I need help with my picture quality.

Discussion in 'Sports Photography' started by mikefitz6, Jul 1, 2007.

  1. I have reached a plateau and I would like to know what I need to do to get to the next level.

    I think I have good enough equipment. A D200, Nikon 70-200 f2.8, and a Nikon 300mm f4.

    I am looking for a class or a professional in the Denver area, who can tell me what I have to do to improve.

    Is it better equipment - 300 f2.8, better camera control, better post processing, better vision (the art of taking the picture) or find a better hobby. I am really not kidding about the last option. Not everybody can be a surgeon, a top mechanic, or a photographer.

    I guess I want to know if I have potential, or if I should just enjoy my snapshots and leave it at that.

    Thanks in advance for your help.

  2. Firelarz


    Feb 26, 2006
    Chandler, AZ
    Michael, can you post or give us a link to your work so we can see what you think is wrong?
  3. Here are a few shots. The skin tones seem to be off. Maybe not as sharp as I would like to see, but close to what I usually get.

    They may not be bad, buy you just have to look at Mike Macs photos and several others on this site like Toper, and Randy to see the level I would like to be able to shoot.

    Some Track Shots
    #1 - looks bland
    # 2 no pop or purpose

    My monitor is calabrated. The colors and sharpness just don't seem to be there. They were worse before I tried to tweak them. I think I can blame part of it on inconsistant colors. The

    #3 oversaturated
    #4 blown highlights
    #5 I can't figure it out.

    Arsty this one may be OK

    and sailing....
    it was exciting on the fordeck wondering if my D200 and 70-200 VR would fall off the boat, but the excitement in regards to the other boats did not come through.

    Anyway, it is late and I am probably not making much sense.

    I tried to give you a cross section of the differenct photos I take

    Thanks for any help you can give me.

  4. Dennis Carter

    Dennis Carter

    Jun 29, 2007
    Good post, Michael!

    I feel as you do. I'm at a point where other parents like my pictures; however, I'm not yet satisfied. The beauty of Mike Mac's pictures almost brings tears to my eyes, and I don't even know those kids! I imagine the parents almost pass out when they see his pictures.

    Here is a recent post of mine with some examples:

    Like you, I want to do better and am struggling. Thanks for starting this thread!
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  5. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    I wish Mike would give lessons:>)))
    Mike can shoot anything, I don't care what it is
  6. Dennis Carter

    Dennis Carter

    Jun 29, 2007
    Agreed. Mike Mac is da BOMB!!
  7. Kim


    Jun 16, 2005
    Michael, I know EXACTLY how you are feeling. To be honest, I've kinda put up my D200 and "pro" lenses for a while. I feel like I've got the equipment, the CS2, and the passion, but it just doesn't come thru in my results. I went to my nephews graduation (and his soccer games) and took pictures. My sister-in-laws pictures that she took with an entry level camera were as good or better than mine. Kinda depressed me. I'm sure I'll pick up the D200 again, but for now I'm just playing with a Point and shoot. I, too, wish there were someone near me that could look at what I was doing and tell me what I need to do differently to improve.

    Thanks for your post. I guess I'm not the only one who feels this way sometimes! I do know that photography makes me happy and it gets me out in the world and I am continually learning. It has also introduced me to the nice people here at the cafe. I might be in a slump for the moment, but I know that I will get back out there and try, and I hope you will, too.
  8. Chris_B


    Mar 12, 2006
    Arlington, VA
    Mike - I also feel like you. I feel like I've developed a decent understanding of the technical aspects of sports photography and and can get shots with good exposure and track moving subjects and (some of the time) get nice and sharp in focus shots. Still, I look at the best shots on the Cafe and wonder how did they do that?

    The answer we are going to hear from the experts is practice, practice some more and then keep practicing :biggrin:.

    The few times that I've taken shots that really made me say wow were when the light was perfect. I guess in that way, sports or nature photography isn't any different than portrait photography, it is all about the light. The trick that the experts have that I still struggle with is how to do well when the light isn't perfect.

    Here is one of my few shots that really made me happy. It was taken around 5pm (great light) with the evening sun over my shoulder.

  9. Jeff Mims

    Jeff Mims

    May 25, 2005
    I'm in the same boat. I have parents who are very pleased with my photos. I start thinking...I'm improving. Then I log on and see stuff by Mike Mac..(and a few others here)..and then it's :eek:

    I think that most people who are sucessful at anything, got there through determination. They didn't quit because they weren't at the top by their second attempt.
    As for me, I keep studying, learning, practicing..shooting..shooting...and I'm seeing some improvement.
  10. Jeff Mims

    Jeff Mims

    May 25, 2005
    The real question is...potential for what? Do you want to sell photos, get published, create works of art..create snapshots?
    Just know why you are shooting? What are your ultimate goals in sports shooting? Sell photos, or just enjoying a hobby. Nothing wrong with either choice.
    If you enjoy what you are doing, and you obviously have a drive for excellence, I'd say you have potential.
    Don't be so quick to drop photogpraphy..give yourself a chance.
  11. Mike, may I ask? The 1st 2 shot with the 300 f4? You need faster glass. Your Beast @ f2.8 should do fine but its tough for anybody on an overcast day.
    Topher, Randy MikeMac Geno AlexCeno all shoot with big fast glass. mike uses a 400 f2.8, of course if you don't mind a 2nd mortgage to get one.....
    I think Topher upgraded from the 300 f4 to a 2.8 and was very happy he did.
    Try just using your 70-200 @ 2.8, shoot RAW or hi jpeg. I use the same lense with pretty good shots on a few.
    Remember how many shots we shoot verses "keepers".
    Good luck, keep shooting and posting !
  12. topher04r1

    topher04r1 Guest

    Dont be quick to give up ... i think you have what it takes to be GREAT..... when i shot with my 300 f4 it seemed like a MUST to shoot at 5.6 just to get the DOF i was looking for and higher number of "keepers" .....Shoot raw and post up some of your results.... I can't speak for everybody but i know i would be more than willing to help with any questions that you might have! ....

    The best learning results i have gotten have been only because i take a shot that i didn't like...
  13. eng45ine


    May 11, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    I am a student of sports action photography, just like most of you. I think that my images have improved since becoming a member of the Nikon Cafe, but I sure have a long road ahead of me. I am truly humbled by the images that are posted here and by those that I see in Sports Illustrated, they compose the "bar" and the "bar" is set high.

    The way that I see it, these are the main issues surrounding success in the realm of sports action photography...each is equally vital to success:

    1. Quality photography equipment- Owning high-rez camera bodies and a variety of fast lenses is definately necessary. For outdoor use, a 70-200mm f/2.8 and 300mm f/2.8 are probably the standard. An 80-200mm f/2.8 is just fine, as is a 400mm f/2.8. For indoors, it depends on what exactly we are shooting, but a 50mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.4 are two lenses that are highly regarded and there are plenty more. When we shoot sports, we are capturing the action not the scenery, so shooting tight is key and cropping it even tighter in post finishes our mission.

    2. Knowing how to use all of the functions of your camera gear- If we do not fully understand how to adjust your exposure settings for different shooting conditions, we are destined for big-time frustration. Read your owners manual, invest in the Thom Hogan e-book for your camera and lastly, as a bunch of questions here and everywhere.

    3. Understanding the sport you are shooting- We are only as good as our knowledge of the game. Knowing the game will help give us clues where the play is headed so we are ready to capture the action at it's peak.

    4. Access within the venue of play- If we do not have good access to the field of play, we will not have the ideal angles to shoot from. Vantage point is the difference between capturing the faces or not capturing the faces. It's nice to have the ball, puck, frisbee or whatever in the frame, but we have to capture the faces as well...the facial expressions are the difference between a nice shot and a WOW shot.

    5. Fundementals of composition- We have to remember that tight shots sell and that tack sharp images are a necessity. We have to be mindful that certain aspects within our images must be edited out so they do not distract or take away from the subject matter that we are intent on capturing. We must remember to shoot from a landscape orientation for certain shots and in portrait orientation for other types of shots. There is a time for strict isolation of certain players, while other times loosening a shot and tightening aperture is essential for success in other situations.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 1, 2007
  14. Jeff Mims

    Jeff Mims

    May 25, 2005
    Well stated Frank!

    Can't say one point is more important than the others, but I do think understanding your equipment...is HUGE!

    I have field access at certain venues, I have decent equipment...but my photos started improving when I really started understanding my camera, how to set it, adjust it..use it...so it's like second nature. Not that I've mastered my equipment, only that as I understand how to use it, my photos have improved.
  15. Thanks for the replies.

    Lots of good suggestions posted here. I have no intention of giving up photography, but I am at a crossroads. I have made a few dollars selling pictures to the parents of my son's soccer team, but my son is off to college. Another dad and I have been taking pictures of the high school soccer teams. When we were asked to shoot the girls team this spring, we decided to make a few bucks while donating most of the proceeds back to the school program. (Then his wife offered to donate our share to the boys soccer team so we walked away with nothing. That can't happen anymore).

    I feel that if I make a commitment to shoot for pay, I have to offer a product that is superior to what the average mom or dad can get with their camera, and I am not there yet.

    I am going to play with my camera settings this summer. I will spend some time trying to figure out what I like about the shots that Randy, Mike, Tyrone, Randy, and Don post. (Jim mentioned how many use the 300 f2.8 - I have to think how serious my commitment will be:smile:)

    Thanks to all for your suggestions. Time to go shoot and get off of this computer!

  16. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    Another very important thing is to learn how to use your editing programs.
    PP is also a skill
  17. This deserves to be in "Sticky" tips, Frank. Good post!
  18. GBRandy


    Feb 28, 2006
    Green Bay, WI
    Keep Gale's comments in mind as you develop. You can work some real magic in PS, Lightroom, Aperture or any PP program that most parents would not be able to do. Shadow adjustments and sharpening are two basic ones that can take a normal shot and really give it some pop....
  19. acena


    Mar 14, 2006
    New Jersey
    Very good suggestion to a point. If you plan to shoot a lot of sporting or other events for a living, post-production could eat up your profits real fast. Figure out what time is worth to you and apply that to the amount of time you spend in post. It's best, IMHO, to learn your camera inside and out and get the shot right out of the camera. At the very least good enough for display purposes on the web at 700 pixels wide, as an example. You can then fine-tune it in post for printing.