Four Tips to Capture Better Sports Photos of your Kids

As I write this we are just around the corner from Fall sports so I wrote a post and made a quick video to share four tips to getting that keeper of your kids. You can find the video at the bottom of the post. 

  1. GET YOUR CAMERA SETUP CORRECTLY: I used Manual mode in this video to manually adjust my shutter speed and aperture that were ideal for freezing action and blurring the background. In this case 1/1000th of a second and f.4. If you’re uncomfortable using Manual mode, then consider using Shutter Priority mode which gives you control of your shutter speed while letting the camera figure out the rest of the settings. Also, put your camera on burst mode which will enable it to take as many frames per second as possible. Taking multiple frames increases your chances of getting the timing just right.

  2. USE ONE OR A FEW AUTOFOCUS POINTS: Your camera may have 20 or even 300 autofocus points on the screen. Adjust them to either one or just a few and track your subject with them until you’re ready to take the shot. This gives you control of what is in focus rather than the camera deciding and will increase your chances of getting a sharp shot of your son or daughter.

  3. ANTICIPATE THE ACTION: If you see your son waving for the ball and he’s open, point your camera towards him and wait for the ball to arrive and the click-away. If the ball is up in the air and the players are gathering below, pre-focus on the players and wait for the ball to enter the frame. Trying to track the play real-time can be daunting and difficult to consistently get correct focus. By anticipating where the action will be you’ll consistently get more keepers.

  4. AVOID UGLY AND DISTRACTING BACKGROUNDS:  Porta-Potties, garbage cans, and parking lots are not pretty. Move around the field to find angles that will minimize background clutter or something interesting that tells a story - perhaps the parents in the sidelines or a tournament banner.

For more in-depth descriptions of sports photography, shutter speed, and aperture follow the links to each.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments, below. If you found this helpful please share this post with your friends and family.

Make it a great day!


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My Most Used Camera Setting - Aperture Priority

There are hundreds if not thousands of different camera configurations. Because of this it can be daunting to figure out how to use anything more than the Auto setting. Eighty percent of the time, however, I use the same one - Aperture Priority. Aperture Priority mode gives the photographer control over the aperture values and, more-or-less, allows the camera to determine the rest. Most camera manufacturers represent this mode on the dial as 'A' or 'Av. '

Aperture Priority is ideal for portraits, group shots, family, travel and landscapes photos.

The Aperture is the hole in the camera’s lens. The size of the hole influences how much light hits the camera’s sensor. Not surprisingly, a larger opening allows more light to reach the sensor. More often than not, this is a good thing because light is needed to create photographs. The opposite is true for smaller openings.  Aperture values are read out in f-stop numbers such as f1.8, f.2.8, f4, and all the way up to f22 (further in some cases). The smaller the f-stop value, the bigger the opening while larger f-stop values shrink the opening resulting in less light hitting the sensor but creating greater depth of field.  Let me explain further.

Depth of field is used to describe how much or little the photograph is in focus. A shallow depth of field can be demonstrated in a portrait where the background behind the person is blurred while the subject remains in focus. The opposite effect can be produced as well where there is a lot of depth of field meaning everything in the image is in focus...even the background which, is often desired in landscape or vacation photos.

To see how aperture affects an image, click through the images shown in this post. Notice how the background changes from a blur to being in focus as the aperture values increase. The pictures shot at f1.8 and f2.8 demonstrate a shallow depth of field. While the last couple shot at f16 or f22 demonstrate a lot of depth of field. Also, notice how the ISO jumps from 100 at f1.8 and up to 6400 at f22. This is because as the f-stop values increase, less light is being allowed into the camera which then automatically compensates with higher ISO values. ISO is a digital effect that increases the sensor's sensitivity to light. Higher ISO values also add grain to an image which, is often not desired.   

Note: for purposes of demonstrating how Aperture values impact depth of field, I kept the shutter speed at 1/400th to ensure my subject stayed in focus. 

Let's breakdown some situations that are well suited for using Aperture Priority mode. 

Portrait Photography

If the goal is to blur the background and isolate the subject which, often makes for a great portrait, then consider using the lowest f-stop value the lens will allow for...this could be as low as f1.2 or as high as f4 or f5.6. To further enhance the blur effect consider these three additional steps:

1) Place the subject as far away from the background as possible.

2) Use a longer zoom such as 100mm or even 200mm lens. 

3) Get closer to the subject. 

vacation, travel, landscape photography

Often, when taking images of big vistas or other beautiful scenes while on vacation or traveling, the desired outcome is to have the entire scene in focus including the foreground and background so that the image will not only capture your family in the foreground but also capture the details of that beautiful mountain range, lake, or building they are standing in front of. To accomplish this it is best to use a higher f-stop value such as f8, f11, f14 or higher. It is important to remember when using higher f-stop values that less light is hitting the sensor and the camera will lower the shutter speed and increase the ISO values to compensate for this. This is generally OK as many cameras will not let the shutter speed dip too low. or the let the ISO go beyond its practical limits. 

As with all photographs, first ask yourself what the desired outcome or intent is. If the intent is to capture a portrait or isolate a subject from its background consider using a low aperture value.. If the intent is to get the background in focus, also use higher f-stop values. If the intent is to freeze action consider using in Shutter Priority mode. More on that in the next blog. 

Like all things, the best way to understand these concepts is to practice.

Ping me if you have any questions.

If you enjoyed this post a like and a share would be super appreciated!



Check out some of my recent fine art images here: 

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Landscape Photography - You Don’t always Need Epic Locations for great images

I recently captured this image - ‘Row of Trees’ - last week, during the last Nor’easter we experienced on the East coast. Despite the epic snowfall, capturing this image was not quite as epic. This location is only 15 minutes from my house. The most difficult part of getting this shot was driving there on the snow and slush covered roads.

A Row of Trees - ©John Guillaume - f11, 1/125 sec, ISO 160

A Row of Trees - ©John Guillaume - f11, 1/125 sec, ISO 160

While not technically challenging to shoot, capturing this shot did require some foresight and planning. I envisioned this very image over a year ago but needed weather conditions to cooperate. Using a long lens was necessary to get the shot without trespassing. The snow effectively simplified the scene by eliminating distracting elements. 

I wrote about  seeing things differently as a photographer in the Four Reasons I Love Photography Post. I would have never noticed the intimate beauty of this scene if I did not take the time to notice my surroundings.

Key take aways:

1. You don’t need to be in an epic location to find great images.  

2. Keep your eyes open and imagine compositions that may be hidden by other distractions.

Thanks for reading and please use the comments section to ask questions or share your thoughts.

A like and a share are always appreciated. 





Learn Your Camera - Watch this Video

Your camera is simply an instrument to take pictures. Knowing your instrument will eliminate the mechanical nature of photography and free you up to more easily capture something special whether it be a family moment or something more artistic. Like all things, the best way to learn the subtleties of your camera settings is to practice. 

There are three important functions you will want to learn: 

Perfect Stream - Olympic National Park ©John Guillaume 

1/60 sec, f7.1, ISO 64 - Shot on a tripod 

  1. Shutter Speed - Determines how fast the shutter opens and closes 
  2. Aperture - Changes the size of the opening to your camera's sensor
  3. ISO - Impacts your camera's sensitivity to light 

Once you understand each of these and how they interact with each other, you will be able to focus on more important aspects of photography such as composition and light.  

The video below, by Tony Northrup, does a good job of explaining how each of these impacts the outcome of your image. After watching this, practice and experience what you've learned. Take a picture of your son or daughter outdoors using a low Aperture (f2.8-f4) and then a high Aperture value (f16-f22)...notice the difference in the background and the ISO? Have her run slowly towards you with a high (1/1000th) and low shutter (1/100th) speed and notice how it impacts the sharpness of the subject.  

Valley Forge National Park - ©John Guillaume 

1/500th, f4.5, ISO 100 - Shot handheld

When I was learning these functions I simply took pictures of anyone and anything. Through trial and error, you will begin to appreciate how they work and then be able to use them to your advantage to get the shot you wanted.

Let me know if you have any questions. 



It's a Blizzard Here! - Quick Tip - Photographing Snow

Snow can dramatically change the look of any neighborhood, city, or landscape.  However, your photographs can often disappoint because your camera can make the white, fluffy stuff look flat, dull and grey :-( 

YOu need to overexpose your images because your camera will automatically underexpose the scene because of the brightness value of the snow.  

Here are two ways to do it:   

  1. EDIT YOUR PICTURE after you've taken it by increasing your 'white' or 'brightness' slider and add a bit of 'contrast' as well. Adjust these to your taste. 
  2. INCREASE YOUR EXPOSURE BY USING EXPOSURE COMPENSATION before you click the shutter button - I covered how to do this on your iPhone HERE.  Many DSLRs have a dedicated dial, as well.  Bump your exposure up by 1-2 stops and viola...your snowy photograph just a got a little better.  

iPhone Photo - Original 

iPhone Photo - Quickly Edited for Snow 

iPhone Photo - Quickly Edited for Snow 

For those of you getting hit by this nor'easter, winter storm Quinn, stay safe and warm and get outside and take some pics! 


How I got the shot - Out to Sea

Out to Sea was my most popular photograph of 2017.  This image was taken last summer in Sea Isle, New Jersey.  Sea Isle is a short distance away from Stone Harbor and Avalon, where we typically vacation each summer.  Despite its proximity, I had never been there but and wanted to explore a new area.  

In preparation for the early morning outing, I used The Photographers Ephemeris (TPE) app (available for iOS or Android) to scout out potential photographic opportunities. TPE does a lot of things but I primarily use it to track the path of the sunrise and sunset relative to my shooting position.  In addition, I use the maps view to look at the terrain.  In this case, the maps view was my primary tool because I was looking for interesting features along the shoreline.  Note: You could easily do this on Google Maps or Apple Maps using satellite view.  After I had pinpointed a couple of points of interest, I got my gear ready and set the alarm for 4:30 am. Why so early?  The best light for landscape photography is most often just before and just after sunrise or sunset. During this 'golden hour,' colors are rich and vibrant and the light is soft - ideal conditions for photography. 

BZZZ, BZZZ, BZZZ - I tiptoe around the family and quickly get dressed without waking them.  I grab my gear and head to WaWa for a mega-large coffee - coffee is my friend ;-).  The drive was less than 10 minutes.  In short order, I’m barefoot on the beach and searching for those points of interest and just enjoying the solitude of the early morning.  Life is good! 

Out to Sea  - ©John Guillaume

Out to Sea  - ©John Guillaume

There were too many clouds for a rich and vibrant sunrise but what I did get was soft and muted colors which suit my style anyway.  The composition I had in mind was simple...I wanted a straightaway shot with the jetty starting at the front of the frame and extending to the horizon.  My vision was to create an ethereal image by making the water creamy and getting some movement in the clouds.  Also, I had black and white in mind since the morning colors were obscured by the cloud layer.

I put my camera on the tripod and found my composition.  Next, I added a 3-stop ND and polarizing filter. I then dialed-in the settings using Aperture Priority mode which I set at f11. I also manually set my ISO to 64.  These settings resulted in a 60-second shutter speed (exposure time). When shooting moving objects, such as water, longer shutter speeds smooth out the water making it like creamy. 


A shorter shutter speed, such as 1/25 of a second, would have shown the texture of the water and the surf.  Either approach is fine.  It comes down to artistic choice.

After getting the shot I wanted, I wandered the beach a bit and took two other images but then headed back to join my family for breakfast.

Editing the RAW Image

Later that week I found some time to edit the image.  I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop for editing and cataloging all of my photographs.  I enjoy this part of the is probably the tech nerd in me but there is something cathartic about. Sometimes I make a lot of changes sometimes very few...again, it comes down to artistic choice and what the photographer had in mind when taking the image. 

In this case, there were not a lot of changes but a few big ones. 

  1. My normal tweaks:  Some black and white level adjustments to get the exposure just right.
  2. I converted it to black and white and adjusted some of the tonal values to my liking.
  3. Desaturated the sky completely.
  4. Added some blue-greens into the shadows of the water.

While this may seem like a 15-minute process, the final image was the result of several different edits and changes over multiple days.  I have found it is helpful to step away from an edit and come back the next day to see if it still looks good.  Sometimes it does...sometimes it doesn' just takes time to get it to feel right. 

The result is clean, simple, minimalist image.  It's something that would not be seen by the naked eye.  Tens of thousands of people walk by this jetty every year but they've never seen it this way.  It’s 60 seconds worth of time captured in a single moment.

Use the comments section, below if you have any questions.  I'm always happy to help. 

If you are interested in hanging Out To Sea on your wall, please CONTACT ME and we can discuss printing and sizing options.  

Make it a great day!

John Guillaume