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Dave Black

Sports and commercial photographer Dave Black is a Nikon Ambassador. Learn more about his photography.

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Benefits of Using the AF-ON Button for Autofocus

Three pros discuss using the AF-ON button for AF control

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Bill Frakes

Photojournalist, documentary filmmaker and educator Bill Frakes is a Nikon Ambassador. Learn more about his…

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Better Sports Photography

Which settings should you use depending upon which sport you're photographing

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Photographing Commercial Assignments with a Sports Angle

Find out how quick veteran photographer John Huet needed to be…

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Action and People Photography

For those who want to take better people and action photos

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What to do When you Need Stills while Shooting HD Video

Shoot simultaneously or save a frame options with the D4 or D4s…

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In the Moment

Commerical photographer John Huet love to make it up as he goes along.

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4.8 Rating
Create and Publish Your Own Photo Book

A photo book is a great way to share your images with the world.

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Lucas Gilman

Adventure sports and multimedia storyteller Lucas Gilman is a Nikon Ambassador. Learn more about his…

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Pete Turner: Master of Color Photography

Pete Turner is a master of color, but he's also a master of content and mystery.

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Lindsey Byrnes on Rock & Roll Photography

Video interview of pro shooter Lindsey Byrnes on photography and getting…

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What is XQD and Why Should I Use it?

Benefits of the XQD media card format explained

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Using Auto FP High-Speed Sync to Illuminate Fast Sports Action

Dave Black on using high-speed flash sync for sports…

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Just Say Mo. Slow-Mo that is.

Steve Heiner shoots slow-motion video

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Marketplace: A #1

Shooting with the COOLPIX A

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Andrew Hancock

Sports photographer Andrew Hancock is a Nikon Ambassador. Learn more about his photography.

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One Shot: City Lights

Mark Alberhasky's silhouette of people against bright Times Square signage

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Summit Series of Photography Workshops

Come to the Summit for the ultimate workshop experience in all areas of…

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Imagine That

Nope, we didn't make a mistake. The photos you see here were not taken by several different photographers;…

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Six Steps to Lighting Magic with Joe McNally

Follow lighting expert Joe McNally's instructions for easy flash photography…

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Photography Lighting Tutorial Part 1 - Control of Color

Go on location with Joe McNally for a video tutorial on lighting…

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Repeating Flash Lighting Technique

Joe McNally uses the technique of repeating flash to capture the grace of balletic…

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3D Focus Tracking

3D focus tracking automatically shifts the focus point to follow the movement of the subject. With the…

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Outdoor Pursuit

Bill Hatcher photographs the impossible—well, let's say the extremely difficult.

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No Limits: For Better Photos, Think Like a Photojournalist

David Handschuh on thinking like a photojournalist

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Shooting Wirelessly with Nikon Digital Cameras and Wi-Fi Adapters

Enjoy wireless transfer of images with Wi-Fi compatible…

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Zoom Lens Maximum Aperture: Fixed and Variable Apertures

Zoom lenses can have either a fixed maximum aperture or a…

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Joe McNally

Commercial photojournalist Joe McNally is a Nikon Ambassador. Learn more about his photography.

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10 Tips for Better Camera Panning

Dave Black's tips for camera panning

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Taking Better Photos of Your Kids at Play

Taking photos of your kids while at play make great images; next time you’re…

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51-Point Autofocus System

The 51-point AF system positions 51 points of focus within the frame to allow photographers to…

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Photograph Family and Friends During the Holidays

The holidays are prime picture-taking time. Get some great tips on…

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Critical Focus: Getting the Most From Your D800

Michael Clark on getting the most out of your D800 HD-SLR

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Thomas D. Mangelsen Understands the Behavior of the Animals he Photographs

Photography is about much more than taking…

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A New Sharp Shooter

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A Pro's Tips for the Best Children's Photos

Tamara Lackey on taking great pictures of kids

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Jody Dole Photographs Objects that Catch His Eye

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Think About Your Subject Before You Begin Shooting

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Understanding Focal Length

Focal length, usually represented in millimeters (mm), is the basic description of a…

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How to Choose Your Next Nikon 1 Lens

Go beyond your Nikon 1 camera's kit lens

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Corey Rich

Adventure photographer Corey Rich is a Nikon Ambassador. Learn more about his photography and multimedia work.

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High Speed Sync: A Flash Technique To Add a Pro Touch to Your Photographs

Kevin Kubota on auto FP high speed sync flash…

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Tips for Photographing Birds

Birds make great subjects for photographs; tips for capturing them with your camera.

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Photographing People Using Wireless Lighting Techniques

Tom Bol's images inspire new ways of taking a portrait photo.

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Action Photography: Shooting in Extreme Locations

Photographer Beth Wald doesn't just shoot from the sidelines; she's in…

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Using Teleconverters

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How a Sports Illustrated Photographer Shoots his Kid's Games

Robert Beck is a Sports Illustrated contract photographer with over 25 years experience shooting all manner of sports events. He's as comfortable applying his skills to his son's flag football game as he is to prowling the sidelines at the Super Bowl. We recently asked him to share some tips from his A-list of sports shooting advice.

  • The first thing I look at is the background. Whatever the action is, the background will complete the picture. I don't want a busy background—a lot of fences or light glaring off a fence. A lot of people in the stands are okay, but I don't want one person walking by or just standing around. Some sports are good with the bench as background, like lacrosse or football, with coaches and players behind the action. Shooting Little League is trickier. The field is an odd shape, and I try to crop out distractions. I shoot the batter so the bench is in the background as opposed to two parents and otherwise empty aluminum stands reflecting light. The rule of thumb: real clean or real real.
  • The first lens in my kit is the 70-200mm zoom lens [AF-S VR Zoom-NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED]. Very sharp, very fast, and if I have to shoot through a fence, I shoot wide open and the fence won't even show. It also offers me a lot of flexibility in composing; too tight, I zoom out, too loose, zoom in. My next lens is the 200-400mm [AF-S VR Zoom-NIKKOR 200-400mm f/4G IF-ED]; fabulous for any sport, just perfect.
  • I'm shooting D3 right now almost exclusively. I also have a D700 and a D300. Focusing is quick on all, but the D3 is a little faster in its burst. But I suggest you don't get caught up in shooting sequences. In reality the high point of action is really one or two frames, especially in sports where a ball is struck. The ball is only going to be in there for one frame, and if a kid is fielding the ball, the ball's only there for three frames. Generally, five frames per second is fast enough.
  • The truth is that professional sports are almost easier to shoot. The younger the kids, the less you can anticipate—they don't have a sense of timing like the pros or older kids; the young kids are all a little bit off the timing. Be prepared.
  • Some parents go to a game and just follow their kid. In soccer or football, that's kind of hard because it means they are not in tune with the game. Just follow the game and shoot the ball and the flow of the game; you'll get more good pictures, and when the ball gets to your kid, you'll be on it.
  • When people see a great pro sports shot in a magazine, they don't realize that picture was culled from 600 or 700 images. You may not get a good shot of your kid in one game; think in terms of a season and hope for ten or 12 good images. If you get one or two good images from a game, you're in there. And don't give up because you didn't get one—referees get in the way of pros, too. Keep shooting.
  • Check the schedule of the games. You're going to get the best light in the early morning or late afternoon. Shoot more at those games. In the middle of the day the light is harsher. But if you have to shoot mid-day, use your Nikon's Active D-Lighting. Turn it on in your camera menu; there are several levels of it, but all of them work very well to open up shadows. If your son is playing a baseball game in the middle of the day and you properly expose it, you'll lose his face because of the shadow of his hat; Active D-Lighting will keep that detail open.
  • I shoot in manual. Over the years I've learned what the settings are for various situations. I’m always within a little bit—and now with the preview on the back of the camera, it's a no-brainer. If I were to use an auto setting, I'd go with shutter-priority and then move my ISO up or down accordingly. I'd try to keep the shutter speed at 1/1000 or 1/2000 second. I like to shoot wide open because it makes the subject stand out. If you're shooting your kid, keep a very shallow depth of field—it'll make your kid pop out from everyone else. Most pros shoot wide open for that pop out factor.
  • With any lens from a 400mm on up—including the 200-400mm—I'm using a monopod; 300mm and down I can hand hold—and I prefer to be mobile.
  • On my D3 I can change the focus tracking setting so that the camera will hold focus longer on a moving subject even if someone else crosses in front. In football if I'm following a running back and players cross in front of him, I don't want the focus to change too quickly, to lock on to the other players. But in swimming or in water polo I want the focus to change quickly. In the camera's menu I have the ability to change the time the camera will hold the focus.
  • Frankly, I don't worry a lot about exposure. The [RAW] files are amazing on the Nikons. I can be a stop-and-a-half to two stops underexposed and still get detail. If you're going to make an error, underexpose, don't overexpose. I use Matrix metering when I'm shooting wider pictures—a group shot, a field shot; otherwise I use spot metering. And when I meter, if I can't meter off a uniform, if there's no gray spot, I meter off the grass. That'll give a good reading of what the overall exposure is going to be.

And there you have it—Robert's rules of keeping sports orderly.

Robert Beck has been an NPS member since 1989.

To see more of Robert's action sports images, as well as his evocative and often surprising portraits of athletes, visit his website.

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