Photographing a Wrestling Tournament - Case Study - Digital Photography School

Photographing a Wrestling Tournament – Case Study

WrestlingThe following case study on photographing a wrestling tournament was submitted by DPS reader – Ron Richardson. See his Flickr account here.

A couple months ago, I was asked by a friend to be the photographer at a local middle school wrestling tournament. I had never shot wrestling before, but I had spent some time photographing my sister-in-law’s football games. I figured to give it a go and hopefully get some print sales out of it from the parents.

I got the basic gist of the location; it was in a high school gymnasium, with 4 mats placed in a grid. The lights in the gym were bright, and wasn’t really that bad. The problem however, was that these wrestlers were not going to be standing still, and there were going to be 4 matches going on at a time.

The main key in shooting sports of any kind is speed. You HAVE to have a quick shutter speed in order to freeze the action. You can get around with a slower shutter speed, but you will have to pan with your subject. It can lead to some interesting shots (like the one below), but isn’t a reliable technique to count on.

1

So what is a desired shutter speed, and how do you achieve it? Typically, the rule is to have your shutter speed one step higher than the focal length you are shooting at. For example, if you are shooting at 200mm, the ideal shutter speed would be 1/250 of a second. At 50mm, you want to be at 1/60 of a second. I have found success shooting at 1/50 of a second, even at 200mm. It all depends on how steady you are with the camera and how slow the action is.

When I first got to the gym, some teams were warming up and I took that opportunity to take some practice shots myself. I went into this knowing full well that I was ill-equipped with a Sigma 55-200mm f/4-5.6 lens, whereas a lens such as the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L would be a much much better choice. I for one, cannot afford such a lens, so I shot with what I got.

I set my camera on aperture priority mode and set it at f/5.6. I chose that setting because a bigger aperture will result in more light coming in, and will also provide a shallower depth of field which will help in blurring the background (which was filled with the crowd and coaches).

This did not provide me with a decent shutter speed, so I bumped up the ISO from 100 all the way up to 1600. I personally do not like to ever go above 400, but I felt it was better to err on the side of some extra noise in the image (which can be reduced later by software), rather than have card after card of blurry images.

Once I had my camera set at f/5.6 and an ISO of 1600, I set it on to AI SERVO focusing. Not all cameras have this setting, but if it does, it is a necessity for any sports photography. By holding the shutter button down halfway and following the action, the lens will automatically update it’s focus (if you have an auto-focus lens that is). Also setting your camera to a continuous shooting mode is very helpful.

The first matches began and I took about 50 images before checking the results. I wasn’t happy with the shutter speeds I was getting, as they ranged from 1/5 of a second to 1/60 of a second.

Since the light in the gymnasium was pretty event all around, I switched to manual mode and shot at 1/50 of a second at f/5.6 for the rest of the day.

Those settings still weren’t completely effective as you can see below:

Img 1544

However, it was still quick enough to freeze most of the action, except during the quickest of action.

Img 2249

The trickiest part about shooting sports, and what happens to result in my favorite types of shots, is the closeups of the athletes faces. With wrestling it’s a little bit easier to accomplish, since the mats are approximately 38′ x 38′ and you can safely stand at the edge of the mat. Here I was zoomed in at 200mm and was able to get a decent shot of both wrestlers.

Img 1856

One last tip that isn’t as hard as it may sound: Shoot with both eyes open. Most of the time when we shoot, we have one eye closed, and one eye looking through the viewfinder. If you keep both eyes open, you can still see through the viewfinder when you are zoomed in close, but with your other eye you can see just how far away the athletes really are. That way you can get out of the way if they are coming near the edge of the mat.

If I had a chance to do something different, I would have had a faster lens. That is a given. The shutter speeds I ended up at was not ideal. Having to shoot at an ISO of 1600 is not ideal. Having to shoot at f/5.6 is ok, but shooting at f/2.8 is much better (especially for making the athletes “pop” out from the background crowd).

Shooting sporting events can be fun, especially if you are on the sidelines near the action. If you are shooting a day long tournament like I did, take lots and lots of memory cards (I had 5 2.0gb cards which ended up filled to capacity), and take a snack and water. You will be up and down and all around all day.

By this point, you may be asking yourself why I didn’t use a flash. I don’t like, especially with sports. A lot of parents were there taking photos with flash, but as an athlete myself, I don’t want to see lights flashing in my face all the time. I would recommend against using a flash, especially if you are on the sidelines. With wrestling, I was typically only 15′ away from them, snapping shots off the entire time.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • http://judeastone.blogspot.com Jude

    Great tutorial. I’m just looking into getting a new lens for my camera to go alongside the kit lens I got with my Canon 350d. I originally thought i’d get a telephoto, but I think I’ve realised I need one with a huge apperture to allow me to get those quick shutter speeds I need. Camera shake is something I struggle with, and I do quite a bit of indoor photography, so is a must I think.

    Really helpful tutorial – thanks.

  • http://www.sexyninjamonkey.com SexyNinjaMonkey

    I’m with you man, i use the sigma 55-200 cause i cannot afford anything better. In alot of cases it does the job, but as you said already the f/4-5.6 isn’t the best. I wish i could afford a better lens, but hey i think i’m doing alright to have gotten the camera and the sigma lens (that pretty much sent me broke as it was)

  • http://flickr.com/photos/samccone Sam Saccone

    Honestly i think this is pointless, first of all i spent the time to look through all of your wrestling photos and i was less then impressed, very few if any are truly “sharp”. And how you shot it in my option is not the best way either. Now in no way am i trying to be an A#$ but i am merely trying to recommend a few things. If you have no money (as do i) get yourself a 50m 1.8 mark II. this thing is cheep im talking 50 – 75$. this lens will allow you to sit on the mat while at the same time having a tight shot. ex.(http://farm1.static.flickr.com/153/354478672_35ffa505c6.jpg?v=0)
    another thing you must remember is with our cheaper cameras you need to watch your iso, 1600 is way to high and you will get unusable shots, i recommend sticking btw 400 and 800. that shot was taken with an Aperture of 2.2 and shutter speed of 1/200th with iso 400. Now the gym was no bright place but still a fast lense is what you want. Now lets just say you have your kit lense you could try for some artsy slow shutter speed stuff ex(http://farm1.static.flickr.com/129/354473968_270e76d3ee.jpg)
    this was taken at 1/5th of a second f14 and 400 iso

    all of these shots were taken with a 50mm its the way to go when you shot wrestling and you can get on the mat.

    well don’t take these to harsh im only trying to help others

  • smc1377

    With sports photography, especially for profit, its best to take pictures that show the entire body of the athletes. Unlike portrait photography where you like to fill your frame with a person, or just parts of the person (like their upper body), the ones that sell the most are action photos that capture the entire body.

    Parents and athletes like seeing the gracefulness of their moves, not just their facial expressions. I’ve found that close-up action shots don’t sell well at all, though they may be pleasing to the photographer’s artistic eye. I once shot a dance competition with a well-trained photographer and was told by the photo booth that my photos were selling at a rate of 20:1 versus his pictures. The main difference between my photos and his were that mine captured the entire dancer’s body while his were more up close.

    If you’re planning to sell your action photos, it’s actually almost best to leave quite a bit of space around your subjects so that the picture can be cropped in several different ways so you can print multiple sizes.

    I’ve worked with many trained photographers who really have a problem with sports photography. They tend to want to fill their frame, but in doing so, they inevitably cut off an important part of the action cause arms and legs fly around so quickly. Also, they tend to want to look at each of their shots as they take them and the action just doesn’t allow that much time.

    With such fast motion, it’s best to zoom out some and make sure you are able to capture the action. You can always crop the photo if a customer wants a close-up, but you can never zoom out once the picture has been taken. So leave the portrait photography skills at home.

  • http://digital-photography-school.com/blog Darren

    thanks for the comments all.

    Let me just reemphasize that DPS is a space for people all along their journey of photography to learn and share what they know.

    I don’t think Ron is pretending to be an expert – but I’m appreciative of him sharing what he’s learned so far and think it’s great that you guys are sharing your own tips as well with him. Hopefully through this exchange we all come out of this better at what we do.

  • michael j tobler

    my youngest son is a wrestler, and as such, i’ve appointed myself the staff photographer for our team. (and actually, i recently took the team photo and portraits for the individual wrestlers).

    here are a number of points to remember when taking wrestling photos:

    a) always use a fast lens – i maintain the same opinion: do not use a flash – it’s too disruptive. my arsenal consists of Nikkors: 17-35 2.8, 28-70 2.8, and the 70-200 2.8 VR (i have others, but these are my workhorse zooms). i use the 28-70 the majority of the time, unless i’m shooting two mats at the same time, then i’ll use the 70-200 VR.

    b) always get a face in the shot. people cant “connect” with a wrestler if both have their backs/sides/etc to the viewer.

    c) get the whole body(ies) in the frame – this gives the viewer a frame [sic] of reference. the only time i crop heavily is if i want to get the struggle in the wrestlers’ faces, but then again, that’s a rare photo.

    d) the best perspective to shoot from is on the mat – this gives the viewer the feeling of being on the mat with the wrestler. i see so many folks standing up and taking photos – doing this makes the viewer feel more like a spectator. i use a right-angle finder and get the camera ON THE MAT.

    e) don’t run around the mat trying to get “the” shot – wrestlers are constantly moving about the mat – stay in one place and be patient – they’ll eventually “come to you”. i place myself at an opposite corner from the coaches.

    f) just before the last period is over, get over to the scoring table and be ready to take a shot of the ref raising the arm of the winning wrestler – that’s what parents are wrestlers like to see :)

    d) my settings are typically set at 800 ISO at 1/80th and f/2.8 (or maybe one stop slower).

    my oldest son plays football and basketball … my daughter is a [high school] cheerleader, and i have friends that race motocross, so i have spent (spend) a lot of time shooting various sports photography. most of the points i’ve made previously apply to all forms of sports (basketball and motocross racing being the more difficult, because of the speed at which the athletes are moving).

    hope it helps … michael

  • Denise

    Ron and others: Thank you so much for this wrestling photography information. I was so excited to see this entry because I started photographing my son in wrestling for a few years ago and slowly am getting better shots. DPS has provided me the greatest wealth of information and I appreciate the information.

    Shooting with both eyes open is a wise suggestion.

    Question: Is using the lense hood a good idea for sports photography? I’m thinking it might be an extra protection for the lense.

    With lot more to learn ~ Denise

  • Glen

    I have been shooting my sons’ (multiple) wrestling matches, this season. I use a Nikon D2X. I started with a Nikon 17-55 f2.8 lens, then switched to a 50mm f1.8. However, I just got a Nikon 85mm f1.4. This lens is not cheap, but I must concur with the other writers in that “big” glass is better than “long” glass. It is super sharp, but you do not want to open it up past f2 because it gets real narrow on depth of field. I love the lens for its light collection properties, though.

    I do not use a flash. I like to have the camera “armed” for high speed frame capture (if I see a throw coming). Also, I love the light of the gym…natural light. However, you must custom white balance before the match to keep colors true. I tried strobe, but it makes it look too sterile. In an average gym, I am shooting at ISO 1200 or 1600 (noise reduction set on high), f2, at at least 200th of a second or faster, in Aperture priority. Yes, there is some noise, but you’d get that in film, too. I post process in Adobe Photoshop CS2 and use smart sharpen to get rid of small amounts of movement. It really works!

    I try to leave some “slop” around the wrestlers. This allows for cropping by parents, or me, post shoot. The feedback I have been getting, from parents, is great. I am having a blast!
    Happy Shooting!
    Glen

  • Matthew

    I have been wanting to wrestle ever since I saw the Undertaker and Batista fight at wrestle mania 23 and ever since I have practice wrestling moves and the best one I’m good at is the elbow drop. Also I make a good wrestler because I’m probley 5ft9 and maybe 220 pounds and I’m 14 years old and I have won lots of fights in my life and other wrestling moves I can do is Last Ride, Tombstone, Choke slam, the F U, and still learning the atomic leg drop.

  • Rich

    Tired of all your parents think they can shoot sports because digitals are so cheap. Few things to consider, you do not have the college, work experince. We have spent the time perfecting our craft thru film, try that and see what you get. Insurance for your business and putting minors on the internet, wait till you get sued. Think about the sport and not just shooting 400 images to get 10 try shooting just 10 and sell those..Don’t go around and say you are photographer because you have shot your child’s photos, you are a amateur. I have spent about $20,000 in gear for my business and make a go but amateurs like you parents kill our business when you pass yourself off and then we get called to clean up the mess.

  • http://dps Dinesh Prasad

    “I set my camera on aperture priority mode and set it at f/5.6. I chose that setting because a bigger aperture will result in more light coming in, and will also provide a shallower depth of field which will help in blurring the background (which was filled with the crowd and coaches–”

    Correct if i’m Wrong as you mentioned above. Isn’t f/5.6 F/stop a small aperture,smaller opening of the lens that allow less light through it thus providing a deeper depth of field.

  • http://dps Dinesh Prasad

    “I set my camera on aperture priority mode and set it at f/5.6. I chose that setting because a bigger aperture will result in more light coming in, and will also provide a shallower depth of field which will help in blurring the background (which was filled with the crowd and coaches–”

    Correct me if i’m Wrong as you mentioned above. Isn’t f/5.6 F/stop a small aperture,smaller opening of the lens that allow less light through it thus providing a deeper depth of field.

  • Scott

    Rich,

    Don’t hate us parents who are learning by trial and error what you went to school for. You’re still the man…but for most of us parents, I can’t recall seeing any of you “professional photographers” taking pictures of our kids anywhere other than a gym for one of those AWESOME team photos…you know the ones…with the stagnant child in his uniform holding the ball in front of the backdrop. You remember those days right? When you could set up your $20,000 worth of gear to squeeze us parents out of 1/4 of that in a Saturdays worth of shooting all the teams. Perhaps you’re a little upset that we can do a fair representation of your work with $3-5,000 now. If you weren’t so angry, I may still come to you for our family portrait because I still haven’t laid down the money yet for one of those cool gray backdrops.

    Forge on parents and look out for Rich!!!!!

  • Big Easy

    I agree with Scott, the only professionals at my daughters soccer league show up on a lame organized cattle drive of a photo day to pose ( in front of one of those ‘cool’ backdrops ) with one foot on a soccer ball and then charge me $40 for a couple of 5×7′s.

    I’d put my action shots and my fun team photos up against any of what the so-called professionals come up with when their not doing head shots at the passport office.

    Rich, you sound angry at the evolution of photography and digital imaging…..maybe if you took more than 10 shots, you might evolve too.

    BTW I recently bought one of those ‘cool’ backdrops ( truffle its called ) and did a ‘photoshoot’ of my girls for mothers day………my $2000 worth of gear kicked A$$!

  • Jackie Kline

    Loved this article as I shoot a lot of wrestling. It generally takes me to the end of the season before I get the shots that work for me. I too cannot afford the canon 70-20mm f/2.8, so I’m using my 28-135 mm f/3/5 5/6 all purpose lens. What are the best settings when the lights are turned down with one large light in the center of the mat?

  • http://foodientravelbug.blogspot.com MeiTeng

    Thanks for sharing Ron’s experience…I gleaned something from this article. I agree that a lens with f/2.8 does make a world of difference but there’s also a price to pay. I was initially eyeing the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L but finally settled for the tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 which fits my budget at the moment…..turned out the tamron didn’t disappoint. I got some pretty good photos out of it and am happy with this new lens.

  • http://www.jgphoto.photoreflect.com Joe Geronimo

    Ok I know money is always an issue, however if you are going to shoot indoor sports well then F2.8 is a must. Sorry boys and girls it just is. Now when I used to shoot for the paper we used a flash for wrestling/basketball unless it was college/Volleyball and so on. Professional hockey was available light because the paper was to cheap to strobe the arena. Now there were times I used no flash and available light during indoor high school sports. If you get one of these high schools with the sodium lights (orange lighting) good luck! I always use a flash then. I recently photographed NY Governor David Paterson at a gathering at a local college with sodium lighting. I used a flash and that really helped with the outcome of the images.

    With today’s digital SLR’s and flash guns you can come away with a nice image. A lot of the top end models let you adjust the flash output. This is nice especially with recycle time! As for bothering the athlete/s well hey if they want their picture taken, oh well. Comes with the territory! Now this evening I will be shooting a professional wrestling event and I will be using a flash if they will let me, not sure yet. Also if you do this on a regular basis invest in a Quantum pack!

    Now as I said earlier money is always a factor and I understand completely. If you guys do not know this already KEH in Atlanta http://www.keh.com sells all types of glass new and used. I have purchased a lot of my gear from them. I have bought a few Mark llN’s 70-200L and 300L from them and their prices, quality and service are great. and no I do not work for them.

    So get out their and experiment and see what works for you. But most of all have fun!

  • griffin1

    help….I’m shooting my sons wrestling match with a canon 50D and 70-2002.8 lense. What settings should I shoot in? AV, TV and should I set certain shutter speed? I alwo have the 18-135 lense butknow its better to get closer pictures.
    I just bought this camera to take pics of all my kids and am learning everything. I woiuld really appreciate any quidance!!
    Thank you.

  • David

    Did you get your answer for the wrestling settings?

  • Griffin1

    No I didn’t. I’ve been using my Canon 50D w/70-200 2.8 lense/ w ISO at 2000-3000 and my action shots are really good. I started using an additional flash and shoot in Tv and they look even better.
    Why does my flash not work for every shot? I’ll have a great shot then the next 1-2 will be dark…etc

    Also,
    any advice for when they turn the lights off (for wrestling finals) and put spotlights on the mat? I have alot of trouble figuring out how to set everything..
    Thank you in advance!

  • http://www.light-sensors.com Bradley Thomson

    Sumo wrestling is my all time favorite. i always watch it a lot in Japanese channels.,;~

  • http://unopened-printer-cartridges.blogspot.com/ Tiki-Man
  • Caroline

    Thank you! This was very useful. My sons first High School wrestling match is tomorrow and like you I do the best I can with what I’ve got. I do believe that half the battle is being bold enough to sit right at the edge of the mat and snap away. You are bound to come away with something. Then to nail down the lighting and focus is next. I have some great shots where is wasn’t totally focused and actually gave the photo a better feel. The natural lighting in gyms is rare but if you have some windows letting light in I have found that to sit on that side so you can capture the natural light hitting the action on the mat gives you more detail and depth. I love your photo of the two faces close up. I’m going to try this tomorrow.

    Thanks again!

  • http://facebook.com/prowlerphotography Jim H

    Thanks for the tips. I see it’s been some time since this article was written with many changes in digital photography since, i.e. higher ISOs. I shoot a TON of local middle and high school sports and typically stick with a 50mm f/1.8G mounted on my Nikon D7000 ($200 for the lens), as I can’t afford a big lens like the 70-200 f/2.8. I’d rather be closer to the action anyway (be the zoom myself) rather than up in the stands zooming in like the newspaper does. At 3200 ISO f/2.2 to 2.8 I can achieve shutter speeds between 1/600 and 1/800 sec, which I find is required for just about any gym sport, as wrestling involves flips/takedowns, which result in very fast body movement. I figure 3200 ISO is the max I’ll go, as it’s the sweet spot in terms of maintaining adequate detail after noise reduction processing in Lightroom 4/Elements.

  • Jacqui Smith Watson

    I went to his flickr page, there is not one photo from this wrestling tournament?!?!?!

  • BallsMahoney

    You mistakenly said that by choosing f5.6 (instead of f4) you were letting in more light and creating shallower depth of field. Of course you know that the lower the number, the wider the aperture, the more lights gets in.
    And why on earth would you let the camera shoot between 1/5 and 1/50 shutter speed for sports????? Where was your speedlight??
    Thanks for taking the time to write this article, but I am not impressed by your photos, and you have demonstrated a lack of basic understanding of sports photography. Good day sir

Some older comments

  • Jim H

    December 5, 2012 08:00 am

    Thanks for the tips. I see it's been some time since this article was written with many changes in digital photography since, i.e. higher ISOs. I shoot a TON of local middle and high school sports and typically stick with a 50mm f/1.8G mounted on my Nikon D7000 ($200 for the lens), as I can't afford a big lens like the 70-200 f/2.8. I'd rather be closer to the action anyway (be the zoom myself) rather than up in the stands zooming in like the newspaper does. At 3200 ISO f/2.2 to 2.8 I can achieve shutter speeds between 1/600 and 1/800 sec, which I find is required for just about any gym sport, as wrestling involves flips/takedowns, which result in very fast body movement. I figure 3200 ISO is the max I'll go, as it's the sweet spot in terms of maintaining adequate detail after noise reduction processing in Lightroom 4/Elements.

  • Caroline

    December 1, 2012 01:13 am

    Thank you! This was very useful. My sons first High School wrestling match is tomorrow and like you I do the best I can with what I've got. I do believe that half the battle is being bold enough to sit right at the edge of the mat and snap away. You are bound to come away with something. Then to nail down the lighting and focus is next. I have some great shots where is wasn't totally focused and actually gave the photo a better feel. The natural lighting in gyms is rare but if you have some windows letting light in I have found that to sit on that side so you can capture the natural light hitting the action on the mat gives you more detail and depth. I love your photo of the two faces close up. I'm going to try this tomorrow.

    Thanks again!

  • Tiki-Man

    June 1, 2010 10:44 pm

    http://alongthebrokenroad.wordpress.com/2009/09/15/reprimanding-senator-joe-wilson/

  • Bradley Thomson

    May 25, 2010 03:18 am

    Sumo wrestling is my all time favorite. i always watch it a lot in Japanese channels.,;~

  • Griffin1

    February 4, 2010 12:33 am

    No I didn't. I've been using my Canon 50D w/70-200 2.8 lense/ w ISO at 2000-3000 and my action shots are really good. I started using an additional flash and shoot in Tv and they look even better.
    Why does my flash not work for every shot? I'll have a great shot then the next 1-2 will be dark...etc

    Also,
    any advice for when they turn the lights off (for wrestling finals) and put spotlights on the mat? I have alot of trouble figuring out how to set everything..
    Thank you in advance!

  • David

    February 3, 2010 10:06 am

    Did you get your answer for the wrestling settings?

  • griffin1

    December 17, 2009 03:13 am

    help....I'm shooting my sons wrestling match with a canon 50D and 70-2002.8 lense. What settings should I shoot in? AV, TV and should I set certain shutter speed? I alwo have the 18-135 lense butknow its better to get closer pictures.
    I just bought this camera to take pics of all my kids and am learning everything. I woiuld really appreciate any quidance!!
    Thank you.

  • Joe Geronimo

    February 22, 2009 07:29 am

    Ok I know money is always an issue, however if you are going to shoot indoor sports well then F2.8 is a must. Sorry boys and girls it just is. Now when I used to shoot for the paper we used a flash for wrestling/basketball unless it was college/Volleyball and so on. Professional hockey was available light because the paper was to cheap to strobe the arena. Now there were times I used no flash and available light during indoor high school sports. If you get one of these high schools with the sodium lights (orange lighting) good luck! I always use a flash then. I recently photographed NY Governor David Paterson at a gathering at a local college with sodium lighting. I used a flash and that really helped with the outcome of the images.

    With today's digital SLR's and flash guns you can come away with a nice image. A lot of the top end models let you adjust the flash output. This is nice especially with recycle time! As for bothering the athlete/s well hey if they want their picture taken, oh well. Comes with the territory! Now this evening I will be shooting a professional wrestling event and I will be using a flash if they will let me, not sure yet. Also if you do this on a regular basis invest in a Quantum pack!

    Now as I said earlier money is always a factor and I understand completely. If you guys do not know this already KEH in Atlanta www.keh.com sells all types of glass new and used. I have purchased a lot of my gear from them. I have bought a few Mark llN's 70-200L and 300L from them and their prices, quality and service are great. and no I do not work for them.

    So get out their and experiment and see what works for you. But most of all have fun!

  • MeiTeng

    February 3, 2009 02:47 pm

    Thanks for sharing Ron's experience...I gleaned something from this article. I agree that a lens with f/2.8 does make a world of difference but there's also a price to pay. I was initially eyeing the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L but finally settled for the tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 which fits my budget at the moment.....turned out the tamron didn't disappoint. I got some pretty good photos out of it and am happy with this new lens.

  • Jackie Kline

    February 3, 2009 02:44 am

    Loved this article as I shoot a lot of wrestling. It generally takes me to the end of the season before I get the shots that work for me. I too cannot afford the canon 70-20mm f/2.8, so I'm using my 28-135 mm f/3/5 5/6 all purpose lens. What are the best settings when the lights are turned down with one large light in the center of the mat?

  • Big Easy

    June 15, 2008 03:43 am

    I agree with Scott, the only professionals at my daughters soccer league show up on a lame organized cattle drive of a photo day to pose ( in front of one of those 'cool' backdrops ) with one foot on a soccer ball and then charge me $40 for a couple of 5x7's.

    I'd put my action shots and my fun team photos up against any of what the so-called professionals come up with when their not doing head shots at the passport office.

    Rich, you sound angry at the evolution of photography and digital imaging.....maybe if you took more than 10 shots, you might evolve too.

    BTW I recently bought one of those 'cool' backdrops ( truffle its called ) and did a 'photoshoot' of my girls for mothers day.........my $2000 worth of gear kicked A$$!

  • Scott

    May 18, 2008 05:34 pm

    Rich,

    Don't hate us parents who are learning by trial and error what you went to school for. You're still the man...but for most of us parents, I can't recall seeing any of you "professional photographers" taking pictures of our kids anywhere other than a gym for one of those AWESOME team photos...you know the ones...with the stagnant child in his uniform holding the ball in front of the backdrop. You remember those days right? When you could set up your $20,000 worth of gear to squeeze us parents out of 1/4 of that in a Saturdays worth of shooting all the teams. Perhaps you're a little upset that we can do a fair representation of your work with $3-5,000 now. If you weren't so angry, I may still come to you for our family portrait because I still haven't laid down the money yet for one of those cool gray backdrops.

    Forge on parents and look out for Rich!!!!!

  • Dinesh Prasad

    March 14, 2008 06:20 pm

    "I set my camera on aperture priority mode and set it at f/5.6. I chose that setting because a bigger aperture will result in more light coming in, and will also provide a shallower depth of field which will help in blurring the background (which was filled with the crowd and coaches--"

    Correct me if i'm Wrong as you mentioned above. Isn't f/5.6 F/stop a small aperture,smaller opening of the lens that allow less light through it thus providing a deeper depth of field.

  • Dinesh Prasad

    March 14, 2008 06:18 pm

    "I set my camera on aperture priority mode and set it at f/5.6. I chose that setting because a bigger aperture will result in more light coming in, and will also provide a shallower depth of field which will help in blurring the background (which was filled with the crowd and coaches--"

    Correct if i'm Wrong as you mentioned above. Isn't f/5.6 F/stop a small aperture,smaller opening of the lens that allow less light through it thus providing a deeper depth of field.

  • Rich

    December 3, 2007 04:41 am

    Tired of all your parents think they can shoot sports because digitals are so cheap. Few things to consider, you do not have the college, work experince. We have spent the time perfecting our craft thru film, try that and see what you get. Insurance for your business and putting minors on the internet, wait till you get sued. Think about the sport and not just shooting 400 images to get 10 try shooting just 10 and sell those..Don't go around and say you are photographer because you have shot your child's photos, you are a amateur. I have spent about $20,000 in gear for my business and make a go but amateurs like you parents kill our business when you pass yourself off and then we get called to clean up the mess.

  • Matthew

    May 18, 2007 12:11 pm

    I have been wanting to wrestle ever since I saw the Undertaker and Batista fight at wrestle mania 23 and ever since I have practice wrestling moves and the best one I'm good at is the elbow drop. Also I make a good wrestler because I'm probley 5ft9 and maybe 220 pounds and I'm 14 years old and I have won lots of fights in my life and other wrestling moves I can do is Last Ride, Tombstone, Choke slam, the F U, and still learning the atomic leg drop.

  • Glen

    January 26, 2007 02:16 am

    I have been shooting my sons' (multiple) wrestling matches, this season. I use a Nikon D2X. I started with a Nikon 17-55 f2.8 lens, then switched to a 50mm f1.8. However, I just got a Nikon 85mm f1.4. This lens is not cheap, but I must concur with the other writers in that "big" glass is better than "long" glass. It is super sharp, but you do not want to open it up past f2 because it gets real narrow on depth of field. I love the lens for its light collection properties, though.

    I do not use a flash. I like to have the camera "armed" for high speed frame capture (if I see a throw coming). Also, I love the light of the gym...natural light. However, you must custom white balance before the match to keep colors true. I tried strobe, but it makes it look too sterile. In an average gym, I am shooting at ISO 1200 or 1600 (noise reduction set on high), f2, at at least 200th of a second or faster, in Aperture priority. Yes, there is some noise, but you'd get that in film, too. I post process in Adobe Photoshop CS2 and use smart sharpen to get rid of small amounts of movement. It really works!

    I try to leave some "slop" around the wrestlers. This allows for cropping by parents, or me, post shoot. The feedback I have been getting, from parents, is great. I am having a blast!
    Happy Shooting!
    Glen

  • Denise

    January 22, 2007 09:50 am

    Ron and others: Thank you so much for this wrestling photography information. I was so excited to see this entry because I started photographing my son in wrestling for a few years ago and slowly am getting better shots. DPS has provided me the greatest wealth of information and I appreciate the information.

    Shooting with both eyes open is a wise suggestion.

    Question: Is using the lense hood a good idea for sports photography? I'm thinking it might be an extra protection for the lense.

    With lot more to learn ~ Denise

  • michael j tobler

    January 17, 2007 11:53 pm

    my youngest son is a wrestler, and as such, i've appointed myself the staff photographer for our team. (and actually, i recently took the team photo and portraits for the individual wrestlers).

    here are a number of points to remember when taking wrestling photos:

    a) always use a fast lens - i maintain the same opinion: do not use a flash - it's too disruptive. my arsenal consists of Nikkors: 17-35 2.8, 28-70 2.8, and the 70-200 2.8 VR (i have others, but these are my workhorse zooms). i use the 28-70 the majority of the time, unless i'm shooting two mats at the same time, then i'll use the 70-200 VR.

    b) always get a face in the shot. people cant "connect" with a wrestler if both have their backs/sides/etc to the viewer.

    c) get the whole body(ies) in the frame - this gives the viewer a frame [sic] of reference. the only time i crop heavily is if i want to get the struggle in the wrestlers' faces, but then again, that's a rare photo.

    d) the best perspective to shoot from is on the mat - this gives the viewer the feeling of being on the mat with the wrestler. i see so many folks standing up and taking photos - doing this makes the viewer feel more like a spectator. i use a right-angle finder and get the camera ON THE MAT.

    e) don't run around the mat trying to get "the" shot - wrestlers are constantly moving about the mat - stay in one place and be patient - they'll eventually "come to you". i place myself at an opposite corner from the coaches.

    f) just before the last period is over, get over to the scoring table and be ready to take a shot of the ref raising the arm of the winning wrestler - that's what parents are wrestlers like to see :)

    d) my settings are typically set at 800 ISO at 1/80th and f/2.8 (or maybe one stop slower).

    my oldest son plays football and basketball ... my daughter is a [high school] cheerleader, and i have friends that race motocross, so i have spent (spend) a lot of time shooting various sports photography. most of the points i've made previously apply to all forms of sports (basketball and motocross racing being the more difficult, because of the speed at which the athletes are moving).

    hope it helps ... michael

  • Darren

    January 17, 2007 08:20 pm

    thanks for the comments all.

    Let me just reemphasize that DPS is a space for people all along their journey of photography to learn and share what they know.

    I don't think Ron is pretending to be an expert - but I'm appreciative of him sharing what he's learned so far and think it's great that you guys are sharing your own tips as well with him. Hopefully through this exchange we all come out of this better at what we do.

  • smc1377

    January 17, 2007 06:14 pm

    With sports photography, especially for profit, its best to take pictures that show the entire body of the athletes. Unlike portrait photography where you like to fill your frame with a person, or just parts of the person (like their upper body), the ones that sell the most are action photos that capture the entire body.

    Parents and athletes like seeing the gracefulness of their moves, not just their facial expressions. I've found that close-up action shots don't sell well at all, though they may be pleasing to the photographer's artistic eye. I once shot a dance competition with a well-trained photographer and was told by the photo booth that my photos were selling at a rate of 20:1 versus his pictures. The main difference between my photos and his were that mine captured the entire dancer's body while his were more up close.

    If you're planning to sell your action photos, it's actually almost best to leave quite a bit of space around your subjects so that the picture can be cropped in several different ways so you can print multiple sizes.

    I've worked with many trained photographers who really have a problem with sports photography. They tend to want to fill their frame, but in doing so, they inevitably cut off an important part of the action cause arms and legs fly around so quickly. Also, they tend to want to look at each of their shots as they take them and the action just doesn't allow that much time.

    With such fast motion, it's best to zoom out some and make sure you are able to capture the action. You can always crop the photo if a customer wants a close-up, but you can never zoom out once the picture has been taken. So leave the portrait photography skills at home.

  • Sam Saccone

    January 17, 2007 03:51 pm

    Honestly i think this is pointless, first of all i spent the time to look through all of your wrestling photos and i was less then impressed, very few if any are truly "sharp". And how you shot it in my option is not the best way either. Now in no way am i trying to be an A#$ but i am merely trying to recommend a few things. If you have no money (as do i) get yourself a 50m 1.8 mark II. this thing is cheep im talking 50 - 75$. this lens will allow you to sit on the mat while at the same time having a tight shot. ex.(http://farm1.static.flickr.com/153/354478672_35ffa505c6.jpg?v=0)
    another thing you must remember is with our cheaper cameras you need to watch your iso, 1600 is way to high and you will get unusable shots, i recommend sticking btw 400 and 800. that shot was taken with an Aperture of 2.2 and shutter speed of 1/200th with iso 400. Now the gym was no bright place but still a fast lense is what you want. Now lets just say you have your kit lense you could try for some artsy slow shutter speed stuff ex(http://farm1.static.flickr.com/129/354473968_270e76d3ee.jpg)
    this was taken at 1/5th of a second f14 and 400 iso

    all of these shots were taken with a 50mm its the way to go when you shot wrestling and you can get on the mat.

    well don't take these to harsh im only trying to help others

  • SexyNinjaMonkey

    January 17, 2007 12:12 pm

    I'm with you man, i use the sigma 55-200 cause i cannot afford anything better. In alot of cases it does the job, but as you said already the f/4-5.6 isn't the best. I wish i could afford a better lens, but hey i think i'm doing alright to have gotten the camera and the sigma lens (that pretty much sent me broke as it was)

  • Jude

    January 17, 2007 08:30 am

    Great tutorial. I'm just looking into getting a new lens for my camera to go alongside the kit lens I got with my Canon 350d. I originally thought i'd get a telephoto, but I think I've realised I need one with a huge apperture to allow me to get those quick shutter speeds I need. Camera shake is something I struggle with, and I do quite a bit of indoor photography, so is a must I think.

    Really helpful tutorial - thanks.

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