Saturday, July 10, 2010

Photographing a swim meet

Today was another one of the kid's swim meets and I decided to break out the camera gear and shoot some images for the first time this season. As I walked around the pool deck, numerous people asked me the best way to set up their DSLR for shooting this sport. I thought that I would blog the information to share with others.

The key to shooting most sports is to freeze the action. I generally like to have a shutter speed of at least 1/500 to freeze the action. In this case, being outside and with lots of light, this is not very hard to achieve. I set my camera to Aperture Priority (AV on the Canon camera) and set my aperture to f8. This gave me plenty of shutter speed (1/4000 at ISO 320) but also gave me a little more focus area as opposed to shooting at f4 or f5.6.

Along with a fast shutter speed, you want to make sure to have your camera in the servo focus mode as opposed to the single shot focus mode. With this setting, your camera will stay in focus as your subject is moving towards (or away from) you. The one challenge when using this mode with swimming is that many times your camera will try to focus on the splash and not the swimmer. Keep your focus point to the center point to make your focusing faster and more accurate.

Another thing to keep in mind is your subject matter and your perspective. Here are some pointers that might help you get a better shot of your favorite swimmer.

* Don't just shoot images from one side of the pool. Move around and try shooting straight down the lane (if you can stand in that position).
* Get low to the pool. I mostly see people shooting images from a standing position which is not nearly as good as getting low to the action.
* Look at the sun and try to shoot images for the sunny side to avoid harsh shadows.
* Look for different angles to shoot from, thinking about your foreground and background. In the image below I decided to shoot through the legs of a swimmer (on the platform getting ready to take the next leg of a relay).

I hope that this will help you get better shots the next time you are photographing poolside!

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