Winterize Your Photography

Thanks to yearbook and photography adviser Whitney Leonard, CJE, of Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., for sharing these tips for yearbook photographers of all skill levels.

As the weather gets colder, the activities and sports we have to document are moving indoors. Since natural light is a preferred source for many–if not all–photographers, this means we are facing new challenges.

We are going to look at a few options you have for helping your student photographers get the perfect shot of your winter sports.  And the great thing is this information applies to both DSLRs and your brightly colored point-and-shoot cameras! You don’t have to have a big, fancy DSLR to get the shot you want.

Beginner Level: Most beginner level DSLRs and almost all point-and-shoot cameras (those small, fit-in-your-pocket, neon colored cameras that all the kids have) offer a sports/motion mode (indicated with a running stick-figure logo). Don’t be afraid to encourage your newest photographers to use this camera setting. Any sports or motion setting will increase the shutter speed of the camera so that the motion is crisp and clear. Many times it will also include a flash to make sure the subjects are brightly lit and stand out. Adding the flash may cause you to have dark shadows appear but many times these can add drama to the image. This setting are great for wrestling or swimming.

Semi-Pro Level: For a more experienced photographer that wants to move away from the automatic modes of the beginner cameras, a great option is to shoot in Shutter Priority (indicated with an S on the mode dial). This mode is offered on all DSLRs and many point-and-shoot cameras. Shutter Priority will allow the photographer to set the desired shutter speed (at least 1/250 for sharp focused images in a basketball game) and then the on-camera computer will adjust aperture, ISO, etc. to get the optimal shot.  Using this mode typically insures that all of your images will be in focus so that the photographer can compose dynamic and attention-grabbing photos.

Pro Level: If you have a photographer that is confident and experienced then shooting in manual mode is your best bet. Full manual mode will allow the photographer to control every aspect of exposure and composition in the image. In manual mode you can use a fast shutter speed for sharp photos, combined with a higher ISO and wide-open aperture that would mean your photos have the bokeh background that many people expect from a professional image, without risking the quality of the image. Shooting in manual mode requires that the photographer is focused and makes sure to constantly check the settings as the lighting or position of players changes, and as the photographer tries for different compositional techniques.

Whitney Leonard, CJE, graduated from Henderson State University with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature. She attended the University of Arkansas at Little Rock where she received her Master’s degree in Secondary Education. She has been teaching high school and advising yearbook staffs since 2004. She now teaches photojournalism at Little Rock’s historic Little Rock Central High School and advises the award-winning PIX yearbook staff. When she is not teaching young, aspiring photographers she is taking photographs as a freelance photographer.