Extreme Sports Photography – Parkour Edition

What is parkour?

Parkour is an extreme sport where traceurs (practitioners) attempt to move from one place to another as quickly and efficiently as possible. It has become commonplace in movies, commercials, and other forms of media. And for good reason, it looks impressive.

5 Tips for Creating Incredible Parkour Photography

1. Plan ahead of time. Understand where the action is going to take place and setup appropriately. In the case of parkour athletes, this can be quite challenging. Whenever you are shooting extreme sports, be prepared to follow the athletes. To make this easier, make sure you are equipped for the task. Find a pair of parkour shoes, grab some good parkour gloves, wear athletic clothing, and be ready to climb around. And make sure all of your camera gear is not too heavy.

2. Lens Selection. You want your image to be right in the action. This means being up close in person, or in cases where it isn’t practical, off to the side with a good telephoto lens. Don’t be lazy, only rely on the lens when you have to. It is more fun to be up close anyways. Be a little adventurous.

3. Try shooting from a low angle. This can help make the shot look more dramatic and the athlete more powerful. People look at extreme sports photos to be impressed! Wide angle photos are also very popular in sports photography. Don’t be afraid to distort images.

4. Blurring. In some shots, you will want to keep the background crisp and clean. Many times you will be shooting athletes as they are in the air and will have the sky as a backdrop. In parkour, you can have some incredible cityscape backdrops as they climb and leap from rooftops. However, be creative. Blurring the background can show energy, emphasis, and movement. You can do this with panning, but it takes some practice. Alternatively, try blurring the subject themselves.

5. Have fun. The best extreme sports photographs I have ever taken came about when I knew about the sport and found it fascinating. Get to know the subjects if you can, ask questions, and see what they think would look cool photographed. After all, they know the ins and outs and view the sport all the time.


Smartphone Photography Tips: The Basics

A smartphone camera may be capable of much more than askew selfies and milky snapshots of whatever was on the lunch menu. You can do much to improve the quality of your shots by observing a few simple tips.

Start with a clean lens. While it’s easy enough to keep the lens clean on a regular camera, this may not be the case for a smartphone. It is in and out of your pocket and your fingers are all over it. A hazy film of dirt will inevitably build up on the lens and wash out your image quality. It’s a good idea to give the lens a good wipe with a soft cloth before taking that shot.

The rules of photography still apply. The rule of thirds, for example, can make even a simple shot appear a lot more professional. A lot of photo apps actually come with the grid built in and lining your subject up along one of the dividers will ensure you’re right on target. Try to avoid centering your subject, it’s generally considered boring.

Speaking of targets. While auto focus may or may not get it right, most phones will let you target focus by tapping on the screen. This ensures you get the right sharp target in a busy scene. Hold still. Keep your phone as steady as possible, especially if you’re using special settings like HDR, which takes several shots at different light settings to give you amazing depth of color and contrast, at the cost of being incredibly susceptible to camera shake. While we’re on the subject, forget zoom. It only ruins the quality of your final image. You will have much better luck cropping your image later than using zoom initially.

Take more than one shot. In fact, some apps will let you rapidly shoot continuously for those awesome shot series. Move to different angles, step back, move closer. Get as many different variations of your subject as you can. You can always delete images you don’t want later, but you never get that moment back so take advantage of it while you can.

Whenever possible, take advantage of native lighting. The flash on your smartphone is notoriously awful unless you are going for that washed out, pasty yellow face with the demon eyes look, of course. Keep available light sources behind the camera, not the subject. Otherwise backlit shots tend to end up as a black silhouette blob in front of a huge lens flare. This is especially true for the sun.

Have fun with your shots. Take many pictures. Practice makes perfect. Never be afraid to experiment with settings and new apps. You may end up surprising yourself.