We covered a few basic hockey photography tips previously, however, there is so much more to discuss that we thought a second blog post would be worthwhile. In this post, we will further indulge ourselves into the Canadian culture of minor league hockey. Every parent should have at least a few pictures of their kids’ first hockey game, and what Canadian kids’ room would be complete without a stunning poster print (doesn’t even have to be stunning) of their first hockey experience?
In the last post we talked about exposures and colour, today we will be discussing less technical aspects of hockey photography. We will assume that you are using a DSLR with a medium zoom lens. If there is a sports mode on the dial, use it. If your camera doesn’t have a sports mode option, make sure that you use a higher shutter speed to stop the action. Don’t forget to crank up the ISO to about 800 as previously discussed. Find a spot to shoot from that either has a clean and unscratched piece of glass or, better yet, no glass at all – coaches often don’t mind if you shoot from the bench. Move around the rink if you can. Don’t stay in one spot, you often find more interesting angles by trial and error. Hockey is great from all angles, the kids are moving in every direction at any given time. The most common angle is to shoot from behind the opposing goal, but don’t sit there the whole game, most defensemen will not be within decent range for your photos.
The autofocus on most cameras have trouble focusing in these dimly lit arenas, so be patient and take hundreds of pictures, because only 15 to 20 percent of your photos are going to be in focus. Next, try to locate the “continuous focus” on your camera (actually, you should try to find this at home before going to the arena). Continuous focus allows you to follow a subject while the camera is focus tracking the subject on the move and allows you to take a picture at any time that you push the release, as opposed to “one shot” or “single shot” which does not allow you to take a picture until the focus has stopped. This means that you will have a lot of out-of-focus shots and it will take a lot of practice to reduce them.
Panning is very important to achieving a slight blur in the background for that movement effect. Try to be very consistent and steady as you pan with your subject while you half depress the shutter release button to activate the autofocus. If you are using a shutter speed of approximately 1/125 or 1/250, you will get a little blur in the background depending on the distance and speed of your subject. If you are very steady with your pan, your subject will stay sharp. Again, this will take a lot of practice.
Composing Your Shot
Composition is also very important in order to capture great hockey photos. Images can be cropped later using photo editing software, but you should try to correctly compose your shot when capturing the photo. Have your subject lead into the frame at all times. Always leave a little empty space in front of your subject – this shows the viewer where the player is going. Also, try to include the opposing players as this puts your subject in a real game with an opposition that is hot on his/her heels.
Now that you have a few more tips on hockey photography to think about, this may take your mind off of the stupid call that the ref just made. You are way too busy thinking about your next shot to even start a rant on the white cane that the referees use off the ice.
Have fun shooting and leave the stupid calls to the refs!