Archive | December, 2010

Sports photography

26 Dec

Sports shooting can be one of the most daunting types of photography, even to the advanced shooter. The slightest mistake can ruin a shot. Having said that, it’s also important to remember that with sports, you get a lot of chances to get a shot with great impact. There’s a built-in drama unlike any other subject I’ve come across.

You will have a head start in sports photography if you understand the sport and it’s rules. This will get you in better situation for capturing “the shot” of the event.

You will need various elements to succeed in sports photography such as Talent, Skill (learn your photography basics), Knowledge (understand your subject), Practice (shoot lots of images to understand the sport, movement and technique), Desire (sacrifices will be needed to achieve a different point of view), Work (commit to be the best) and Luck(luck is also a great factor since you need to be in the right place at the right time, it will shine from time to time)


One of the biggest barrier to sports photography is equipment and technique. It will be hard to achieve a great result without fast and long lenses. The AF system of your camera will also be very important for tracking subjects.

The basic lens for this type of photography is a 70-200mm f/2.8. This lens should be on your camera if you want to shoot fast moving subjects from about 30-60 feet. This will allow you to get “close” to the action for a greater and more personal photography. The aperture of this lens will let you freeze or show motion to your ability and control. Don’t be afraid to change your angle of view for a more dramatic scene. I will always suggest to get low and then go high if possible. Changing your cropping and vantage point will put variety in your photography.

Think about images that will express an idea or a moment in the competition.


With a fast lens (f/2.8) you can decide if you want to stop motion or show motion while shooting sports. A basic shot is stopping motion in sports to an important moment in the competition or the day of the athlete. You can also show speed and effort in slower shutter speed to create a different feel and drama to an event.

If you want to stop motion, you will need a shutter speed of about 1/250 minimum. To easily achieve this speed, put your camera in Tv or S mode. After that, put your camera at 1/250. If the aperture blinks or says LO, bring your ISO up for more light sensitivity. Image stabilization (IS) or Vibration reduction (VR) can be very helpful when showing motion and panning. They will also be recommended in a telephoto lens since your field of view is small. A minor movement of the lens means a big movement in the picture.

You will need to put your camera in a continuous focus or Ai servo. This will allow you to choose your AF point for proper composition and follow your subjects with ease in your viewfinder. This mode of focusing let’s the camera do the work for you. The focusing distances changes with the change of your subject.

TIP: Use the AF-On button when shooting sports for faster AF and better continuous AF. This way your AF will not have to restart when you have taken some shots.


For great hockey photography, you will need a large aperture lens. You will also need to get closer to the ice. You will need to overexposed the images by at least 2 thirds to a full stop of light to get an ice that will be white and not grey! If you are shooting in Shutter speed priority, then you will need to compensate your images to properly exposed your subjects. To get a more personal photography, you will need to shoot at the bottom of the windows (just over the boards). Hold your lens hood up against the window to eliminate the reflections from your images. Watch the play not to get hit by your camera in the eye and to get a black eye!


The angle at which you capture your subject is very important in sport photography. You need to get really low or high. You should try to photograph the event in a way that the human eye is not seeing it live in person. Like you will see in the Kayaking picture…I went into the water to get as low as possible angle for a different point of view. This added lots of drama to the images since the water seems higher then the rider.

The same idea is behind this shot also. We can almost see under the car * Caution this is dangerous if the car fails to achieve the corner, I am getting hit by the race car*

This images was captured to show the concentration and the intensity that a race car driver needs to achieve and maintain.


Master your photography and your equipment. A the paste that sports move, you need to understand your photography gear perfectly and know how to make it perform. Use your vision when at a sporting event. Don’t just look at the event but try to live it and see what really happens during an event! Be prepared at all time for anything. Sports are interesting because the story behind the event changes constantly. You need to get into the proper position to shoot the images. With any sports, you need to capture moments while following the ball and also without the ball! When following an action perfect timing is everything. That is why you should understand the sport that you are photographing. Always pay attention to your surroundings during a sporting event. Fans can create an amazing image, a car crash can happen at anytime, the last buzzer shot can go in! You will need to take chances with your photography to show motion and freeze motion to represent properly a sporting event.

TIP: Photograph the star since they will be talk about the most in the next days newspaper.


What gives you difficulty with sports photography?


Natural light

22 Dec

Life offers us some of the most beautiful lighting and it is literally up to us to step up to the challenge of unpredictability, to seek it and to use it properly. As a natural light photographer, I do make use of reflectors and diffusers to play with the available light and tweak it to my liking.

TIP: The reflector needs to be proportional to your subject to create an appealing effect.

When shooting outside in full daylight, many people feel tempted to either use flash or place their subjects in open shade. Yes, it is true, open shade makes for easy light, but the more interesting light, the shadows, the sparkle, lies in the sun! Push your comfort level by stepping out of the shade, and shoot tons! Photograph in full daylight, at all hours of the day. Shooting mid-day will be the most challenging, but be creative! Look for interesting shadows and shapes, and play with them. Stop and analyze a scene before shooting and look for interesting vantage points that enable the light to play its amazing tricks.

When photographing people in daylight, my recommendation is to begin by shooting with the sunlight in back of your subjects. Most people will squint in full sun and/or blink frequently. By back lighting your subjects, you will allow them to be more comfortable and in return they most certainly will be more cooperative!

What happens with blown-out skies? The answer to that is “nothing”! There really is nothing wrong with exposing for the subject and letting the rest go where it goes. Perfectly lit images have their place, but I find it can be restrictive and really unnecessary when photographing people. The most important fact about portrait photography is the emotion and the moment that you capture.

With the use of reflectors, you can minimize the contrast and reclaim some detail in the background. A silver reflector will add a nice clean sharpness to the image (I really love a silver reflector when shooting professional head-shots), but remember that it is a strong reflector and you do not want to blind your subject! I use a simple white reflector most of the time to slightly open up the shadows but keep the charm of back lighting. It goes without saying that to make the most out of the use of reflectors you will need extra hands – this is when a helper comes in very handy!

When shooting inside use window light! Window light is soft and it will be charming on your subjects. A reflector on the opposite side of the window will work wonders to open up the shadows.

An important aspect of portrait photography is the psychology of your subject and yourself. You need to be confident, you need to show positive energy during a shooting. This energy will bring the best out of your subject. You need to take a good 15-20 minutes at the beginning of a shooting to have a real discussion with your client. Take the time to learn what makes them happy, what makes time smile and get in their comfort zone. Talk to your subject all the time. Don’t stay behind your camera too much or you will lose your subjects attention.

TIP: take your time, think about what you are shooting and what you want to achieve. I find too many photographers shoot to quickly! Take the time to properly expose your shot so that then you can talk and create reactions of your subject.

Shoot in Aperture or manual mode to properly control your DOF. Try to shoot some basic and starting images with a focal length of 50mm.  Take your time and talk with your subject. This will get them at ease and more confident. Then you can include the environment in the images and make variations of images. Don’t be afraid to play with framing and focal lengths to create more dramatic images and powerful images.

As with everything, practice is a must!

White Balance

22 Dec

What is white balance?

You might have noticed when examining shots after taking them that at times images can come out with an orange, blue, yellow etc look to them – despite the fact that to the naked eye the scene looked quite normal. The reason for this is that images different sources of light have a different ‘color’ (or temperature) to them. Fluorescent lighting adds a bluish cast to photos whereas tungsten (incandescent/bulbs) lights add a yellowish tinge to photos.

White balance is the tool that allows you to capture the real colour of the scene in front of your eyes and camera. As seen during a rainbow, light can take multiple variations of colour. This is important to achieve vibrant and accurate colours.

Here are some of the basic White Balance settings you’ll find on cameras:

  • Auto – this is where the camera makes a best guess on a shot by shot basis. You’ll find it works in many situations but it’s worth venturing out of it for trickier lighting.
  • Tungsten – this mode is usually symbolized with a little bulb and is for shooting indoors, especially under tungsten (incandescent) lighting (such as bulb lighting). It generally cools down the colors in photos.
  • Fluorescent – this compensates for the ‘cool’ light of fluorescent light and will warm up your shots.
  • Daylight/Sunny – not all cameras have this setting because it sets things as fairly ‘normal’ white balance settings.
  • Cloudy – this setting generally warms things up a touch more than ‘daylight’ mode.
  • Flash – the flash of a camera can be quite a cool light so in Flash WB mode you’ll find it warms up your shots a touch.
  • Shade – the light in shade is generally cooler (bluer) than shooting in direct sunlight so this mode will warm things up a little.

The automatic white balance works well under most situation in a modern DSLR.


Use auto white balance for every situation except for tungsten light (orange lights from home). While in a tungsten environment, you want to put your white balance mode in tungsten since you will achieve better white balance which will not give you the tendency to underexpose your images.


Put on an CTO gel in front of your flash when using it in a tungsten environment to create a more realistic look. Put your camera in tungsten white balance to achieve proper white

Custom white balance

You can always use tools to achieve proper white balance with your camera. The best tool that I found for such a job is a grey card. The 18% card is the neutral colour and exposure control to be used to achieve the best custom white balance settings. I use the Color Checker by xrite to achieve the best WB, exposure and colour profiling for commercial work.

TIP: Proper exposure will be crucial to achieve the proper custom white balance.

My color checker gave me control over my colors to produce a product shot with the precise and vibrant color without any cast.



21 Dec

The most important factor in your image quality are your lenses. You might spend 3000$ on your camera but you will spend double or triple that on your lenses. The lens is the only object between your scene and the image sensor. It’s the vital part of the equation. It will render contrast, colour, Chromatic aberration, distortion, AF speed, sharpness, DOF and the amount of light that will reflect on your sensor.

TIP: Buy once not twice this way it’s less expensive.

You have two types of lenses. They can be zooms or fixed. A zoom will allow you to change your framing without moving your camera. This is great for photojournalism work, sports and other photography area. Fixed focal length are often preferred for the big aperture, their speed and their sharpness. In those two types of lenses you will find wide angles, standards, telephotos, super telephotos and specialty lenses.

Nikkor lenses simulator

Wide angle lens

A wide angle will give you a great field of view. It will mostly be used for landscape, architectural photography and environment portraiture. A wide angle will create dramatic images. When properly used, the distortion from theses lenses can be well controlled. You need to remember to hold them parallel to the ground. From 14mm until 35mm, the lens will be considered wide angle. The speed of your lens (aperture) will still be important. The next shot was taken with a 14mm f2.8 wide angle. I am so close to the subject that the golf club came by at about 6 inches from the camera.

This next shot was  taken with a 14mm f2.8 lens.

The following image was taken with a 35mm and illuminated with 2 iPhone 4’s.

Standard lens

A standard lens will be from 40-70mm in focal length. It will also be close to what a human eye can see. These are very popular in the fixe focal format especially in the 50mm length. ALmost every pro has a big aperture 50mm in his bag. There are inexpensive to purchase and they do wonders for low light.

Telephoto lens

A telephoto lens will allow you to capture people in their natural way of life. You will be farther away so they will forget that you are there. This is the mostly used modern photojournalistic style focal length. (the older PJ style was with a 35 or 50mm fixed focal length) The disadvantage of these lenses are their size, weight and cost. The 70-200 f2.8 is the most common focal length in the telephoto. It comes in at around 3-4 pounds and will be pretty big to the untrained eye. (beware of comments from uncle BOB) The compression of the foreground and background will be very important. Everything will seem closer to your subject.

the next image will show you how far we are from the buildings in the previous shot.

Super telephoto lens

These lenses will primary be used for sport and wildlife photography. The size and weight of these beast’s will make you bring a tripod or monopod for added support. The focal lengths in this category are from 300mm all the way until 800mm. The following images have been captured with a 500mm f4 lens.

Specialty lens

In the specialty department we will find macro lenses, tilt shift lenses and fisheye lenses. A macro lens gives you the possibility to photograph the small world such as flowers, insects, details in texture and more. The basic macro to shoot insects that will be recommended will be a 100mm focal length. This focal will allow you to be far enough (about 30cm) to capture your subjects in their real world without disturbing them.

Tilt shift lenses are a great commodity for architectural photography and for product photography. They will allow you to control distortion and have a large DOF even wide open. They have the ability to create out of the norm bokeh and subject isolation.

Fisheye lenses give you a broader field of view. They are the widest focal length lenses to be found. They will be used in extreme sports photography and other areas of expertise. They come with a load of distortion which can be fun but also annoying at times.

Ressources for information on lenses:


My bag and why?

My bag is composed of 2 camera body and prime lenses. I decided to go with prime lenses when I knew I was not going back to work in a newspaper. I also decided to go this route for light capabilities. As mention before, the aperture of the lens is an important factor in photography. I love 1.2 or 1.4 lenses. Personally, I find f2.8 to be a tad slow in speed for the type of photography that I do. I am an Wedding and Event photographer. I have to work in very harsh condition with next to no light most of the time. I am often at an aperture of 1.4 with 1/60s at ISO 5000 for example. Using 2.8 is then out of the question since my shutter speed would be way to low to capture images in a photojournalism style.

My wide lens is a Canon 24mm f1.4L. This lens is great at f2 and shines at f4 and up. I use this lens for environmental portraiture, group shots (watch the arms on the side of the frame), landscape photography and to give a different perspective on a otherwise boring subject.

My standard lens is a Canon 50mm f1.4. I decided to go this route for it’s size, weight, price and quality. DSpeaking of quality, I needed 6 different 50mm f1.4 before I got an amazing version. This copy rivals the 50mm f1.2L from Canon. I use this lens regularly for environmental portrait and shallow depth of field with a classic look. My good copy is usable at f1.4, amazing at f2 and perfect at f4.

For more compression I use the Canon 85mm f1.2LII. This lens gives my great sharpness at f1.2 and flattering look for portraiture. The compression of the 85mm with an huge aperture gives this lens a look of it’s one.

I also carry the sharpest lens in Canon lineup. The 135mm f2L gives you a telephoto compression with a big aperture for speed. This lens is fast in AF and amazing even wide open. This is the slowest lens in my bag. This is the second time that I own this lens. I sold it when my bag was the fast zoom type for newspaper work.

Shutter speed

20 Dec

What is shutter speed?

it’s the time that the 2 shutters are open to show the scene to your sensor. It’s the common term use to define the exposure in photography.This is an important factor to understand to achieve sharp images. The shutter speed will allow you to stop or show motion in a photography. There are some rules about shutter speed to be understood.

Rule #1

The shutter speed should always be greater than the focal length. This means, if you shoot with a lens at 200mm then your shutter speed should never be under 1/200th of a second. If you are shooting with an 85mm focal length then you speed should never be under 1/80th of a second. This basic rules allows you to freeze your motion when taking a picture. This is where Image stabilization has an effect. You can achieve images in lower shutter speed of STATIC subjects. This technology will not allowed to achieve a sharp picture of a soccer player at 1/60th of a second but it will allow you to achieve a crisp images at 1/60th of a second of a building.

Rule #2

– For lifestyle portrait photography, you do not want to go under a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second or above.

– For sports photography, if you want to freeze motion you will want to shoot images at 1/500th and above To show motion with a pan you will what to shoot at a maximum of 1/125th of second.

– For architectural photography, you want to select your lowest usable ISO and use a tripod for a longer exposition.

When considering what shutter speed to use in an image you should always ask yourself whether anything in your scene is moving and how you’d like to capture that movement. If there is movement in your scene you have the choice of either freezing the movement (so it looks still) or letting the moving object intentionally blur (giving it a sense of movement). To freeze movement in an image (like in the surfing shot above) you’ll want to choose a faster shutter speed and to let the movement blur you’ll want to choose a slower shutter speed. The actual speeds you should choose will vary depending upon the speed of the subject in your shot and how much you want it to be blurred.

Motion is not always bad – There are times when motion is good. For example when you’re taking a photo of a waterfall and want to show how fast the water is flowing, or when you’re taking a shot of a racing car and want to give it a feeling of speed, or when you’re taking a shot of a star scape and want to show how the stars move over a longer period of time etc. In all of these instances choosing a longer shutter speed will be the way to go.


Panning is a technique that can produce amazing results (if you perfect it…. or get lucky) but is also one that can take a lot of practice to get right.

The basic idea behind panning as a technique is that you pan your camera along in time with the moving subject and end up getting a relatively sharp subject but a blurred background.

This gives the shot a feeling of movement and speed. It’s particularly useful in capturing any fast moving subject whether it be a racing car, running pet, cyclist etc.

I’ve found that panning seems to work best with moving subjects that are on a relatively straight trajectory which allows you to predict where they’ll be moving to. Objects that are moving side to side are challenging and can result in messy looking shots as the motion blur can be quite erratic.

The panning technique will require to learn your AF system. You will need to put your AF system in Ai Servo or AF-C for the lens to adjust focus while following your subject. The composition of the images will be important. We need to see where the subject is going. Your subject needs to be at one side of the image and going into the other side of the image which should be empty of subjects. I suggest to you go practice with cars in your area before shooting race cars or moving subjects. Practice does make perfect!

How do you Pan?

  • Select a slightly slower shutter speed than you normally would. Start with 1/30 second and then play around with slower ones. Depending upon the light and the speed of your subject you could end up using anything between 1/60 and 1/8 – although at the slower end you’ll probably end up with camera shake on top of your motion blur.
  • Position yourself in a place where your view of the subject will not be obstructed by anyone or anything else. Also consider the background of your shot. While it will be blurred if there are distracting shapes or colors it could prove to be distracting. Single coloured or plain backgrounds tend to work best.
  • As the subject approaches track it smoothly with your camera. For extra support of your camera if you’re using a longer lens or are feeling a little jittery you might like to use a monopod or tripod with a swivelling head.
  • For best results you’ll probably find that setting yourself up so that you’re parallel to the path of your object (this will help with focussing).
  • If you have a camera with automatic focus tracking you can let the camera do the focussing for you by half pressing the shutter button (depending upon it’s speed and whether it can keep up with the subject)
  • If your camera doesn’t have fast enough auto focussing you’ll need to pre-focus your camera upon the spot that you’ll end up releasing the shutter.
  • Once you’ve released the shutter (do it as gently as possible to reduce camera shake) continue to pan with the subject, even after you’ve heard the shot is complete. This smooth follow through will ensure the motion blur is smooth from start to finish in your shot.


Stopping motion


19 Dec

What is aperture?

The aperture of a lens represent its iris. This is measure in F stop’s. I love to compare a photography lens with the human eye. When dark, the human eye can open it’s iris up to receive a much greater amount of light. You can do the same thing with a lens. The maximum aperture of your lens is written on the barrel or front of your lens. Using a lens at maximum aperture requires skill to properly achieve focus. You will also noticed that the quality in definition and sharpness will increase to achieve it’s best at around f5.6-f8 depending on the lens.

Tip: test your lenses and write the f-stop you find most usable on a sticker inside your lens cap.



There is 16X times more light available at f1.4 then at f5.6

The Aperture also gives you a creative control called Depth of Field (DOF). The depth of field is the area in which your subject is defined in your image. Meaning the point A to B where the image will be sharp. You want to pay attention to this effect since you can control your audiences eye through your image with the DOF.

For portrait a shallow depth of field (small f stop) is usually used to isolate your subject from is surroundings and the distractions around him. In landscape photography a more extended DOF is often use to show the whole surroundings.




The aperture of a lens is an important factor towards Autofocus performance. The more light a lens captures,  the more light the Autofocus system will see. A bigger aperture will also allow you to see more light in your viewfinder since a digital camera also shows you the scene at maximum aperture, hence the DOF preview button on most DSLR. This is also why sports shooters will use f2.8 lenses to capture sports images. The bigger aperture will help them achieve a higher shutter speed, a more pronounced subject isolation, see more light in there viewfinder, achieve faster AF performance to chase their subjects.

Shallow DOF

Deeper DOF

I hope you liked the information, if you have question please write them as comments.


19 Dec

What is ISO?

ISO is an international standard of sensitivity to light. Your camera’s sensor “sees” more light as the number goes higher. You will see more light at ISO 3200 then at ISO 100. The dark side is the fact that you will get more digital noise in your images at higher ISO. I don’t pay much attention to digital noise since I want my image. The audience will see the emotion or moment rather than the digital noise. You also have to be careful since higher ISO will cause a softer (not as precise and defined) looking images.

Why would you use a higher ISO?

You need a higher ISO to “see” more light inside and during sporting events to freeze subjects movements. Higher ISO in possible because the electrical current that passes through your sensor is higher and make the sensor more sensitive to light. You need to keep your shutter speed at a minimum of 1/125th of a second to proper achieve portraits. For landscape and architectural photography, I would strongly suggest to use a tripodand use longer exposition.

ISO 160

ISO 2500

How can you hide digital noise?

You can either use software to reduce digital noise if it’s unacceptable. Adobe LightRoom 3 is a great software for file editing and noise reduction.


To hide digital noise, insure that you use proper white balance and that you over expose your images by at least 1/3 of a stop. Improper white balance can cause you to underexpose your images by a full stop. Overexposing the images by a small amount gives you the latitude to bring the exposition down while editing your images hence hiding the digital noise.

Both the following images have been taken at ISO 2500.

Overexposed and corrected via LR3

underexposed and corrected via LR3

You need to learn about your best ISO to use the performance of your sensor to it’s limit. In a Canon DLSR you want to use 160, 320, 640, 1250, 2500, 5000, 10000, etc. For a Nikon DSLR, you want to use 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800, etc.

I hope you enjoyed this little learning post. If you have questions, please feel free to write them in comments.