By the time your kids are old enough to play sports, there’s a good chance you’ve figured out the importance of planning as a parent. Remember when they were babies and you couldn’t run to the grocery store without planning for every possible need, problem and/or catastrophe? Whether you knew it or not, you were developing strategic planning skills that will serve you well as the parent of a young athlete and as a photographer. Let’s face it, just getting a kid dressed and ready for a game—along with a cooler full of snacks and drinks, sunscreen, bug spray, first aid kit, etc.—takes a ton of preparation. The good news is that if you add just a few items to your pre-game checklist, you can also be prepared to take some truly awesome photos too. And the best part is that they’re all fairly simple. C’mon, let me show you.
This is the most obvious one but it can also be one of the most overlooked. You’d be surprised how often even experienced photographers forget to fully charge their camera battery before leaving for a game. And I’m not bringing this up because something like that has happened to me. (You know, in case that’s what you were thinking.) I’m just saying...I’ve heard about it happening...to other people. Ahem...let’s just move on.
HOT TIP: If you’re shooting on a fairly regular basis, it's definitely worth keeping a fully charged spare battery in your bag along with a charger in case of an emergency. They’re usually not too expensive and can be a lifesaver, especially if you’re far away from home.
When you stop and think about it, memory cards are freaking awesome. Back in the day, they were slow, low capacity, unreliable and super expensive. Modern cards are just the opposite: super fast, rock solid reliable, crazy high storage capacities, dirt cheap and best of all, you can pick one up just about anywhere. That said, it’s still a good idea to keep them cleaned off (after you’ve downloaded all the images, of course). But, rather than simply erasing the images, do a complete reformat to ensure any ancillary junk files are removed as well. Your camera manual can show you how to access that function in your camera settings. If you have trouble finding it, a quick Google search will almost certainly yield useful results.
(For what it’s worth, I’m a big fan of theSanDisk EXTREME Pro line of cards because of their reliability and speed but there are plenty of other great brands to choose from as well.)
HOT TIP: Most camera manufacturers offer a downloadable PDF of their manuals on their websites. Keep a copy of the PDF on your home computer and even your phone. Having access to a searchable guide during a game can be invaluable.
Before I get into the specifics of how to go about cleaning your lens, if you have an SLR camera that uses interchangeable lenses, you should definitely invest in aUV lens filter. They fit right over the top of your lens, protecting your expensive equipment from scratches, dirt and all kinds of damage. The fact that they block out UV rays is an extra bonus.
Okay, let’s get into lens cleaning. First, the obvious stuff. Never, ever, ever wipe your camera lens off with your shirt, kleenex, towel or rag. Camera lenses can easily be scratched and even ruined unless cleaned properly. I highly recommend one of the many inexpensivelens cleaning kits available at many different online retailers. Almost all of them will come with an alcohol-based cleaning solution, cleaning papers, microfiber cloth, cleaning swabs and maybe a brush or blower. Start with a fine mist of cleaning solution followed by gently wiping in a circular motion with cleaning papers. This should remove most smudges and spots. A blower or brush should be used to remove any loose or fine dirt. Never rub dirt or grit against a lens surface as it could scratch the glass. Once all the smudges and dirt are removed, a microfiber cloth can be used to wipe off any stubborn spots. Just be sure not to buff with too much force. Long story, short...clean your lenses with care on a regular basis and they will last for many, many years. Check out the video below for some additional details.
HOT TIP: If you’re thinking about buying a used lens, don’t make the same mistakes I made.
For outdoor events, being aware of the weather forecast is crucial. Knowing the amount of cloud cover will help determine which camera settings to use but being aware of the weather related conditions can play a role in your pregame preparation as well. For example, if you’re shooting a kids soccer game and want to capture a dramatic low-angle action shot by kneeling, maybe you’ll want to pack a small pad of some kind to place on a wet field. Of course, it heavy rain is a possibility, you should plan to keep your water resistant camera bag close by to ensure your camera doesn’t sustain any water damage. If you absolutely want to keep shooting, you’ll want to invest in a camera rain sleeve. They’re usually around $20, a super cheap investment to ensure your expensive gear isn’t ruined.
CLOTHING & EXTRAS
When you think about what to wear to the game, weather is probably the single biggest factor you take into consideration. Makes sense, but if you’re planning to shoot pictures, you’ll also want to consider a few additional factors:
We’ve already mentioned a few of the most important extras above (extra battery, extra memory card and a lens cleaning kit) but depending on the sport, the weather and your photography goals for the day, there are a couple additional items you might want to consider bringing along as well:
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER…
If this all seems a little overwhelming, let me ease your mind. It’s really not that bad. Trust me, it won’t take much more than 10-15 minutes to run through every item on this list. If it helps, you can even do some of the prep work as part of your post game download and image review process. Regardless of how you choose the tackle the task, doing a quick run through of these items will save you a lot of headaches and put you in a better position to get the photographic results you want.