Have you ever been to a sporting event and tried to take a really great photograph of a player running up the court or the field? What you might have ended up with was just a group scene, with players moving here and there, but with no distinct subject or sense of real “motion”. Well, if you had adjusted the “f-stop” of your camera you might have been able to create a very distinctive image with lots of different elements and action.
The f-stop is also known as aperture and many amateur photographers are often confused by f-stop settings. A basic explanation where aperture settings are concerned is this:
The lower the number, the larger the opening.
The higher the number, the smaller the opening.
This means that f/2.8 is an indication that the aperture on your camera is wide open, and that the sensor is receiving a flood of light. Should the aperture be f/22, however, there would be very little light striking the sensor, and the camera would automatically select the right shutter speeds and ISO settings to match this.
So, if someone wants to take a good photograph at a sporting event, they would more than likely want to set their f-stop very low and then focus very clearly and sharply on the single player, or tight cluster of players, that are the subject of the scene.
What the results of such an action be? The large aperture would create slight blurring in the background and foreground of any scene. This would “pop” the players right out of the image and make them the subject of the photograph.
Let’s use a simple example – a high school football game. The parents of a particular player are standing along the sidelines viewing the game when one decides to take a photograph of their teenage son. They could opt to use the automatic settings on their camera to take this picture, but that would likely result in a non-descript image.
Instead they could set their camera to manual controls; open the f-stop to its lowest number; adjust the ISO to a higher setting to ensure that “stop action” photography will take place (otherwise their child might be a blurry figure); and also use as fast a shutter speed as the settings will allow.
In other circumstances, because the players will normally be in motion during the game, the parent must focus on their child and might have to “pan” the shot, or follow them as they aim to make the picture. The result of their efforts will be a very clear image of their child, with a background and foreground slightly blurred. This creates a sense of action and motion, and is the ideal way to capture sporting events.