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Archive 2012 · Experienced shooters: would love your input!
  
 
ChrisFWilson
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Experienced shooters: would love your input!


Hi folks,

So recently I've been asked to help a few folks get started in sports photography (talk about the blind leading the blind). Beyond the expected "read the articles/tutorials on FM," shoot as often as you can, and post your photos for critiques (along with the obvious free drinks while we discuss the finer points), I'm looking to create a specific feedback form. My goal with this post is to gather information for a hand out to give these guys (no gals yet) that will allow them to see their own work with a critical eye. I've presented my own cobbled together list of questions but would love to know what I'm missing and how you'd organize the list (if different from what I've got so far).

Image quality/post processing:

Is it tack sharp?
Is it well exposed?
Are the colors accurate?
Is the pixel density high enough (meaning was it shot tight enough - I've been finding that the best way to encourage these guys to shoot tight is show them the difference in pixel density between a highly cropped image and an image that doesn't need cropping)?
Does it pop? (how is the contrast? are there issues with backlighting?)

Composition:

Are your horizons straight?
Do you have a face/eyes, the ball, peak action?
Are you violating the rule of thirds and if so, is it intentional?
Do you have a clean background?
Do you have good enough subject/background isolation (depth of field)?
Does it tell a story or capture an emotion?
Is it cropped intentionally - if it's meant to be tight, is it tight enough or meant to be wide, is it wide enough - or is it a tweener?

What would you add? What am I missing? This is a starting point that I'm hoping you all will help me refine into a useful document that we could also share with new shooters on FM.




Oct 03, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Fish On
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Experienced shooters: would love your input!


Add:

Did you catch peak action or were you too late? If you saw the action thru the viewfinder, you're too late.



Oct 03, 2012 at 08:54 PM
ChrisFWilson
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Experienced shooters: would love your input!


Fish On wrote:
Add:

Did you catch peak action or were you too late? If you saw the action thru the viewfinder, you're too late.



I have peak action in a "bundle" with face/ball under the assumption that you need all three in just about every case of an "action" shot (as opposed to a portrait/emotion/moment).

I like the addition of the concept of timing in general - the notion of "if you saw it, you missed it" is great. Thank you!



Oct 03, 2012 at 08:59 PM
gazzaf1
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Experienced shooters: would love your input!


Follow through as well. I have some great shots after the play. The action doesn't stop when the play does. Follow through for the emotional shots.


Oct 03, 2012 at 09:07 PM
ChrisFWilson
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Experienced shooters: would love your input!


gazzaf1 wrote:
Follow through as well. I have some great shots after the play. The action doesn't stop when the play does. Follow through for the emotional shots.


How would you phrase this as a question when evaluating a photo? I think you've got a great piece advice, I'm just not sure how to apply it to the specific critique of a photo.

Thank you!



Oct 03, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Russ Isabella
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Experienced shooters: would love your input!


Chris,

Maybe a separate category on 'coverage' would allow you to include things like off-action photos.

I think your lists look good, but I also think you're trying to catch lightening in a jar, meaning you may unintentionally give the impression that checking all of these off of the list will result in a high-quality sports image, when I'm not sure that's the case. There is a somewhat undefinable (or at least not easily definable in the way you are defining things) quality to a stellar sports image, and I think that only lots of experience seeing great images and paying attention to feedback about what constitutes great images can get a person to a point where they understand this. This doesn't diminish what you've developed, and I have no doubt these lists will be useful. I would suggest that you also spend time showing lots of images that may meet many of the 'requirements' you've listed but still not quite shine. I also think that some consideration of the evolution of a sports shooter would be in order, since even very experienced sports shooters are likely to have to go through at least some of these stages with each new sport they shoot.



Oct 03, 2012 at 10:18 PM
 

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Eric Smith
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Experienced shooters: would love your input!


You're missing optimum spots to shoot from (depending on the sport, I'll use football here). I think one of the keys is to put yourself in a position where all of the things you listed will come together in the long run. For example, in football, I tend to shoot from the back of the end zone to the corners, and I will also shoot from behind the line of scrimmage, from up top at the film deck and on my stomach to mix things up. Shooting from the back/corners gets everything they need to make good, quality images QUICKLY. The faster they see the results, the more interested and hungrier they will get.


Oct 03, 2012 at 10:27 PM
ChrisFWilson
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Experienced shooters: would love your input!


Russ, I hear you about an unintentional impression - but I do think you can quantify the basics of every great image to a point. Those that defy the rules/basics and still work are far and few between (in my opinion). Meaning, if you don't have these basics you're likely done before you start. Think of it as a way to frame or structure the feedback.

Your exercise of finding images that have all the elements but still don't shine is fascinating. If I have the time, I'm going to start trying find images like this. Do you have any in mind? I would love to try to find the common element or quality that keeps an image that has all the elements from being "great." Blame it on the scientist in me! To some degree, I would argue that "greatness" is subjective but to the degree that I can objectify it, I'd like to.

All this being said, this is not meant to be a checklist but more of a way of helping folks think about how to make sense of their image. No face, no ball, no peak action? Well, then why does it work or is the lack of these components why it doesn't work? I'm attempting to help these two folks think intelligently about their own images and the images of others in a bit of a systematic way. I believe it's easier to get the nuances once you have the basics, if that makes sense.

And yes, much of the "teaching" is about looking at the work of great photographers and figuring out what they were doing that made them great. Timing? Location on the field? Composition? Intelligent lens selection? Thank you for sharing your thread on your own evolution! That will be a valuable tool as well - any chance you can go back through your archives and show photographs that illustrate each stage? Even if not, my guess is I can find my own photos to do the same...at least the first several stages!

As for off-action photos - they still need to be tack sharp, exposed correctly, usually have a face or eyes, have a straight horizon, ect. So I'm not sure an off-action photo requires different basic elements, does it? Can you think of questions that you'd put in the section on "coverage" that would pertain to critiquing the image (as opposed to the process of the shoot)?

Eric, if I take what you're suggesting and put it in the form of a question that one can use to critique an image, would you say it's "was I in the best spot to capture this particular image?" As a "mentor" I've gone over picking your spots on the field/court so that you maximize things like depth of field, exposure to faces (hard to get the face of the running back as he heads down field past you at the 20, right?), etc. What I'm trying to do is help the guys structure the way they think about the image after it's been taken. My sense is that your question may be more about the process - which I think Russ may be getting at? This could end up being a really valuable way to evaluate the shoot via the images.

Thanks guys! I've been told that the best way to firm up your own knowledge and skills is to try to teach someone else. I may not be the best mentor, but I'm loving the process!



Oct 03, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Russ Isabella
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Experienced shooters: would love your input!


Great response, Chris. Makes sense and I do think you are on the right track. My suggestion of an 'off-action' category was in response to the post about shots after the play, but that's more about the content of the photo than its quality, so I'm not sure it's relevant. I don't have any specific images in mind for the things I've mentioned, but as far as the stages are concerned, you can find them by looking at just a few posts on the sports corner at any given time.

I hope you'll eventually let us know how all of this works out for you in practice.



Oct 03, 2012 at 11:29 PM
ChrisFWilson
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Experienced shooters: would love your input!


Russ, I really value your input and agree that just by looking through FM on any given day you can find images that match the various stages. I've encouraged both guys to eventually post on here, in particular because it's so valuable to have multiple perspectives about any given image.

As for the "off-action" notion, I do think you and Eric are hinting at a category that relates to the process we go through as shooters that is best manifested in our images - for example, when I first got started I would often forget to bump up my ISO to allow for a high enough shutter speed as the light faded. So, the questions would be along the lines of your process: did you have the best lens for the shot and if a zoom, were you at the most effective focal length? were your settings optimal? were you positioned effectively? ect...

I'll definitely keep you "posted" - hopefully one of them will post some images at some point! One if in front of the other by a little ways, but they both could really benefit from the feedback they'd likely get here.



Oct 03, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Nikon Rob
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Experienced shooters: would love your input!


Going through your list and being inexperienced myself, I have to ask: does the rule of thirds necessarily apply in sports? I'm shooting a new sport (football), and have been instinctively trying to apply it and finding I have a lot fewer photos that work with it. I often have to decide between ignoring the rule or having part of another player/ref in the shot simply because there's not enough empty space around the subject(s) on most plays. I can get around this by cropping to non-standard aspect ratios, but then the images don't transfer into prints very well.

To me it works with sports that are more spread out, but with everyone so tight in football (and I'm sure several other sports), the "rule" is much harder to follow.



Oct 05, 2012 at 02:15 AM
gschlact
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Experienced shooters: would love your input!


I would throw these onto the pile...

1. Compsitional Perspective did you shoot from low enough or were you too high? Don't miniturize the players.
2. Angle of view - it needs to make sense, front view is usually better than side or backside of subject.
3. Avoid Awkwardness in facial expressions or weird skin motion distorting the body (girls are more sensitive)
4. Nothing embarrassing for the player.

Chris-I had the same thought.


Guy



Oct 07, 2012 at 04:25 AM





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