1. Get as close to the action as you can.
Wherever possible — in big stadium or sandlot seats — try to nearly fill the frame with your subject rather than have him or her show up as a distant speck.
How close is close enough? The closer the better. Following our “Inverse Access Law,” you know that you probably can get right on the sidelines — or in the first row of seats — at a sandlot, Little League, or high-school game. For college games, semi-pro, or spring-training Big League games, you can usually get pretty close — especially if you apply some added charm or “weight.” If you’re an NYI student, your NYI Press Pass can provide this added “weight.” With or without the pass, if you have any trouble getting close to the action at these games, we advise that you call ahead for a later game and speak with the press or public relations office. Explain that you’re a serious photographer (if you have any exotic equipment, here’s a good place to name-drop) and you’d like to get access to the press box for the game. If this fails, ask for permission to photograph the pregame warm ups.
What about the regular season Big League game? You probably won’t get really close to the action. (As we said a moment ago, no one does!) But this doesn’t mean you’re out of luck with trying to take great baseball photos.
It simply means that you’ll have to use a longer lens to fill the frame. How long a lens? This, of course, depends upon where you sit. From most seats in the stands, a 200mm lens (or an 80-200mm zoom) will probably do fine. But realize this: Unless you have professional gear, the maximum aperture of your 200mm lens is probably around ƒ/4.5. It’s not very fast. This means that you may not be able to shoot at a fast-enough shutter speed to stop the action, especially when your subject is in a shaded area of the field. It should, however, be fine for action in sunny areas — so concentrate on those. (At the end of this article, we discuss the equipment brought by the big-time pros. What we’ve said here may give you an inkling of why he or she probably uses a 300mm lens with an ƒ/2.8 maximum aperture.)
Another point, it’s all well and good to sit in the bleachers and have your 200mm ready to catch the action, but…. Be realistic. What happens when that home run is hit out of the park or there’s a close play at home? Right. Everybody stands up! This means that your 200mm will get an out-of-focus view of the back of the shirt of the person in front of you, but little else.
How can you avoid this? By planning your position in advance. If possible, try to get seated in a front row where your view will be unobstructed. You can’t get such a seat? OK.
How about going to a game when the stands aren’t crowded, and sitting where there’s no one in front of you. Sit in the last row in the stands if necessary. But get an unobstructed view!
Still, there are more opportunities for you to get close at the Big League ballpark. Pre-game and post game activities can be ideal for access to your favorite players. Get to the stadium early, an hour or more before game time, and don’t be surprised if you can walk down to the first row with your camera. Frequently, you’ll be able to shoot closeups of players taking batting practice, standing around waiting for their turn at bat, practicing fielding, signing autographs, or just talking with fans in the stands. You should be able to get some great baseball photos!
Lots of players are also generous with their time when they’re leaving the stadium after the game as well. In a large professional ballpark, you won’t have a hard time finding the players’ entrance; it’s generally crowded with fans waiting for their favorite heroes to emerge.
To boil all this down: Try to get as close to the action as you can. Use a long lens if you’re seated way back. Make sure your view is unobstructed. And consider pre-game and post-game photo ops when all else fails.
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