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Get the ball in

Baseball, football, basketball (Or the puck, stone, ring, etc.)


The eye automatically looks for the ball in sport shots
The eye automatically looks for the ball in sport shots

Action shots for most sports will benefit from getting the ball in the picture. The "ball" here could also mean the puck, the ring, the dart or any item around which the play is focused. Spectators follow the play by following the ball (or puck), and the attention of the players is usually focused on it. There is an element of completion about a sports picture that has the ball in it.

It just so happens that most activities in sports events reach their high point when the ball is present, so you are almost always guaranteed action if you follow the ball and ensure it is in your pictures.


SHOOTING LOCATION

This means you will have to position yourself when photographing a sports event in anticipation of where the ball will be for a given play, and then shoot your picture when the ball is in the frame.

"FREEZE" THE BALL

Don't forget that a very high shutter speed will freeze the ball in mid-air, and will also freeze the action around it.

 The ball is in the glove. Yer out!
The ball is in the glove. Yer out!

When the ball is blurred, there is an even greater sense of action.
When the ball is blurred, there is an even greater sense of action.

BLURRING THE BALL TO SHOW ACTION

If the shutter speed is fast enough to capture a moving ball, but slow enough to cause it to blur, the image will have a greater sense of action.

You will have to experiment with shutter speeds to get it right, because baseballs, pucks, soccer balls, etc. travel at a wide range of speeds in the course of a game. If the shutter is too slow, the ball may be so blurred that it disappears, or it may look like a long streak. Begin with a shutter speed of 1/60 sec, then try 1/30 sec for the next opportunity. It's a tricky business and what works well on one occasion may not work the next time. As in all things that combine technique with equipment, trial and error will give you your best guidelines.

You will also need a good sense of timing, so that the shutter is released at just the right moment.