Monday, 21 April 2014


Sometimes ago, I was invited by a camera club to give a workshop on badminton photography. I will try to summarized what I have presented. Badminton is the fastest racquet sports in the world at 421 km/h. It is an indoor sport and the scene is usually not very well lit.

Problems arise as there is a need of fast shutter speed to freeze the motion and there are inadequate light. How would professional photographer overcome this problem and deliver quality photos that are media worthy?

The photos example I use here were all taken from the media pit of the Australian Badminton Open.



Quick Tips

  • Use a SLR camera
    • SLR cameras are designed with focal plane shutter. 
    • Typically can shoot up to 1/8000 second and made it well fit for the purpose of sports photography.
  • Fast lenses
    • This will give you faster shutter speed when shooting.
  • No flash
    • Flash is strictly not allowed as it will affect the players in the game.

Compositions

As a guideline, I will try to include the followings in my mind when I shoot.
  • Player(s)
    • I will try include the main subject, who I am shoot at in focus.
    • Usually their head, but sometimes I will also focus on their hand or racquet.
  • Opponent(s)
    • I will try to include partial of them even they are out of focus. This will give a better story telling in the photo.
  • Shuttle
    • As always, I try to include the shuttle in the photo, and not in awkward position.
    • Near the racquet will generally look nice.
  • Moment
    • I will shoot when the player 
      • just before hitting the shuttle
      • jump at the highest point
    • Include anything else such as
      • their smile
      • sweat
      • fall on the floor
      • won a critical point
      • a trick shot 
      • swing
      • etc...



Positions

Usually the media pit is on one of the long edge side of the court. This allow live broadcast of the games without seeing a bunch of photojournalists walking around in media vest.

In a game of 3 set match, which side of the players will you choose to shoot first and why?

If the player is right handed, you want to shoot them when they are on your left hand side; Similarly, if the player is left handed, you want to shoot them when they are on your right hand side.

Right handed player is on my left hand side. Resulted of good facial expression.

This allow you to shoot them with a little catch of their facial expression, as well as the action. Doing it the other way will result in shots of their backs.

Right handed player on my right hand side resulted a shot of her back. A rather disinterested photo with no facial expression.

Shooting from the short edge side, or from an elevated level would be nice too. If you can get to those position.



Settings

Camera settings look pretty standard for this type of sports, and in fact many type of fast action sports would apply too.
  • High ISO
  • f/2.8 – f/4
  • Tv/Av/M
  • AI Servo
  • Continuous Shooting Mode
  • Faster the shutter speed the better, but we are sacrificing with high ISO. From my experience, 1/1600s is a generally safe shutter speed if you are shooting higher rank national players.