Friday, April 25, 2008

Blown Highlights

Since we've all moved outdoors I've been noticing a problem with blown highlights. White uniforms in bright sun can pose a problem, especially if you're shooting in aperature priority mode and using +ev comp to compensate for the shadows. A very useful exposure tool is the blinking highlights feature. Always have this feature enabled in your lcd. That way if huge chunks of your image are blinking, you'll know that you need to adjust your exposure. When you blow the highlights, or overexpose, there is no information recorded in that area of the image, so trying to fix it in photoshop is not an option. I found a few interesting sites that talk about blinking highlights and metering:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

From the Internet

There is so much information out there about digital photography, numerous websites and blogs that talk about photography and post processing. One of my favorites is, a search on their message board will answer just about any question you have about cameras, techniques, photoshop, etc. Another great resource is The Strobist, if you want to learn to use lights, just read David Hobby's blog. For photoshop there's also known as NAPP, National Association of Photoshop Professionals, you have to be a member to access the whole site, I am and have been for several years, but there's also info non-members can access, like PhotoshopTV. Of course there's Fred Miranda's site, and Rob Galbraith's site,, both are good resources for gear reviews.
Another great resource on the internet is being able to see other photographers work, looking at good photography can help you make better photos. See what the pro's are shooting, different angles, etc. Your photos shouldn't be the only sports photography you know, find a couple of photographers you admire and look at their work regularly. Getty images is a good resource, SI's website is another and Photoshelter has a plethora of great photographs to browse through. Most major newspapers have an online site that contains galleries from their photographers, a lot of those photographers are now writing blogs too.
If you know of a good photo website or blog, send me a link.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tilted Horizons

Okay folks, I have been seeing way too many skewed, slanted and tilted images. The excuse I commonly hear when I point these out to photographers is "the monopod did it". Okay that happens, here is one way to fix that, keep your tripod collar loose and that way you can keep your camera level when you have to slant the monopod to catch the action. If you still have problems taking a level photo, fix it in photoshop! You can tilt your crop to fix the slant. Keep the tilted images in the wedding galleries and senior portraits please!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

AdobeRGB vs sRGB

As you all know, or should know, one of the digital image requirements for a gallery on MaxPreps is that all images must be in the sRGB color space. There's a very good reason for this, two actually, the first is that sRGB looks best on the web. AdobeRGB looks washed out and flat when viewed on the internet, colors look wrong.
The second reason is that all online printers (we use EZprints) use the sRGB profile for their printers, so if you want your images to print well then they must be in sRGB. I shoot all my MP stuff with my camera set in the sRGB colorspace, it's just easier than converting later. If I'm shooting commercial stuff or something that will go to graphics then I'll shoot in RAW and convert to whatever color profile the client wishes. But for images that will only go to web and online printing, why bother with RAW? sRGB works just fine and no client that has licensed my photos from MaxPreps has ever asked for anything else. Back in the days of film, sRGB would have been called slide film. :)
Take a look at these articles for a better understanding of the two color profiles:

Monday, April 7, 2008

Calibrate your monitor

It's not hard to do, you can calibrate just about any monitor, some laptop's can be difficult though. You can buy a calibration tool that comes bundled with calibration software or at the very least you can use photoshop's Adobe Gamma or freeware on the web to try and get close to calibrated. The most common reason for a gallery to be deleted is that it's too dark, most of the time it's because the photographer is toning their images on a monitor that's way too bright.
I use GretagMcBeth's ( Xrite ) Eye one Match 3 software with the Eye-One Display 2 colorimeter (Xrite link), but there are several units available that work just as well. Here's a review by an online printer of several different calibration tools:
And here's a tool recommended by a couple of MaxPreps shooters here in WA, the Pantone Huey
a good inexpensive alternative.
Compared to the cost of most digital photo equipment, calibration tools are pretty inexpensive. If you're going to spend thousands on the latest bodies and the fastest glass, then why process your images on an uncalibrated monitor? You want your work to look it's best, that's not going to happen if you don't control every aspect of the creation of that image. If you don't have a calibrated monitor then you're simply guessing when you process your images.
I calibrate once a week, but for most shooters once a month is sufficient.
Here's another article on the web that talks about monitors and calibration and also compares some of the calibration tools available.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Sports Photojournalism vs. Youth Sports photography

Photojournalism is a particular form of journalism (the collecting, editing, and presenting of news material for publication or broadcast) that creates images in order to tell a news story.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Telling a story with photographs, that’s what we want to do with our galleries on MaxPreps. We’d like to get away from the “youth sports photo company” mentality and have galleries that are compelling, that tell the story of that particular game. Shoot the kids cheering in the dugout, umpires calling a play, coaches interacting with players. Shoot through a play, sometimes the reaction after the action is just as compelling as the play itself.

There’s nothing more boring than a gallery of nothing but batting shots and pitchers. Believe me I’ve seen my share; it’s the “I’ve got to get a shot of every kid” syndrome of shooting. Just staying in one spot and shooting every kid as they stand in the batters box like those guys at amusement parks that take tourist’s photos as they come through the gate. Doesn’t sound like much fun to me. Be creative, think outside the box, have fun shooting. Tell a story.

Dial M for better exposures…..

Today’s digital cameras have a lot of bells and whistles, a lot more features than I’m used to in a camera. But with all those micro chips and processing doodads, nothing compares to a photographers eye when it comes to seeing light. In fact the best compliment you can give a photographer is to say they see light well.

A camera is a tool, that’s all, it doesn’t think and photographers shouldn’t rely on those tools to pick their exposures for them. If you want the best image out of your thousands of dollars worth of digital gear you need to learn how to use your in camera light meter. You need to be able to see the light and adjust both the shutter speed and the f-stop manually to get the exposure you want, not the exposure the camera “thinks” you should have. Too many shooters are relying on aperture priority (AV) or shutter priority (TV) mode to make their exposures. In situations where the subject is backlit, relying on the camera to know what you want to accomplish will inevitably result in an image that is flat and badly exposed. I can almost tell without looking at the image’s exif data which gallery was shot in manual mode and who’s shooting in an auto mode, there is that much of a difference in image quality. If you don’t believe me start looking at some really good pro sports shots (or any good photography for that matter), just look at the light, not the action or the emotion, but how that photographer used light to help make the image. If you have often wondered how some photographers get great shots even when the subject is backlit, then the answer is they’re shooting in manual mode. Want to make processing faster and easier? Shoot in manual mode. Get it right in camera and you’ll spend less time in front of your computer.

The main excuse I hear from auto mode shooters is that the light changes too fast for them to adjust. Granted it does take practice, but in time it will become second nature to check the meter and adjust on the fly. Having a good eye and framing the action well is not enough, you need to know your tools and be able to use them to their full capabilities. Stop pointing and shooting and start making images.

A gray card is a common metering tool, but since I never remember to bring my gray card, if I’m shooting outside, I use grass. Green grass has around the same tonal qualities as a photo gray card. I use the grass as a starting point and then tweak the exposure up or down depending on the subject and my own personal experience using my camera. I use the histogram in my camera and not the image on the LCD to judge exposure.

To learn more about your metering system, find that little book that came with your camera, it’s full of all kinds of useful information. I also found a few articles on the web that may be useful; metering is an essential skill for any photographer.



Spring Sports

Just some basic Photo 101 here, so if you already know this stuff then just ignore this post.

Backgrounds: high school fields can have some really distracting backgrounds, yellow school busses, some yahoo in a bright shirt hanging on the fence, lots of chainlink, etc. Shallow depth of field is key in creating a compelling image. You want to isolate the players, draw the viewers eye to the action and not the junk cluttering up the backgrounds.
Sometimes a different angle can make the difference between a snapshot and a photograph. Shooting up from a lower position or getting up into the stands and shooting down. Think about your settings and try and visualize the shot.

Sharpness: I've seen shots that would have been really great if they had just been sharp. Usually the culprit isn't focus but a slow shutter speed. As the light fades in the afternoon, keep an eye on your shutter speed and try to keep it up as high as possible, anything under 1/1000 is really pushing it, I like to stay over 1/2000. The ability to change ISO's on the fly is a great advantage with digital cameras, use it. The other culprit that causes an otherwise good photo to go bad is the teleconverter (aka extender), a 1.4tc will sometimes work well, but a 2x almost never does and never, ever, ever use a 2x on a zoom. Experiment all you want with them, but please check out the image quality of the photo and make sure it's up to par. Just because you want to stand further back from the action doesn't mean lowering image quality standards. Color and contrast usually suffer as well as sharpness, great way to make an expensive lens look like a piece of junk hunk of glass. They will also slow down your AF as well as losing a stop of light.

Color: Digital cameras just don't handle color temps as well as film. The color will really start to shift when the light starts to get cooler in the evenings. I understand golden light and a slightly warmer skin tone with afternoon light, but it shouldn't be an overal cast throughout the image. Sometimes it's just a toning issue, the image is dark and that will make the color shift, usually to red. Darker skinned players will look especially red if the image is too dark, by just brightening up the image in either curves or levels, the color will often correct itself. As far as white balance settings, I can only speak as a Canon shooter, AWB works the best for me. The other settings seem to actually cause color shifts.

Composition and Editing: Please don't shoot backs. Unless it's an incredible shot of a kid leaping or diving or doing something really cool, backs are a no no. No backs of batters, backs of kids squatting, backs of runners, etc. Seriously, get some face! And definitely no butt shots! That's particularly important during football season!
Don't shoot so tight that parts of the head or hands will get cropped off in printing. Try and leave a bit of space for that, but not too loose. Try not to shoot players or coaches just standing around looking stupid, get them yelling, gesturing, interacting with others. If you want to include some portraits, that's fine, but try and capture a moment when the person looks good or interesting.
If you're shooting baseball or softball, please don't post shots of players obviously missing the ball at bat.
Do a tight edit, just because it's sharp doesn't make it a great photo, 8fps make for some very similiar images, just pick the best ones.
Be creative, have fun!

Here's a good article on SportsShooter about clean backgrounds: