Friday, May 9, 2008

Picking Your Background

Yea, I wish I could just pick my background every time I went to a sporting event, but instead I have to go looking for it. So, today i was assigned to go cover some high school tennis matches during the state championships, and one of the most crucial parts to a good sports photo is a clean/ good background. It's hard to make a good image with out it, and if any of you have ever shot tennis you know how horrible the backgrounds can be.

So pick your background -

The one on the left is probably the most common background you'll find doing tennis, and yea it couldn't be much worse. Chain link fences surround every court and no matter how hard you try they are almost impossible to get rid of.

The image above isn't a great image by any means, but it is pretty typical of what you'd see at a tennis match. The first step here is to try and clean up the background so the action isn't lost to the background. Thankfully, they have started to put up these dark green/black covers on the backs of the fences to either cut down late evening sun or wind, I don't know which, but all i care about is it helps clean up the backgrounds.

So, those covers help out with the backgrounds quite a bit, helping to isolate the action and have a cleaner feel to it. However, you still get some weird lines of the bars in the fences and some shadowed outlines sometimes. Generally, this is about as good as you get for high school tennis as far as backgrounds go, but i got lucky today. I found two courts with wood backgrounds that were really nice and weathered looking.

Just from a glance you can see the obvious difference between the two other backgrounds. This was a godsend to find. It really allows for the action to stand out. I also got lucky that today was pretty overcast so I didn't have to worry about any hard shadows. So, i stayed with the wood background as long as I could before I had to move on. I made a couple decent images like the one above, and this one below where timing just happened to help make a kind of a funny image.

So the bottom line from this post is when your shooting sports look for those clean backgrounds. It makes all the difference in the world when it comes to making a good sports image.



Francis said...

I used to shoot photos for the university here and of all the sports I was assigned, tennis was the hardest one (wrestling the gayest and gymnastics the hottest). That wood background worked out really well for both color and composition.

I like your blog and really did all the inside / behind the scenes stuff that you post.

francis said...


Steffen said...

I'm loving your blog dude, it's got this down to earth feel to it that makes these photos seem achievable to a standard joe such as myself.

Keep it up man, much appreciated.