Taking a Great Team Photo
Tips From A Pro Sports Photography
So you are the parent who takes most of the action photos for your team. You share the photos, everyone loves your shots and it inevitably come the time when a team photo is needed. Sometimes it might be formal, sometimes it may be after a big win. Whatever the situation, guess who will be the one taking the photo? You! You are the unofficial team photographer, right? Makes sense. So how hard can that be? Believe it or not, it is a little tougher than you think. Here's a few tricks to help you out.
For starters, let’s explore the different types of team photos. If you are taking a “Hey look, we won the Championship” photo, you will most likely want to catch the joy and basically have the team plop down into a heap and snap away. However, if you want to capture a more formal team photo, here are some tips that will really make a difference.
Top image shows the incorrect way to set up a team photo. Bottom image shows the correct way to set up a team photo.
Even out the tones
The point of a team photo is to see each of the faces on the team clearly. If you put the sun straight in their face, you will inevitably get a fair share of squints, blinks and contorted faces. If you put the sun on the side, now you have half of the faces in bright sun and the other half in deep shade. By the time you get the right exposure for the bright side of the face, the shadow is dark and if you get more detail in the shadow, the sun side gets too bright. The answer is to find some bright even open shade or put the sun behind the team. If you choose the latter, be prepared to have some help to block the sun from hitting your lens. A friend working as a sun block just out of the frame is an easy fix. You don’t have to use a flash, but if you have one, it helps to pump in a little extra light. If you are taking a photo indoors, your light will be even and you will put more focus on what is in the background.
Shorten the lines
Make it your goal to fill the frame with bodies without a lot of dead space. Let's say you have 18 players plus coaches in your photo. The most common mistake is to have long lines of athletes. The problem with this shot is all the dead space and how small all the heads will be. By the time you back up or zoom out wide enough to get the two long lines, you end up with a lot of dead space plus everyone is pretty small in the photo. For a better looking photo, try adding a third or fourth row. One sitting on the ground, one kneeling and sitting up tall and the back row standing. Want to get really fancy? Add a bench in the back and have the back row standing on the bench. The point is that you want to fill the frame by shortening the width and filling the frame. Now you can get a tighter grouping and all the head sizes are larger and easier to see.
Flatten the group
Another common mistake of most photographers is to walk up close to the group with a wide angle lens. While it is true you will get the whole team in the shot, the reality is that the final photo will show a front row that is large with head sizes diminishing quickly by the time you reach the back row. Fat heads in the front and pin heads in the back. You want to try to keep the head sizes about the same. Back up and zoom in with a longer lens. The longer lens will help to flatten the distance between the front and back row. Now you have a group of kids that look of equal size. Having the rows bunch nice and tight also helps shorten that distance between the front and back.
Extend the back line
Now that you have 3 or 4 shorter lines, do one last thing. Have the back row spread out so that they match the length of the line in front of them. Even though all the lines of players have the same amount, without spreading the back row, that last line will appear to be shorter.
You would like to have all the players looking at your lens. This is a problem when there are other people shooting the group over your shoulder. I always wait, let the other people shoot and then get the team’s attention and have them all look at you for your shot. One note about player size. It is normally more comfortable for the smaller players to sit in the front row. Save the back standing rows for your taller players and then arrange them by height. Coaches normally like the standing positions in the back row on the ends.
Of course the main thing is to keep it light and fun and don’t stress out over the details. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Take a look at the official team photo of your favorite professional sports team. You will start to notice some of these techniques. As always, have a blast!
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