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Kid and Animal Photography FuelTip: Baseball and Softball Photography Tips

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In this excerpt from Photographing Outdoor Sports: The Right Settings, Gear, and Tips for Capturing Baseball, Soccer, Surfing, and Other Outdoor Events, Alan Hess offers some tips for getting great shots at the next Little League game.
From the book

Baseball and softball move rather slowly between pitches and then explode into action when the ball is thrown. It’s a great game to photograph, especially at the Little League level, because the distances are not that great and there are multiple places to shoot from. You also have enough time to change your position and move around as much as needed to get the best shot.

Here are some of the positions to shoot from. Just remember that the ball (and bat) can go flying in any direction, so make sure you are in a safe spot—or at least make sure you keep an eye on the game at all times.

To capture this photograph of my nephew getting ready to pitch, I used a 70-200mm at f/2.8 to make a thick chain link fence disappear.

  • Behind Home Plate. I first started going to Little League games because my nephew played. He was the pitcher and took the game very seriously. I really wanted to capture the expression on his face when on the mound and pitching the ball. Now, if you have ever been to a Little League field, you know that it is really easy to position yourself right behind the batter for a great view of the pitcher—but there is a heavy chain link fence in the way! The idea is to shoot through the fence so it isn’t in your photo. To do this, get as close to the fence as possible and use a wide aperture. Then, when you focus on the pitcher, the fence all but disappears.
  • Third Base. Outside of the third base dugout is my favorite spot to shoot from. From here I can get the batters, a side view of the pitcher, and all the bases, including home. I have found that in most Little League games, the action happens either at first base or at home plate, so this offers both spots.
  • First Base. The first base shooting position is very similar to the third base shooting position, and it gives you a great view of the game. I basically switch between the two as time permits, depending on which team I am trying to capture.

1/4000 second, f/4, ISO 400
To capture the action in the outfield during a softball practice, I photographed from the third base side. Using the 300mm f/4 lens on a cropped body camera gave me the reach to fill the frame with the action.

One thing you can’t really change when shooting Little League is that the spectators may be right behind the batter. Keep the focus in tight on the batter, and use a wide aperture to help keep the action on the player rather than the spectators.

1/8000 second, f/2.8, ISO 500
Photographing from the third base side, I captured the batter and the ball. While the spectators are right behind the players, a shallow depth of field minimizes the background and keeps the attention on the players.

Photograph the practice, if possible. Just ask permission and don’t get in the way.
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