Photography Tip 1 - Where Should I Stand

When arriving at the ground, the first thing I do is decide where is the best place is to stand.


Generally the weather is pretty bright in the mornings when our games are on. Ideally, you want to have the sun on your back or just over one of your shoulders as it projects the light onto the front of the players as you look at them. If the sun is to your side, you have the problem of a player being half in bright light and part in harsh shade. This can be difficult for the camera to get the exposure right.

My preference where possible, is to stand towards the corners of the field. Which corner depends on the position of the sun in relation to the field, but as mentioned above, best to keep the sun behind you. This way I know I am going to have limited issues with shadows as the players are generally facing me and are well lit from the sunshine.


The image below might explain this better.


Lets assume the sun is coming in from the bottom left of the image and projecting its rays across the field. I would spend the game down in the bottom left corner.


Depending on the sport, I might position myself in a slightly different part of the corner.


In a rugby league game on small field, behind the try line in a corner is a great option as the kids often run to the sides of the field looking for a gap (Position Y). With soccer (Posiion X) and aussie rules (Position Z), as they will be heading down field before turning towards the goals in the middle of the ends of the field, so I would be a little more on the sideline.


White Outline - Soccer/League/Union on a rectangluar field and the black oval for Aussie Rules.

One place I don't recommend is near the half way line. Kids are generally running sideways or away from you for most of the game when in this position. You want to see the expressions on their faces and this is hard to do from the sideline. (AVOID the red zones)


Taking decent photos isn't just about your camera's ability, it is about yours as well. You have made the effort to pack your camera and come to the game, but you need to use your feet and your head to take good photos !

To illustrate the point about the sun being behind or in front of me, look at the two images of the ball below. Same ball, just taken from different sides. The one on the left, the sun is behind me and the ball is well lit with plenty of detail to be seen. The image on the right, taken from behind the ball looking in the direction of the sun. I see the shady side of the ball and the area behind the ball is bright.


Ok so what about the days where the sun is hidden by cloud ? what do I do here ? First off all, cloudy days give us an even spread of light. There are no real bright areas or heavy shadows on the players. In some cases, cloudy days are a photographers dream. You can stand in any of the corners and take great shots, althou I would still recommend avoiding the half way line. Cloudy days might mean some adjustments to settings but more in future articles on this.

One more thing to consider when photographing kids, especially shorter ones, is to get down to their height to get a better perspective. When adults take photos of kids 1-2 feet shorter than them, you can easily end up with photos enlargening their heads and shrinking their bodies slightly. So kneel down, sit on your bum, or grab a chair. The change in angle is an easy one to do but well worth it.

Now that I know where I am going to positioned for the game, I'll get the camera out of the bag and adjust a few settings to suit the conditions. I have a number of things I don't change from game to game as they are my go to sports shooting preferences and we will work through them in the coming weeks, but an easy one to change and get right is called ISO.

ISO is a setting that determines how sensitive the camera's sensor is to the light that enters through the lense and into the camera when you push the button. Think about your pupils in your eyes, they adjust depending on the amount of light available. On bright days, the human eye doesn't need as much of the available light, so your pupils are small. Same with the ISO setting on your camera, on bright days with no clouds, I would set my camera's ISO setting to 100. On a cloudy dull day, the pupil would open wider and bigger to let in more light to be able to see. Same with our camera on dull days, we need to adjust the ISO setting up to say 800-1200 to cope. If the day is a bit cloud then patchy sun, i would go for 400 as it is a happy medium and the cameras other settings will adjust to suit also. More on the 'other settings' soon.


If you are not sure how to change this, do a Google search on your cameras make and model number and the ISO setting. There are many thousands of tutorials on YouTube on every make and model of camera.


One by-product of different ISO settings is whats called 'grain'. Higher ISO settings may produce a grainy or noisy finish to an image, where as lower ISO settings will be clearer and sharper. See the image below for an example of low (100) and high (3200) ISO settings.


That's enough for the first week, remember....

  • Check the suns position.
  • If bright, put the sun at your back or shoulder and pick the best corner.
  • If cloudier, you have more corners to choose from.
  • Set your ISO to 100/400/800 depending on brightness.
  • Get down lower to the kids height, not yours.

Next time, understanding zoom lense length, shutter speed and appeture.

Happy shooting !