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5.5 Tips To Get Better Tennis Photos

Jared Polin, froknowsphoto.com and this is
a video about some quick tips for shooting tennis. Now, the US Open is right around the
corner and I was just in Florida for my cousin’s bar mitzvah and he was going to tennis practice
so I took my camera out there and I took some photos. So I’ve got 26 of the keepers out
of 100 – 118 shots that I took and I finished with 26 that I think are solid, solid shots.
And I want to go through some of the ones I like, some of the ones I don’t like but
let’s look at what makes a good tennis picture and some tips that you can use if you’re
going to go out and photograph tennis. So first things first, probably a longer lens,
something in the 70-200 range if you are courtside. Now I was right near the center – near the
net off maybe three feet away from the net just shooting diagonally across the court.
You want to look at where the sun is. Is the sun going to be in their face if they’re
on their forehand or if they’re on their backhand? In this case, I am not on the side
that I really wanted to be because his forehand is much stronger but I didn’t want to cross
to the other side of the court because I’ll just say that there was an obstruction over
there and I couldn’t shoot from there so maybe if he switched sides to the other side
during practice, his forehand shots would be much better but look, you see the shadow
in his face, the light’s good over here but if his forehand was turned the other way,
the light would be better. But let’s talk about settings, 1/320th of
a second at F4, the reason 1/320th of a second is I want a really fast shutter speed to help
freeze the action. I have VR off on my 70-200 VR because there’s no reason to have it
at 1/320th of a second. I’m at F4 to give myself a little bit more leeway with the focus
so that if it focuses on his cheek or something like that that his eye is still going to be
sharp especially shooting from where I was shooting from. ISO 320, you’re going to
see me switch from 320 to 400 just because that gives me the ability to get the faster
shutter speed that I want and not worried about noise, not worried about grain especially
on a bright ass day like this. You’re going to see me in the range 180-200.
That’s where you’re going to start to see most of these shots. I want to fill the
frame without cropping. You want to get to that action? This is action. You want to try
and have the ball in there. One of the things is trying to get like a backhand where the
guy is swinging – let me see if I have a backhand here real quick. Backhand, okay.
Not a good backhand but you can see what he’s about to do. I’ve got to have a better backhand.
No, that’s forehand, forehand, forehand, forehand. Yeah, here’s a backhand. Not as
good, but what you can do, you see how the ball’s in there? It’s not a great shot
but I’m just demonstrating the backhand. One of these things is where you want to get
in a tight shot of the face and you get the racket moving and you get the ball in there.
That’s what you’re looking for. Let’s go back to the beginning and take a look.
Fill the frame. He is off the court. I’m in continuous focus, I’m using the Group-Area
AF that the Nikon D4S offers me so does the A10 so does – that’s it for now, I think.
I think that’s the only one with the Group-Area AF. I don’t think the D610 has it. I don’t
know actually. I haven’t tried. But you can see that he’s off the ground, that’s
awesome. It’s frozen. You can see that the focus area is very narrow even at F4 it’s
not bad. It would be even more narrow if it was at 32 or 35 or F28. No reason to shoot
at 28 here. The background is still blown out pretty well. So that’s an okay shot. This, it’s not as good. I don’t like the
distractions in the background but this wasn’t a match. This was more of a practice so there’s
going to be people. He’s waiting to hit the ball and then because I’m not motor driving,
I got right as he hit it. This is a nice follow-through. You can see the wrist going over. One thing
I recommend to do is shift over to the right a little bit if he’s going to be a right-handed
swinger. The reason is it’s going to end up lopsided. I want him more in the middle
of the frame with that racket in there. So that’s something that I learned by going
out there and doing this. You can also see the eye contact with the
ball. See, that’s more in the center. It’s the follow-through, it’s the approach. He
hit his shot, he’s going to serve – basically get served. He return-served and he’s going
to start to volley back towards the net. So that’s what he was looking for. I like that
shot. This is filling the frame for a backhand.
It would be great if the ball was here on the racket but it’s not. You can see again
at F4, the background’s blown out, the partner up on the court is blow out but this to me
is perfect in the way of composition. He’s right in the center of the frame, not cropped
at all so this is a great tip. Ideally, you want to get the ball in there but also the
exposure is right on. I wasn’t that far off. I think I pulled back just a little bit,
1/320th F4, same thing, 400 ISO. So I like this shot. It fills the frame very well and
then here’s a smash. That’s a forehand smash. I like it. The ball’s already gone but that’s how
you get a shot like this. I wish it was a little tighter using a 300 but I didn’t
use that. I was using a 70-200. I’m not going to crop but I like the tones that I’m getting
out of it. I didn’t edit this shot. I wanted to show you that this is nice. Actually what
I can do, I can sync the shots to the last one. So, what I’m doing under develop is I
highlight that one, I hold down the command and then I click on that and I’m going to
hit sync, I’m going to have everything sync and boom, it will sync to that setting because
that was a good – I didn’t have to change very much. So, the ball is frozen. You could see his
hands moving. You know, I would like to see more of his face. It’s not a bad shot, but
it’s not that good because we don’t have much of the face in there. Moving forward,
this is better. Just, it’s not a great action shot. It seems too ladidadida to be that good.
Oh, I’m like, “Why am I going back to the same picture?” because it was still
selected. This is better because it’s a follow-through. I like what’s going as he’s
coming to the net and obviously, you get some reactions, laughing, I like it. It could be
a little tighter. That’s a simple backhand. Also, what I like, though, he’s on the move.
His feet are off the har-tru; they call this har-tru. He is using Adidas. Or is this Reebok?
That’s Adidas, right? Reebok. I don’t know anymore. But that’s not a bad backhand
and that’s great. I love how he’s on his front foot. The smash already went through.
You could see the wrist is coming over. I like that shot. Then we switch to the other side. You see
now that we’re on his forehand, which is his right hand, the light is in his face whereas
here, it’s kind of shadowed because – just because. So we’ve got this and there it
is. There, that’s what we’re looking for, is that. This is okay with the ball but then
when you get the ball and this, it’s like boom because we have his face; his face is
in focus, the ball and the racket, he already made contact, I believe. Is that coming or
going? That’s definitely going because it’s further forward but this is what you’re
looking for you are looking for this type of thing so here’s a tip. With the 70-200,
I’m out at 195, almost 200 filling the frame. If you were to break out a 300 and go even
tighter and shoot maybe a horizontical, that’s where you start to get a tighter shot. I’ll
show you what you could get. I’ll use the [Inaudible] [0:07:14] tool just to show you
what the composition could be with a tighter lens. I wouldn’t do this to mine unless I had
that tighter lens. Let’s see. This is always a good experiment or a good way to learn how
you could shoot. Like this is a type of shot that you could shoot. Maybe even a little
tighter but see how you get the look on the face, that’s what you’re looking for.
Now let me get back, boom, alright, I’ll fix this later. I’ll fix that later. Then
you got this, it’s not a bad shot. Fill the frame. I don’t know if that ended up
being a good shot but I love the color in the face. It looks good and I like that it’s
a follow-through. Here, we got that smash going and then the
full follow-through so this is nice. He’s getting up and hopefully, he’s getting over
the top of the ball or just, you know, striking it well. So I like that, I like the look on
the face. I like that he’s open and I like that you get the follow-through right there
again off the court to do that. I think this needs to be a little more contrasty, boom,
just a little bit. And not as good. You see, sometimes it all depends on how he got to
the ball because if he had to run across the court to get to this, it’s not going to
be as good. Oh, bad shot. It must have been a bad shot. It must’ve gone out. Then there’s some reaction getting which
is nice. Switch over to horizontical, fill the frame. Not as close to the vertical but
not bad at all, 200 mm because he was further away from me. The ball’s in there, good,
the eyes on the ball, boom, wrist is over, striking it well and that’s a nice shot
because you got the ball going back. The same thing here. I don’t like the look on the
face as much but I like the background, I do. He’s separated really well from the
background, didn’t cut off the racket, got the ball in there, got him in there, good
and then this, he’s right in the middle. Still don’t like the look on the face but
the ball is going back as a return, not as tight, don’t like it, not as much energy
going into it but that is better. That is a nice shot, and that is where it leaves us. I hope you picked up some tips. I know I didn’t
say terribly too much but just things like when the player’s moving, it’s easier
during practice because there’s a lot more going on. Actually the game, I mean, there’s
so much going on during the game. You know where they’re going to be. They’re going
to be on the baseline. They’re going to be at the net. They’re going to go left,
they’re going to go right so you just track the guys. So when you’re shooting tennis,
try to shoot some wider. Try to shoot some tighter. Try to shoot some ultra-tighter.
Try to get some of the racket and the ball almost at the same time so that if you’re
off to the side and they’re coming, and they’re on a, you know, their forehand or
they’re on their backhand and you’re just lining up the ball and the racket and the
eyes, so basically you’re getting that shot at the opportune time. Try not to motor drive
too much. Try to anticipate the motion but then, you know, do a snap or two or three
and you should be good to go. That should work out. That’s a good tip right there. Get the action,
guys, sliding on the court if they’re on clay. Just coming into the net, those reaching
backhands when they come to the net, those are cool. Try to play around. Just play with
the 20[Inaudible] [0:10:11], play with the 70-200, play with the 300 if you have it and
that is what I have to say. All of these full res images are uploaded, they’re on flicker
if you want to check them out. This was that one, obviously but you could see the difference.
These are filling the frame, none of them are cropped, that is what I would like you
to do. You know, it is more difficult to not crop. I just find that in my opinion, I like
not to and I said that before but it’s a cool little challenge like this, to fill the
frame right there, playing with the zoom, getting it right and there you have it. Those
are some tennis tips. There you have it. Jared Polin, froknowsphoto.com. See ya.

David Frank



  1. Tom McGoldrick Posted on August 29, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    great tips!

  2. albertr915 Posted on August 29, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    thank's for the great tips Jared. like this video.

  3. Jason Spannagel Posted on August 29, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    Say you were shooting this with a D7100 or a camera without the Group Area AF, would you use the d-9 option?  Also, would you aim for the head or the chest?

    Thanks, love your stuff Jared!

  4. Mathias Posted on August 29, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    Do you use the shutter button to focus or do you use a dedicated AF button? I recently read that many professionals use a dedicated AF button instead of the shutter button and I am curious if you think this offers any advantages.

  5. sofakiiing Posted on August 29, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Fave I shoot Raw shirt!

  6. BRENNAN'S TECH BITE Posted on August 29, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    What metering mode were you using to shoot him?

  7. Matt Blue Posted on August 29, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    would the same tips also go along with shooting skateboarding

  8. D Posted on August 29, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    WHAT :O did we just see Jared crop somthing :O

  9. Karl Childs Posted on August 29, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Awesome! My 2 passions, tennis and photography, thanks for the tips!
    Btw, one correction; the U.S. Open is not around the corner, it already started a few days ago.
    And yes, his shoes are Adidas. They're Barricade 8's
    Love your videos!

  10. Federico Feroldi Posted on August 29, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    With a DX camera would you stay at F4 or would you opened all the way to F2.8? To have the same or similar separation (DOF).

  11. Morgan Bergqvist Posted on August 29, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    D810 har grp area

  12. Ron Inabinett Posted on August 29, 2014 at 11:36 pm

    Some good tips mixed in with light, however.

  13. kevin cater Posted on August 30, 2014 at 8:02 am

    so much for not working on your trip…lol.. but glad you did

  14. ERIKJK Posted on August 30, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    If the cap is on the head, there never being a good light in the face… 

  15. Kars Posted on August 30, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    Thank you Jared for this presentation. I think it's about understanding the game/ activity and choosing the right vantage points to capture the essential parts involved. That forehand with a tight face, racket and ball are those elements.

    Why such hate for a little crop, when you want to present a more appealing image. Sure I can understand that having the right tools and using those tools within their limitations helps to keep the quality high. And we should strife to have that highest quality. At the same time having a very high MP camera should allow a reasonable crop without most buyers and clients noticing, especially for small prints. I think small crops helps to get the viewer to center better on the parts that matter, and get rid of the distractions. I'm not afraid of the sliding into shooting everything wide and becoming lazy about getting the right position and focal lengths. Cropping within reason to me is almost like adjusting exposure levels in post. 

    A little critique to your friend's tennis technique. He can improve on how he holds and swings his racket, he holds it too far at the end.

    I think shooting from a lower position, perhaps sitting on chair using a mono pot can also produce nice results, looking up to an athlete makes him already look stronger. If I do not understand an activity, I have no problem with first sitting at the field and study the game a bit to see the game patterns, so I have a plan on what shots to aim for.

    Keep it up Jared!

  16. Director 289 Posted on August 31, 2014 at 3:45 am

    Thanks – I shoot tennis a lot, and I think it's deceptively difficult.  This was a great overview – love the SHARPNESS of you shots and you have a good synch tip for Lightroom.

  17. Don Jones Posted on August 31, 2014 at 4:16 am

    I would use my Tamaron 18-270 mm. Great advice. You have to almost guess where they will be. Adjust where you are going to be. A second to run your focusing.  It is the climatic instant. I did cheat once. My assignment was get the two top tennis players at my college. So I went up to them and said to them. I am going to lay down at the net and could you sail the ball over my head. It worked. BTW the Tamaron 16-300 mm would be better.

  18. Jeff Stanton Posted on September 1, 2014 at 3:15 am

    Jared, what do you have against cropping?

  19. Steven Gotz Posted on September 2, 2014 at 3:57 am

    I understand that Jared won't crop. I get it. And I admire it. I do my best to emulate it. However, I recently watched an interview with a guy who has had over 100 covers on Sports Illustrated and he said that sports photography is one exception to that concept. He said that he always shoots a little wide, knowing that he would probably crop, but he didn't want to be zoomed in too far and accidentally ruin an otherwise great shot by cutting off a hand or a foot.

    Sports photography is not like landscape, or portraits, or fashion, where you "make" the picture. Sport photographers "take" the pictures as they see them happen. Sure they need the skill to be in the right place at the right time with the right equipment, but they can't script what is going to happen. So, apparently, they crop.

  20. Gerardo Palermo Posted on September 2, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    Thanks for the video! I've been playing tennis for 25 years and I also take photos for my club. Like most professional sport photographers have said it's very important to know the game. Tennis moves so fast and random that it's hard to predict the movement of the player. Mostly if you are photographing professionals. What I've learned to do and it has given me best results is to focus on the return of service. Usually they don't move much in either direction (usually) so it's easier to get an action shot (reacting to the serve) and yet know where the player is going to strike the ball.  I know this is not the best example since the image is a little out of focus but it would have been very difficult for me to get this shot during a rally. https://plus.google.com/u/0/107764024749009855528/posts/czJ75HC3ALZ?pid=6054489786882289426&oid=107764024749009855528

  21. Gerardo Palermo Posted on September 2, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    I forgot one important thing. If you want good action photos you must shoot good players. No way around it. Players with good technique always make better photos. In this video is clear this kid has a great forehand but his backhand is much weaker which also makes the photo weaker. I'm not trying to be "tennis snob" but that's how it is. 

  22. Nicolaas Strik Posted on September 4, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    All I can say is… Fro Knows Photo!

  23. Jose L Romero Posted on September 6, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Why all the hate on cropping?

  24. Mane1979 Posted on September 6, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    Did you really say horizontical?
    (I heard it twice!) nice tips anyway… I still prefer shooting mannequins!

  25. Woodepic Media Posted on December 31, 2014 at 3:47 am

    6:15 3 stripes = adidas 

  26. Steven Gates Posted on April 23, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    I didn't hear what he has his camera set to.  My son is taking leasons and would like to know how I should set my 3200.

  27. animenolifer2 Posted on September 2, 2015 at 2:39 pm


  28. Ramesh Agarwal Posted on September 3, 2019 at 3:55 pm

    Please Shoot a TABLE TENNIS Game . The light is low and the players move much faster than Lawn Tennis