What I Have Learned from Sports, Portrait, and Macro Photography
I am not particularly a sports connoisseur, but put me in front of a marathon or a soccer game or a football game and I will take pictures compulsively. Since quantity sadly does not equal quality, I have been studying up on what I might do to improve the quality of my sports shots. I came across an article, “11 Easy Ways to Improve Your Sports Photography” written by Andrew Richardson for Fstoppers in 2016. It is a blockbuster of an article that I recommend not only for sports photographers but also for street photographers. Here are some of the points that Andrew makes.
Tell a story.
It is one thing to take a picture with a good composition that catches the action, but it is another thing entirely to take a picture that tells a story. Advance planning, with a list of shots you might want to take, can make all of the difference in the world. For a street photographer that is an argument for going back to a good place to shoot over and over so that you become an expert on that bit of the world and can therefore make the most of every opportunity.
It is all about the face.
Practically the first thing a newborn baby recognizes is a human face. Our response to a face is primal. Always try to include a face.
Shoot tight. Crop tighter.
Tight cropping is a way to get rid of distracting elements. It also draws your viewer into the scene.
No one wants to see your point of view.
Shoot from above. Shoot from below.
May James, a professional photographer from Singapore, has generously allowed me to use two of her sports photos as examples. May is not only a sports photographer, but also a street photographer and an incredibly talented documentary photographer. At the time of writing this article she is documenting the protests in Hong Kong. You can find her galleries on Instagram at, @slpsiusin, on Facebook at May James Photography and on her Photography Services website,
It goes without saying that experience in formal portrait photography will make you a better street portrait photographer, but I believe it can also make you a better candid street photographer. While there is no chance that I will ever do formal portraits, I go to those photographers and their tips to find out, for example, how and where I should crop a body if the whole body is not going to be in the picture. Look at this delightful graphic posted in Pinterest by Gaby Awad. The portrait photographers are the ones who educate me on issues like what makes a pleasing composition of people, what kinds of lighting can be interesting and how you can break rules of composition for interesting portraits.
Sainadh Mallula, a Nashville photographer, has many photography interests, but I particularly like his portrait photography. His photo below is a good example of how cutting off the top of the head, but preserving the neck makes a very pleasing crop.
The photo with a sunflower is an example of the merit of creating a strong diagonal across the frame. You can see Sai’s gallery on Instagram at @nadhphoto and on his website at www.nadhphoto.com.
There are many skills that you can improve by engaging in macro photography including how to get good in-camera composition, how to focus on the most important part of your subject and how to get enough depth of field. Of these three, macro photography is the boot camp for learning to manage depth of field. Three things affect how much of a picture is in focus. One is the Aperture setting, which is how wide the lens is open, the second is the distance to the subject and the third factor is the focal length. The closer you are to your subject, the less depth of field you have and, of course, conversely, the farther away you are from your subject, the more depth of field that you have. The longer your focal length, the less depth of field you have. Because macro photographers are shooting so close to their subject they really have to manage issues of depth of field. When street photographers take the type of photography that we call candid street photography, they usually want enough depth of field for the whole scene to be in focus. That means using a fairly small size Aperture opening, f/8-f/11 or even f/5.6 if there is a requirement to get more light into the camera. However, if you are taking street portraits, you want considerably less depth of field so that the background is less intrusive.
Carl Lum is a versatile, knowledgeable photographer who I have followed practically from the start on Instagram at @eclectic.shooter. I had chosen some close up pictures that I had identified incorrectly as macros. He reminded me that, by definition, a macro has to have a reproduction ratio of 1:1. I was fortunate that he had one to share.
Photo by Carl Lum. Used with permission. Click for a larger image.
The reality is that even close up photography requires careful attention to depth of field. This photo by photographer, Sunny Dawn Israel, whose gallery you can see on Instagram at @sunriseiz, is a lovely example of the abstract quality that you can get in close up photography.
The more you practice getting the right depth of field, the better you will get at it. So if you cannot go out and shoot street photography, by all means go out and shoot a flower or an insect.