How to Shoot Your Kid's Hockey Game

I am NOT a hockey mom, BUT the number one question I am asked by other moms is how to get images of their kids on the ice. I know that many parents go out and buy fabulous gear with this intent, but can't quite figure out how to be more successful at this. This past family day weekend, I went to my nephew's game and I thought I would share a few things that--not being at a rink very often--I had never considered...as well as, all the things I always say ;)

#1: Turn Off Your Flash

Now that you have this fancy dancy camera--learn how to use it on full manual. This is always the first step to great images. If you can't figure it out on your own, email me to get on the list for my next online class for parents :) PLUS....if you shoot with your flash up against the plexiglass at the rink, the flash will bounce back at you and destroy your image by flooding it with light. The same goes for shooting through a window or at a wall of mirrors(think: ballet class)--flash off. Step one.

One quick little exposure tip for shooting in all that white--you will probably need to overexpose by a bit as the camera will read all that white as neutral grey causing the meter to stop down a bit. You'll need to manually compensate.

#2: Proper Gear

You will need a lens with reach. A telephoto lens with a good zoom and a nice wide open aperture(f2.8 is preferable). Professional lenses like this are very expensive, but often a lower end model(f4.0-5.6--that sort of thing) can work, too. At sporting events(even at my son's fencing tournaments), you can't get too close to the action. When you can't physically get yourself in there, you need to have gear that lets you do that. That is the purpose of a good telephoto lens :)

I am not a big fan of my 70-200mm 2.8, but boy oh boy is it necessary when you are shooting a hockey game. This is a lens that if I was a hockey mom, I would try to buy second hand.

#3: Get Close

Or at least as close as you can...often the plexiglass is all dirty/scuffed/marked up and you are trying to shoot through it and get a clean looking shot. The best way to do this is to shoot with a wide open aperture and to shoot as close to the glass as you can(without looking silly--although, if you are like me at these things, I'm the mom everyone shakes their head at, but hey--I get the shot I want). If you have a professional quality lens--that is at f2.8--make sure the aperture is at f2.8. If you don't, just shoot as wide open as you can--meaning keep the F# as low as possible...usually that's somewhere around 5.0. This may or may not allow you to be successful--depending mostly on whether or not your camera has a cropped sensor. If you do have a cropped sensor, you will have to open your aperture and get as close to the glass as possible(maybe even right up to it). Just keep in mind that the key is always to open up the aperture to avoid the marks on the plexiglass distorting or downright ruining your image.

And, don't be afraid to walk around the rink and go to places where you think you might get a good angle ;) Be that pushy mom with a camera...I guarantee the other mom's will ask you for your pictures even if they complain about you behind your back.

#4: Watch Your Shutter Speed

Those little dudes can move...and the only way to avoid motion blur will be to increase your shutter speed. I found with my little nephew that unless I was trying to do something creative(panning or intentional blur of some kind) I had to keep it up around 1/500...and, he is only 6 years old...so, I imagine that the older they get the faster you are going to have to keep your shutter speed.

#5: Watch Your Focus

When you are shooting through glass that is all scuffed up, the camera may want to grab focus on something on the glass. Watch the game through your lens. Move along with your kid and constantly be grabbing focus on him or her. Release the shutter when he/she does something awesome--like trips. Or gets a goal ;)

#6: Don't Forget To Shoot The People Watching

Many of your memories will be of your friends cheering on their own kids, drinking their Tim Horton's while the younger kids fight over who gets what timbit. That is just as important to remember :) Ditto for stuff happening in the dressing room...soon enough, they won't need your help to tie up their skates and you'll wish you had captured it while you had the chance.

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If you are a parent who is interested in getting better images of your kids--email me to get on my waitlist for my next online class. Tomorrow, I will be announcing the next beginner class and, by popular demand, an advanced class for parents. And, if there is a situation where you are having trouble getting great images, leave a comment asking me what I would do and maybe I'll write up a list of how I would approach it technically.

AND FINALLY...if you want to see the pictures I take of my own kids, check out my family blog--Pughville.com .

~ Dana