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The challenge of indoor sports photography

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Harper, 10, receives his belt promotion from Professor Joe Gardino after testing at Kempo Karate's West Central Branch. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Harper, 10, receives his belt promotion from Professor Joe Gardino after testing at Kempo Karate's West Central Branch.
My two boys, Harper, 10, and Jacob, 7, tested for new karate belts this week. It offered a chance for me to practice my indoor sports photography.

If you’ve ever tried to shoot a sporting event indoors, you know how difficult it can be.

My first challenge was getting a shutter speed fast enough to capture the action.

Shutter speed is crucial to making sure you get sharp pictures. By increasing my ISO, the cameras light sensitivity setting, I can increase my shutter speed to 1/250 of a second. This is just fast enough for sports. Ideally, the faster the better.

My second challenge was making sure I could get shots of the action without intruding on the test.

Professor Joe Gardino with his wife, instructor Marty Gardino, at Kempo Karate's West Central Branch have been wonderful in allowing me the opportunity to take pictures of my kids during practice and testing. But they do request that I don’t use a flash when taking pictures so I don't distract from their instruction.

Shooting indoors without flash and using the available light can result in yucky color. So when I edited the pictures I used my favorite free photoshop plug in, NIK effects, and changed everything to black and white.

NIK effects, in case you’re not familiar, lets you quickly choose a toning style and batch process an entire set of images in seconds and without the need for photoshop. It’s a huge time saver.

For this portfolio I found a gritty black and white toning option. It was perfect for my karate pictures. Try it the next time you find yourself taking sports photos indoors.

Finally, I used my favorite long lens, a 70-200mm, to make sure I could zoom in on the action and get expressions and great details.

In order to keep my shutter speed fast enough I had to use the lenses widest aperture f/2.8. This made the plane of focus quite narrow — if I missed the focus, even by a little, the result was blurry.

It takes patience and concentration to shooting sports indoors. This time, I was able to get a few good images, and it was fun to practice a type of photography I don’t get to do all of the time.

I’m also happy to report both boys pass their test with flying colors.
Sean Cayton is a wedding photojournalist of 19 years and operates a successful, award-winning wedding photography studio in Colorado Springs. He's also an award-winning photojournalist. Sean is happily married to the love of his life (also his business partner) and is father to three beautiful children. When he’s not working, Sean can be found outside flying kites with his kids, hitting golf balls or casting a fly rod to hungry trout.

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