With the invention of the digital camera, and cell phones, photography has become much more mainstream than it was 30 years ago. To take a good picture that is going to be used for something more than a social media site, I suggest using a DSLR (digital Single Lens Reflex) camera. It is especially important to use a DSLR when it comes to sports photography, as you have greater creative control over ISO, aperture and shutter speed to produce desired effects. The action is usually too fast for a compact point and shoot as the shutter lag is too slow. While cell phones can take great pictures, it’s difficult to select the focus point as you may need to focus through the glass or safety net depending on where you are sitting. With all that said, here are some tips for shooting hockey games with a camera. Most of the tips will be for a DSLR, but some of the principles can be used for other types of cameras.
- Take lots of pictures. The average professional sports photographer shoots on average 10,000 – 15,000 pictures per game and maybe 100 – 300 are worthy of Sports Illustrated on average.
- If your camera can support “burst” mode. Use it whenever there is major action. Burst mode is when your camera takes 3-10 pictures per second. Having shots of the puck in various distances from the moment it leaves Ovi’s stick to the goalie’s glove can raise the probability of getting that awesome photo.
- Shoot a fast shutter speed. This allows you to “freeze” the action instead of having blur when it comes to the puck, or body parts moving. 1000th of a second is ideal.
- Definitely use a fast aperture lens such as a f/1.8 or f/2.8 lens. You will need the faster aperture lenses for lower light situations to allow the fast shutter speed. You may be able to get away with a f/4.0 lens but you will need to raise your ISO higher which may result in grainy images.
- Zoom lenses. Realistically you are not going to be able to get into the arena with anything larger than a 70-200mm zoom lens unless you are a professional with a press pass. The reason being is you will be blocking the view for other fans. If you are going to be taking pictures down at the ice, I recommend a 25mm-70mm lens. This will give you the wide angle for larger group activity, and you can zoom in for individual player shots.
- When focusing, focus past the glass. Your camera if it is autofocus will attempt to focus on the marks on the glass. It will take some practice but once mastered will make shooting down at the glass easier.
- I always shoot in raw format instead of .jpg. It takes up more space but the edits you make in post processing are non-destructive meaning the quality of your photo will not deteriorate with each edit. For that reason I always shoot 2 steps down on the light meter. It’s easier to fix light issues in post processing if there is not enough light. You can’t fix a picture that is overblown/has too much light in it.
- Best places I have found to take pictures is where the players come out onto the ice. If you can get in the first 3-4 rows you have a better angle for face shots as they come down the tunnel to the ice. If you are going to be at the glass, I recommend to the left or right corner of the goalie. You can capture great puck shots as well as puck saves.
I shot this picture of Ovi at the Caps vs. Rangers game at MSG on 3/29/15. It was shot at ISO 400 with a focal point of 75mm, aperture was f/10 and a shutter speed of 1/160th of s second.
Do you have any tips for photographing hockey games?