Oct 17, 2020 | Sports

Tips for Photographing Your Child’s Softball Game with an iPhone

Ralph

Ralph

You Can Get Some Great Photographs of Your Child’s Softball Game with an iPhone

Photographing a softball game can be challenging.  Some sports are more predictable and easier to shoot.  If your athlete competes in track and is running a hurdle event, that is easier to shoot.  You know where the action will be on the field, it will be at the starting blocks, the hurdles, and the finish line.  You even know the order of when these things will happen.

Softball is much more chaotic.  You won’t always know where the next big play will be, or when.  A routine throw to first might turn into chaos with a crescendo finish.  You have to be on your toes, but you can do this.  If your athlete is playing softball and you want some images of it, this article is for you.

Know your limitations

You might luck out and have a photographer on your team.  One of the parents might even be a pro-am photographer.  If so, count your blessings and thank them for their time if they are getting great images of your child.

For everyone else that is working with a cell phone, understand you have a few limitations.  You simply won’t have the range that someone with a larger kit is going to have.  While the iPhone takes amazing photos, it can’t compete with 200mm or 300mm zoom lenses.  It’s simple physics. There is still plenty you can shoot from the sidelines though, fear not!

Optical zoom versus digital zoom

If you are working with an iPhone 11 Pro, you have a 2x zoom lens which is about equivalent to a 50mm lens.  Hardly zoom lens territory, but use it if you got it.  For everyone else shooting with the regular wide-angle lens, you may be tempted to swipe your thumb down for some of that digital zoom goodness.  I caution you about that.  While you might be able to get a little more punch out of it, the more you zoom in digitally the more distortion you will pick up in your photo.

When you use digital zoom, your iPhone is cheating the image.  It is simply cropping into the image digitally, the same as if you were zooming into an image you had already taken, and pixellating the image more and more the closer you get.  Optical zoom uses glass and lenses to increase the subject size and zoom in, digital zoom is much, much messier. Learn more about the difference between digital and optical zoom here.

Know the best spots for your camera

Shooting with an iPhone gives you just about three spots to photograph the game from:

  • First Base
  • Third Base
  • Behind Home Plate

First Base will see a LOT of action.  If your child plays first base, sit back and enjoy snapping photos from one of the best spots on the field.  Even with oodles of glass at my disposal, I spend a lot of time near first base.  You can get some good candid shots between the first base coach and players here as well as some leadoff action and base running.

Third Base will see some good action as well.  There will be lots of sliding here as well as leadoff and return action.  This is also a good spot for some candid photos between the third base coach and players.

Being behind home plate with an iPhone is better than you think.  Your camera lenses are small enough to easily shoot between chain links in the fence, just be careful not to scratch your lenses!  A quick photographer that was ready for the action can get some amazing slides into home.  This is also a good place to get some great photos of the kiddos at-bat by sliding off to one side or the other and capturing them in the batter’s box.  Great action photos of the catcher here as well.

Know the game

One of the keys to getting great photos of a softball game is by knowing the game.  Knowing where the plays will likely be and when.  Knowing when a steal might be coming up makes it easier to be ready for it.  Being aware that a runner is on third will make it easier to catch a slide at home.  If you are trying to catch a slide with your iPhone, third base is going to be more productive than first.

Live photos and burst mode can be a lifesaver

It can be extremely difficult for even the best photographers to nail an action shot in a single shutter click.  The way I hit action shots is by machine-gunning photos just before the action happens.  I use the high-speed drive on my camera to get as many shots as I can while I track the action.  It’s not a sure thing, sometimes I capture just before the epic moment and the next photo is just after the epic moment.  Luck plays a big factor too, you can do everything right and still miss a great shot.

With an iPhone you have two choices; burst and live mode.  Both modes will shoot the same ten frames per second, which is pretty fast.

Live mode will shoot a one-second burst of photos, essentially making a ten frame per second video.  Once taken, when you edit the photo, you can go through all of the photos taken and pick the best one and make it the key photo.  In this way, you only have to hit the shutter button once and the iPhone will take ten photos in rapid succession.

Burst mode works much like live photos, except there is no time limit.  Slide the shutter button to the left and the iPhone will continue shooting until you let go or the phone runs out of memory.  Then you can go back and select the photo or photos you like and only keep those while deleting the photos you don’t want.  It’s the same thing sports photographers do with $10,000 rigs, they still have to go back and pick the shots they like and delete the rest.  It’s easier on an iPhone.

Remember, some of the best moments will happen off of the field too.

After all is said and done, there is so much to take photos of off of the field.  The interaction of the kids together, the laughter and smiles, and even candid shots of the dugout or on breaks can be epic.  Don’t be so focused on getting dramatic action photos in the game that you miss some of the very human interaction between the kids on the team.  They won’t always be playing on the same team, so be sure to capture those moments as well.

I spend a lot of time taking photos of my daughter playing softball.  I’m the photo geek dad that brings out multiple cameras, lenses, 360-degree cameras, action cameras, and even a drone a few times.  Truth be told, I might shoot five hundred or more photos in a day and get a few dozen decent photographs, and if I am lucky, a couple of epic images.  Between games, I’m shooting with an iPhone 11 Pro because it’s very handy, takes great images, and is wonderful for those candid shots that I wouldn’t get if I was hauling around the big equipment that catches attention.  

In the end, it is about capturing memories.  One day your athlete will have played his or her last game and adulthood will begin.  It will be great to have captured all the memories of their younger years.

That’s it for now, go out and take some photos!

Ralph

Ralph

Ralph is an avid photographer in his spare time. He spends a lot of his photography time shooting sports photos of his daughter, who plays softball and swims. He also has a keen interest in mobile photography.

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