This week the US Open tennis tournament kicked off it’s 50th anniversary by setting an all-time single-day attendance record of 67,832 people. The sports biggest stars are Stateside and the fans are buzzing with excitement.
Whether trying to capture a pro event or a match on your local park’s courts, here are some tips from the experts on how to best photograph tennis!
First off, know and locate the sun! Is the sun straight overhead, is it early morning or late afternoon? Locating the sun is important because if its positioned in a certain way, like directly on the player’s forehand, and you are shooting into the sun you may not get the proper light in their face. The player will be backlit and not give you the desired results.
It is a good idea to have the sun at your back and into the players face. Of course the players will be moving around the court so sometimes it’s best to just wait until they switch sides to capture more images of a given player.
Second, pre-focus and focus-lock on the player that is serving. Make sure your camera doesn't attempt to refocus as you re-frame your shot during the serve, otherwise you're likely to get blurry players and sharp backgrounds.
Anticipate the action by watching the rackets! Shoot as soon as the player begins to swing. If you can see the ball in the frame before you shoot, odds are it won't be in your picture!
In many cases points take on a certain rhythm. Listen to the sounds of the players and their rackets as they swing - often times you can pick up on certain timing rhythms of the points and anticipate when the next swing might be. That’s when you shoot!
Picking a subject
Only shoot one player at a time. It is amazingly difficult to capture both players and both ends of a tennis court at the same time successfully. You'll serve up more winners if you concentrate on one end at a time.
Emotions. Photography offers the amazing ability to capture and to relay emotions. To tell a story or convey messages and feelings in endless and special ways. You'll often get a great reaction shot, whether it is anger, frustration or pure joy, after a particularly long point has played out.
Resist the urge to jump right to your screen and review what you just shot - hang in there and after a great point -- look for the reaction!
Good lens choices for tennis would be a lens in the 70-200 range or a fixed 300 or 400 depending on the type of action you are looking to capture. Remember with these type of lenses that shooting out at the furthest zoom will help compress the background more.
Typically you want to have a maximum aperture and fast enough shutter speed to be able to freeze the action. However, you’re the photographer - meaning you’re the artist and the storyteller. Don’t be afraid to mix it up a little.
Stop your aperture way down to f/22 or so, and drop your ISO to 100, and try to get a shutter speed around 1/15 second for some creative drag-shutter motion blur shots. (Click to Shop Lenses)
Calmly Hang In There
Action sports photography, like everything else takes time and practice. Photographing tennis, is one of the hardest sports to capture. Between the busy backgrounds (other courts, ball boys etc) the incredibly speeds of a small ball and unpredictable and abrupt changes in direction - it’s not easy. But it can be done and done well. Just stick with it and you’ll find a style and means for capturing and sharing tennis that brings joy to all!
What do you think? Comment below.
Ready to Shoot?
With this camera and lens kit, you'll be ready for the match.