Get out of your seat

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18 – 125mm, ISO 400, ƒ/7.2, 1/200 [4 – Alienbees B1600s full power on catwalk with 50º parabolic reflectors, triggered by Pocketwizards.]

The other night I attended a lacrosse match at the local high school. I went as a spectator. This is rare for me to be at a sports event without my camera equipment.

It was interesting to watch the parents photographing the game. A couple of them were on the sidelines, but the majority stayed in their seats in the stands.

Everyone was shooting with digital cameras. From the simplest cameras to most professional equipment they all had similar focal length lenses that would zoom out to about 200 mm (equivalent on a 35 mm camera).

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, ISO 450, ƒ/4.5, 1/1000

At this high school lacrosse match the parents were not being kept off the sidelines by anyone. They kept themselves back from the action!

The difference between what each person was able to photograph varied greatly because of where they were in relationship to the action on the field.

If you want better photos of your kids playing sports (or doing almost anything else) get as physically close to the action as you can. Of course, use some common sense and don’t get in the way of the game or the fans and in a safe spot for you as well.

A famous war photographer said something that applies to sports photography just as it does to war photography. “If the pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

Another key to improving your shots, besides getting out of your seat, is to hold your camera still. The longer the focal length the shakier it can become. Use a monopod. They sell for about $30. I like the Manfrotto Modo 790B Monopod. This will help keep your camera steady and improve the image sharpness. It is easier and faster to use than a tripod.

Most folks stand up when taking pictures. It’s more comfortable than squatting or resting on your knees, but it doesn’t usually give you the best action shots. If you are low to the ground you are shooting up at the athletes. This actually makes them seem more heroic. Shooting from a low angle makes them appear higher off the ground than they are. Staying low on the sidelines is also courteous to the fans in the stands.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 15-30mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/200 [4 – Alienbees B1600s full power in corners bouncing, triggered by Pocketwizards.
Another trick: Be where they are going – not where they are. Get down field and shoot back at the players. Now when the big play happens it is coming to you, not away plus you can see their facial expressions.
Nikon D100, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 with 1.4 converter, ISO 200, 1/2000

If the sport you are covering has a ball keep asking yourself this question: Where’s the ball? Most of the peak action, the strong expressions and the competition will be around the ball. This rule doesn’t apply to all your shots, but it is a good one to keep in mind.

If you were covering football you would be on opposite ends of the field depending on if you are covering the offense or defensive players. You want to see the player’s faces and close as possible. The grimaces will show the intensity of the play.

With digital cameras you can take ten pictures, a hundred pictures or even a thousand pictures for about the same cost. So take lots of photos to capture the best moments.
Your kids will probably play these sports for just a few years. Having good photos, in which they can recognize themselves, will be something they cherish for a lifetime.

So get out of your seat and get close to the action. You (and your kids) will be glad you did.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 w/ 1.4 converter, ISO 900, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
Let’s sum it up:
  • Get closer.
  • Use a monopod. Fuzzy Photos don’t count
  • Get down, and shoot up – make them heroes.
  • Stay ahead of the action.
  • Where’s the ball?
  • Show the faces/capture the emotion.
  • Take more pictures, it improves your odds.
  • Enjoy the photography and your kids.

Stop Selling Nails

When my wife Dorie graduated from seminary our family took an out of the ordinary vacation to Jamaica. We did the all-inclusive package. All we had to do was enjoy the trip. No worrying about when or where to eat or what to do. We just had fun. I cherish these memories.
You’ve probably splurged on something. Maybe you took a special vacation or found a wonderful restaurant. Most of us have done something fun that is outside our normal budget. These extraordinary times can form memories our families will talk about for the rest of our lives.
Workshops and Seminars
Each year I attend a few workshops and seminars to keep me up to date and increase my value to my clients. Years ago some friends suggested that I should splurge and invite the speaker I was impressed with out for a meal to some nice restaurant. At first I was worried that these important people would think I was nuts.

The first time I took a speaker out to eat I expressed this worry. She laughed and said, “No man, I was a peon myself once and not that long ago.” I learned more asking questions and listening during this one-on-one time at a meal with a key person than the rest of the entire conference. By the way, that first speaker I became friends and have kept in touch.
I’ve met others, who were struggling and barely had any money for their own food, but they still took a speaker to lunch. Much later on they told me that the investment in that lunch changed their lives and their business. 
Building Supplies
Hardware stores and real estate agents sell entirely different things. Hardware stores sell nails and wood and the prices vary little from hardware store to hardware store. Real estate agents sell what a builder did with what he bought in a hardware store and the prices range all over the place depending what was done with the basic materials.

As we talk with a prospective client does the discussions quickly turning to price and the bottom line? 
The Total Package
Let’s think back to those extraordinary vacations or the meals you treated those special speakers to. Price was not the determining factor. The value of what you got for your money prompted you to take that vacation or buy that person a meal.
If the quality of your work is superior and you have consistently treated your customers with honor, dignity and respect then you have established a brand that will draw clients to you.

If you are aware of how your work defines you in the marketplace and you communicate this effectively to potential customers you will do well. You can compare what you do to your competition or you can just point out all the things that you do for your clients and never mention the competition.
If prospective clients are talking price and bottom line then stop selling nails and wood and start talking about the quality of your work and what you will do for them.