It’s always fun to shoot baseball. Especially high school baseball.
And with that, I heard a huge collective “Ugh.” I like photographing it because it is a challenging sport to shoot. You have to read the game, read the players, understand basic strategy, and mostly have fun.
Eye on the Ball:
But the most important part of shooting baseball, or anything for that matter, is to PAY ATTENTION!
In baseball, moments are incredibly fleeting. A few times I have chatted with others only to miss great play. So don’t get distracted. Pay attention to the game, only chat between innings and team changes. Keep on your toes.
To photograph the Battery, the pitcher/catcher/batter/umpire combo, you have to be mobile. No sitting in the bleachers, no staying in one spot along the fence, you have to move. In fact, you may have to shoot from the 3rd base line, as well as the 1st baseline.
Off the Tips:
Don’t be afraid to shoot through the fence. If you position your lens properly in the center of the square of the chain link, the distraction is minimal or non-existent. If the squares of holes of the fence are small, you’re just going to have to use the largest aperture possible. Using f/2.8 or f/4 is best to decrease the effect.
Sideview 2 (from same shooting position):
Every battery is different: different pitcher, different batter, how the catcher and umpire sit. Even how the pitcher throws will affect your choice of position. Again, stay fluid and try every angle.
Shooting the pitcher from the side you need to remember one simple rule: If they throw right-handed, then you won’t get a good face from their right side. Think about when you throw. Your face is covered by your right arm and shoulder. Now add the power as they throw, their head turns towards their left and is further obscured.
You’ll get the windup from their throwing side, but lose their face at the halfway point and beyond. It’s just a matter of what you as the photographer want: do you want the windup? Or the release? Why not both then choose later? SEE EXAMPLES ABOVE
Focusing is critical. But you have to prefocus in front of the pitcher. This does take some practice. Don’t rely on your autofocus. In fact, watch the pitcher as you shoot. Focus on his front foot as it lands. This is almost the same plane as where his face will be when he/she releases the ball. Again, see the photos above.
- Prefocus and use manual or lock the focus. It keeps your lens from “hunting.” Sometimes the lens will try to focus on the battery or the background. By using manual, you focus and won’t lose that focus if the camera picks something up while shooting.
- If you use autofocus, set your camera so the shutter is not activating the focus. I set mine so the back button activates autofocus.
- Use shallow depth of field to separate the pitcher from the battery (batter, umpire, catcher) and background. The basic principle of making your main subject the focus of the photo.
- Use a high shutter of 1/2000th or faster. On cloudy days you’ll have to up the ISO. stops any blur as they do move rather fast.
- Place your hand at the end of the lens barrel to keep it centered through the gaps in the fence.
- While behind the battery, use the umpire, catcher and batter as a framing device.
- Shoot the pitcher from the first baseline and third base line.
- Pay attention. Don’t get distracted during active play by others around you. Literally, stay focused on the game.
- Have fun and try new things. You just never know.
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Paul “pablo” Conrad
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Paul Conrad is an award-winning, nationally and internationally published freelance photographer living in Bellingham, Whatcom County, Wash., north of Seattle in the Pacific Northwest. His work has been published in newspapers and magazine throughout the United States and in Europe.
His clients include Getty Images, Wire Image, The Bellingham Herald, and many local business in Whatcom County. Previous clients are Associated Press, the New York Times, L.A. Times, Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, and many others.
His specialty is photojournalism covering news, sports, and editorial portraits, he also is skilled in family portraiture, high school senior portraits, and weddings. He is available for assignments anywhere in the Pacific Northwest.