Sports Photography Class: Have a Clean Background

March 19, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Sports Photography Tip- Clean Background

Typically, this time of year I am shooting the NHL, college tournaments, high school teams, or youth sports leagues that are starting up. My clients range from large companies like USA Today Sports Images to the local parent who just wants some good pictures of their kids in action. 

Since we are all now supposed to be in groups smaller than 10, it looks like YOU will be the one taking the pictures. So, let me help you do this and teach some of my photography tricks of the trade I have learned over the past 25+ years as a photojournalist. 

In sports photography, the background is key. You can have a great action photo but a distracting background kills the picture. Sometimes you want to show atmosphere and a sense of feeling from the event. That's the scene setter. Other times, you just want to isolate the subject. That is an action portrait. One of the best ways to get good action portraits is to have a background free of distractions, a clean background. Now zoom in and go to a 200mm or even a 400mm.

This time, all I could find were neighborhood boys in a small group before social distancing took the next step. Since I just wanted my son in the picture, my challenge was to zoom in and shoot tight with as clean of background as possible. I had houses, toys, cars, bare trees, bright varying shades of green, and you name it. A tighter zoom eliminates a lot of the distractions.

Most sporting events, or in our backyard, there tends to be a lot of clutter that can destroy a good image. Typically it seems, those bright objects in the background that add no importance to the photo are some of the biggest culprits. Try to limit the highlights in the background. You will have to move around but look for what would make a good background and let the action come to you. If the action is not happening, move to another spot. 

Depth of field is also your friend when trying to get a clean action shot. I like to aim for f2.8-f5.6 with f4 being my go to more often than not. The lower the number will give you a blurrier background. Locate the aperture on your lens (f-stop ring) and use the smallest number. Now may be a great time to go to aperture mode or preferably manual mode on your camera if you know how.

If I were shooting youth baseball right now, I would be using a 300 at about f4 and sitting somewhere so my background would be clean.

So, grab your camera, go outside with your kids, and start taking better pictures of them as you all make the most of outdoor recess.

Camera Settings: 1/2500 sec; f4; ISO 3200, Manual



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