Youth baseball pics for boss

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by george_berney, Apr 9, 2010.

  1. So, my boss coach's his sons baseball team and, perhaps, unwisely, I asked if they had a team photographer. He said no, just the league photographer that does an assembly line team photo/individual shot on one day later in the season.
    Basically, I'm looking for more experience shooting just about anything, so I asked if I could take some pics at his games. I didn't feel right just going to a local game taking pics of kids I didn't know. I wanted an 'in' so to least a justification as to why I was there.
    I wanted to do this for free and just post unprocessed pics on a file sharing website for him or any of the parents to download if they wanted them, but he has brought up paying me for gas/time/pics/cd slideshows, etc a few times.
    In any case, now I am in kind of an akward position. His 'nearest' game is going to be about an hour from my house, so that's a pretty good drive, and I think his expectations of my 'work' have somehow been inflated from me just wanting to take a few pics for practice to putting together cd's for all of the parents.
    He's my boss and I have only worked for him for a few months so I want to impress him, and I also have a personality defect where I always want to be great at whatever I do.
    So, here is the rub, he has a game tomorrow at 10:30 about an hour and a half away from my house at a field I have never been to and a town I have never heard of. I've read all the pages I could find after googling 'youth baseball photography tips' and still have a few questions. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Field access/position- I doubt I will have it and a lot of the sites said I should try to get it for best results. It is a youth baseball, 10 and under, so I figure the field will be relatively small. I also assume most batters will be right handed, so the best place for me to setup would be outside the playing field somewhere between home and first base?
    Tripod- I have a nice tripod and a cheapo walmart monopod. Should I bother with either of these or just shoot hand held? I took a monopod with me a few days ago to a take some birds in flight photo's and I found the flexibility loss far outweighed the stability and put it back in my car.
    Lenses- I am just starting out, hence the reason for wanting practice, so the only things I have are the 18-105 VR and the 70-300 VRII and an SB600. I was planning on using the 70-300 without flash. The game is morning to afternoon so I don't think light is going to be a problem. My plan is to set up with the sun at my back if at all possible for the best light.
    Any other tips for this kind of photography? For birds, I typically shoot in manual, auto-focus continuous attached to the AE/AL button, with VR set to Normal.
    For what its worth, I put together a slideshow cd for the parents from his last season of pics taken by one of the other parents and the pictures were horrible. Noise was unacceptable, focus was missed quite a bit, shutter speeds were way to slow, and most of the 'at bat' pics barely caught the face. I did do some post processing on the photos he gave me, i.e unsharp mask, color corrections, dejpeg, etc, and they ended up a bit better. He offered to pay me for that, but since they weren't my pics and I felt the quality was so low I declined.
    I am sure I can do better than what he had, but I want to blow him away...after all, he's my boss and I may get promoted within the next week.
    Also, does anybody have any advice on monetary issues? I wanted a chance to practice and provide some better pictures than the parents were taking...I felt this was a fair use of my time and the parents would get something out of it, too, but since he has brought up payment, should I negotiate to reinforce the idea that my time is worth something, or just do it for fun? Like I said earlier, my original plan was to provide unprocessed pics for free, but now I don't think I want to present any photos that aren't up to a certain quality level that I hold myself up to and that he holds me to as my boss. Processing the photos will take more time than I had originally planned on, and spending that much time at it wasn't something I had thought about when I first mentioned it to him.
    I don't want to blow this. Thanks for any help or advice.
  2. Forget the flash and the 18-105 VR. For daylight the 70-300 should be perfect. Shoot manual with auto iso. Set your shutter speed to about 1000 and the lens to wide open. Adjust your shutter speed so the auto iso sets to just over 200 in the brightest area. Zoom in close to get the kids faces as they bat and/or field and throw...remember that moms love faces. At that age you should be able to get on the field if you ask the coach. Try half of the game at the third base dugout and the other half at the first base dugout. Take pictures when the kids are taking infield and warming up...those can be some of your best shots. Get behind home plate and shoot the pitcher through the fence. Shoot them as they are running in from the field to bat and when they are fooling around...those too can be some of the best shots. Try to take pictures of each player, not just your boss' son. And remember to zoom in! Afterwards, if you don't have Picasa download it to process your photos. It's fast and will do batch processing. Good luck.
  3. Hi George!
    I am glad that you are interested in photography. I actually do a similar thing as you. I am a teacher, and I actually coach baseball. At our school I have started a photography club, just to get students interested in photography and to help the yearbook staff that has been struggling to get good photos. Anyway, I love taking my camera along with me to games, and getting a chance to help the yearbook with their photos, as well as getting to practice myself.
    Your 70-300 should be perfect for baseball photos, especially on a youth field you will get some nice tightly cropped shots of these kids.
    A few tactics to use: I normally will keep it on shutter priority for baseball (make sure the shutter speed is at least 1/500 in order to get some crisp shots, higher if enough light is available, I would not go below 1/300 as you will get noticeable blurring).
    Other than that, use burst mode and take a lot of memory cards (or is an SB600 film... in that case... lots of film... iso 400 or higher). Dont worry about the tripod as you need a fast shutter to stop the motion anyway, and will want to be mobile to get some different views.
    Dont worry about shooting through the fence... most of the time you can sneak close enough to see right through the gaps(and get a picture from behind home?) I usually like to park myself 1 of 3 places. #1 behind home for pictures of the pitcher/hitter. #2 Next to the dugout on the first base side #3 same thing, on the 3rd base side.
    Here's some examples I have
  4. don't sweat it. this is a piece of cake "assignment."
    the main thing is make sure you use a fast enough shutter to freeze motion -- 1/500 min. be sure to take lots of shots of the boss' kid at the plate. hopefully the kid will hit the ball.
    you wont need a tripod or monopod with either of those lenses in daylight.
    also, dont frame the pics too tightly when shooting action. leave room in the frame to follow the action as it develops. you dont say what kind of camera you are using, but i would use AF-C and maximum frame rate. start your shutter a bit before the ball gets there and try to keep shooting all the way through the swing.
    be sure to bring extra batteries and a backup memory card.
    the promotion is as good as yours.
  5. Quick tips:
    1. Take lots of shots of warmups - you'll be able to catch every kids "making" a play, which doesn't always happen in the game.
    2. Rotate around to different positions during the game. There is no one spot that will be best for shooting all the players.
    3. Don't forget the non-action shots, coaching, kids high-fiving each other, what is happening on the bench, the team mom, etc.
    4. Use your 70-300mm most of the time, VR off, shutter speed of 1/500 or more and keep firing away.
    5. Pay attention to the exposure on the faces -- hats can create too much shadow sometimes.
    6. Don't bother with a tripod. A monopod is not a bad idea, but you don't need it.
  6. Like Scott said, you want faces. When I did newspaper work, that's all the picture editor cared about for the various sports pics was faces. You'll do great, younger baseball is easy and great practice for the upper leagues which are more challenging.
  7. Sorry, Eric Arnold, I guess I didn't mention it...I will be shooting with the Nikon D90.
    Erik Jacobson, an SB600 is a flash. The camera I am using is a Nikon D90 DSLR.
    M. Hayward, why VR off? I had read that same suggestion for birds in flight, and have since found that VR on seems to yield a better keeper rate. I know that at 1/600 and higher VR should be relatively worthless, especially for a moving subject, but it seems to me that the stabilization allows better tracking in the view finder and seems worth keeping in 'normal' mode. I still have a long way to go, but with the VR on, it seems much easier to track birds due to the in lens stabilization. I doubt it improves the 'blur' of the just seems to make it easier to keep the subject stable in the view finder.
    Scott, thanks for the advice. I have not used Picasa, but will look into it. I typically use View NX, PSP 8.0, and irfanview. What does Picassa do that those don't?
    Anybody have any advice on compensation? I have a feeling that if I accept anything it will be well below market value. Might I be better off to do this as a freebie and state that if anybody else wants something similiar(depending on results, of course) that it would be at fair market value?
  8. Also, any advice on shooting through the fence? I was really hoping to avoid that, but I reaize that may not be possible. From experience, shooting through limbs or branches yields soft results on the subject...I imagine shooting through a chain length fence will be about the same, except worse since I can't play it off as 'camoflauge' to get the birds.
    Any advice?
  9. Only place to shoot through the fence would be behind the plate. I have had good luck gettin to where the glass is almost
    touching the fence. Peep through the links. As for compensation... I find taking photos more enjoyable with no pressure,
    for a first time out, take it as a fun lesson in baseball photography.
  10. I did this for several years when I freelanced for a couple of other photogs who had a business doing this under contract for the local Little League. M Hayword gave you excellent advice...Many times it's difficult knowing where the action will happen on field so the shots taken when they are "warming up" presents itself with an opportunity to capture good shots. Forget the tripod/monopod, it's not needed at that time of day. While you will want photos of the kids faces, you need more full body shots (swinging the bat, fielding) so that the viewer knows they are sports photos. As for shooting location. It likely won't matter what the coach says, the umpires control the game, so you will need their permission to shoot inside the fence & if you do, you need to be aware of foul balls hit your way. (Don't be fiddling with your settings when a batter is up !)
  11. Hi George. My advice is do it for free. You will receive much wanted experience from it, and if someone isn't happy with your photos (you are new at this), nobody will be unhappy. You have plenty of time in the future to receive pay, once you are experienced and feel that you can produce some good photos. You can let your boss know your situation, and that once you have more experience you will charge. Yes, the game is 1 hour away; you did volunteer. Maybe you should let him know in the future that you will only cover nearby games.
  12. Great advice, M. Hayward. Exactly the advice that I got when starting out from a Pulitzer winning friend who is simply the most amazing PJ. Learn to take in the whole event, before/during and after. Watch the parents, the crowd & the action.
    It helps if you know the sport. Think like a player, so you know what to expect. (probably easier with football, but you know what I mean)
    Have fun and I agree don't charge anything. Make it clear this is your charity for your boss and you are starting out. Don't expect people to think you will work for free forever. When I was stringing, I love it so much, I didn't want nor expect to get paid. Then again, it was only a hobby and my FT gig paid all of my bills.
    Have fun!
  13. 1. Talk to the coach - see if he'll let in their dugout.
    2. Barring that - a lot of the little league fields don't have great or for that matter - any fences beyond the batter's cage.
    3. Keep your eyes open - balls can and will come at you from multiple directions.
    At this point of your photographic journey - I wouldn't recommend charging anything for the photos. Do this to get the experience and some good shots.
    If the boss insists on paying - then limit it to expense reimbursement only.
  14. At the youth baseball/softball games I've attended, the fence ends around 1st and 3rd bases. I usually sit just behind the foul line close to where the fence ends. For youth games like this, more times than not, just stay out of everybody's way, and nobody cares where you are. If the kids are hitting foul balls hard, I would back up a bit. :)
    I thought you asked if you could come take pictures. If you asked if you could tag along, I wouldn't expect *any* compensation.
    I prefer the 3rd base side for right-handed hitters. Otherwise, the bat will be in front of their face when they swing. Also good for capturing 1st and 2nd base players. I'll switch to 1st base for short stop and 3rd base.
  15. George, I shoot my daughters outdoor track (now a Freshman in college). In fact I will be in Orange City Iowa today. I use the Nikon 70-300 all the time and love the lens. The only thing you need to watch for is time of day (lower light) and cloud cover. When you zoom out to 300mm you need to check the shutter speed and if needed crank your ISO up until you get the shutter speed you need. Have fun and don't charge your boss unless he demands it.
  16. Scott Ditzel, since you contracted out for the league photographers, do you have any advice as far as that goes? Since I am doing this for practice and for fun, for one of the coaches, I don't think I will run into any issues, but what do I do if the league photographer happens to be there?
    Can he stop me from taking pictures?
  17. Eric, great shots. I love the one where she is looking at her nails with the ball in the frame.
    You're right, I did ask to tag along. No, I don't expect any compensation. This is for practice afterall. I think I am just overthinking this. When he asked me what I would charge I told him nothing but since then he has mentioned paying me several times. I just think that changed the dynamics a bit and somewhat made me feel his expectations had changed.
    In any case, I'm off to the ball park. Wish me luck.
    Thanks all for the advice and encouragement.
  18. Good luck! Do let us know how it turned out, and any shots or further advice you can share.
  19. As for payment I'd probably explain that this is your first time doing this and you just want to see how everything goes for now. If all goes well and he wants you to do more then he can start paying you for future "assignments"
    Good luck!
  20. As for League photographers -
    1. Since it's a game (not a tourney) it's doubtful that one will be there. Most of us who shoot youth sports only do the big events, not the weekly games - unless a parent specifically pays or asks us to cover one of those.
    2. If there is a "league" guy there - stay out of his / her way (meaning don't fight with them for spots) - they're either paying for or getting paid for the prime spots.
    3. Go up and talk to them if you get a chance - be honest that you're shooting for yourself and maybe your boss.
    4. Don't sell or try to sell any of the images you take - See my post under sports forum.
    If there's not a league photo type person there - go nuts and have fun - well - do that anyway!
  21. I would just have fun and do the best I could. Forget any thoughts of compensation at this time.

    Eric Merrill's shots are just over the top - if your do 1/10th as well as his two shots you will be a hero. Both are wonderful, the second one is over the top.

    (I can't believe 3 different Eric's posted on this thread.)
    Remember to sit down, lie down or get low for as many shots as you can - it almost always looks better to have the lens pointed up when photographing kids than to be looking down at them.
  22. Hi George,
    I have very little experience shooting sports, but all the times I've been out doing it, I've just "tagged" along on corporate events with my firm, and never taken any payment. My shots have become significantly better with experience, and I find that the one thing that works really well to improve shots, is to go out to the site a couple of days before and spend some time scouting around.
    This helps with everything from finding a place to park, to finding angles from which the backgrounds are least distracting, to discovering what the light looks like at different times of day.
    I tried two shoots of the same event - a year apart. The first time, I just rocked up with a camera. I took about 500 shots, and liked (kinda) about 2.
    The second year, I scouted out the location, spent hours looking for places to shoot from etc. I took about 300 shots, and had about 30 really good ones, including one each of every competitor from my firm, looking good, sharp, well composed, in good light. The preparation really made things easy.
    Good luck with your shoot.
  23. Here are a few of the shots from yesterday. One problem that I ran into which I had not counted on was that it being the opening game and all, the kids weren't very good. Action type shots usually involved balls being thrown over people's heads. It was kind of all over the place. I wish I could have done something different with the backgrounds since chain link is ugly and my 70-300 isn't fast enough to completely throw the background out of focus.
    All in all, it was fun and I learned a lot.
  24. Sorry, I didn't know I could only upload one at a tme...lets try this...
  25. Looks like you did very well George! Youth baseball is like that a lot, whether it is opening day or one of the last of the season. Looks like you had fun.
  26. I really like the top one of the three, great shot of the pitcher! The one below it of the catcher is good too. Nice work!
  27. Thanks all! I really appreciated all of the advice. Tomorrow I will give him the CD. I shot around 500 pics so it was actually pretty tough getting down to the 140 or so that would fit on the Cd.
    Every once in a while I would scroll through them and hit delete on the ones that viewing as a single didn't provide anything special.
    I guess we'll see how he likes them since that's the best test.
    As far as my other questions, I asked if I could tag along for some practice, so I am going to stick with that. Just because he brought up paying me doesn't change the fact that I wanted to do it and I got some experience doing it. So, I'm out about 10 bucks for gas, less than a dollar for a cd, and some time well spent. I think that puts us about even.
    Maybe if he likes them he can recommend me to some of the other coaches and I can earn some money towards a 70-200 2.8.
    Thanks again.
  28. Nice start, Mr. Berney. Regarding VR -- it takes a little longer for the camera to focus when using VR. This is a detriment when shooting action, and doesn't really help with image quality since you're at a high shutter speed anyway. Regarding the fence -- If you shoot from the other side of the chain link fence with your lens hood up against it, you can probably eliminate it entirely. Finally, regarding the quality of play -- shooting warm ups really helps with that. Even with very good players, though, there aren't always that many action shots aside from the pitcher and batters. Some of them happen to fast or are too unexpected to catch, but some of them you can anticipate. Good luck.
    Great shots, Mr. Merrill.
  29. Thanks, M. Hayward. Looking back on it, it doesn't seem like the VR added anything. Tracking BIF the VR does seem to help, but with baseball, I wasn't having to continuously pan the camera, so I probably would have benefited form turning VR off. In any case, I ddin't find that the d90 was too slow for any of the shots I was trying, I just wish I could have had more effect on the background.
    It was a small field so that definitely helped me out. I made sure I took a lot of pics during warm-ups so I could get some 'action' shots of everybody catching the ball.
    Again, I really appreciate the help I got here and thanks to all.

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