital zoom is fine for shooting everyday photos but when you’re trying to shoot at a sporting event, it doesn’t feel very zoom-y. To compensate, you’ll likely have to resort to the all-natural zoom method. That’s right, you’ll have to pick your butt up out of your folding outdoor chair and move closer to the action. In other words, your legs have to provide the “zoom” your phone camera can’t. As always, be careful not to get too close. Officials absolutely frown on parents being on the field of play, even if the closeups are awesome.
REVIEW AND PURGE
Remember when smartphones first came out and we all maxed out our storage space with apps and photos almost immediately? Good times, right? Nowadays, most phones have tons of storage but that doesn’t mean you can’t run out. When shooting photos at your kids game, look for natural downtimes in the action like the break between innings in baseball, halftime of a football game or the end of a quarter in basketball. Use that time to review and purge what you’ve shot so far. Not only will this help you to save space on your phone but it will also give you the chance to see which kinds of shots worked well, which didn’t and what kinds of shots you’d still like to get before the game is over.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Smartphone cameras have come a long way. In fact, take a look at some of the amazing photos a professional sports photographer was able to capture using his iPhone. As with any kind of photography, it’s not about the camera. It’s about the person using it. With a little patience and practice, there’s no reason you can’t take great photos at your kids sporting events with your iPhone or Android mobile phone.