Scandinavian Highlights: How to become a better sports photographer with Simon Hedman
Simon Hedman is a Swedish sports and lifestyle photographer, filmmaker and editor based in Copenhagen, Denmark. He has a passion for capturing raw images that stay true to the moment as it happens in real time, with the purpose of documenting the emotions of why instead of what. During the years Simon has worked with international brands such as Strava, Continental AG, Craft Sportwear, AIR BNB, Stages Cycling, ULD Copenhagen and more. Now take part of Simon's best tips when it comes to sports and lifestyle photography!
Light is what makes or breaks a good image, you can have the most intense portrait of an athlete, with wandering eyes and fumes of pain, but add bad light to it and it will just be another bad image of an athlete. Of course, this is a creative preference. What I’m getting to is to learn to know how to use light in a combination of the action taken from the athlete. I love to play with light, in order to create more emotion into the image I take. If you want to improve your skills within photography, improve your skills with light.
Experience; what does a backlight image look like, compared to a front light. When can you use one over the other?
Practice makes progress, so go out at noon with a more difficult harsh light and see how you can use the light to your advantage. Everyone can go out during golden hour and get that soft warm light and call it a day. Sometimes you’ll get lucky to choose when you shoot, sometimes you don’t, but you still have to deliver good quality images.
One of my secret (not anymore) weapons comes from an app called Sun Seeker, it tells you where the sun is a certain time of the day, which is extremely helpful for scouting locations.
Get what you need
A major key to improving your skills within sports imagery is to be able to see the big picture and to predict the next step. This can be improved by placing yourself where you know the subject will move towards, both physically and mentally. Once you get a hang of the flow of the sport you are shooting, make sure to use a higher burst rate as well. This eliminates the risks of missing out on some of the key elements of your image.
Know your gear
The beauty of sports is that everything runs in a fast-moving pace. Not only do you need to plan your shot and knowing the light, you also need to know how to use your camera in order to capture the moment. Knowing your gear is the key!
One of the worst things you can do is fiddling around with your settings on shoot day, and miss the important shots. The same goes for knowing what works when. My two cents are to use the setting that works the best for you and how you shoot. I use a Sony A7III, which has an amazing tracking focus, but just because it’s great doesn’t mean I should use it. Since I put down so much time on planning my shoots I don’t want to track an object to run through my frame, I want it right there on the bottom left corner.
One last huge tip is to go a bit faster on the shutter speed, especially if you are using a 70-200mm and bumping the ISO up instead. This will mean you're playing it a lot safer as you will get sharper images, and the noise you can always get rid of in post editing. People will say it's a creative preference, but what I’m talking about is getting a sharp image - and there is a huge difference between motion blur and sharpness.