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Tips from the Maple Leafs Photographer To Take Better Action Shots

By Kevin Sousa, 12/12/23, 2:30PM EST


How you can capture memories without an expensive camera

About the author: Kevin Sousa is a professional sports photographer based in the city of Toronto, who is part of the Toronto Maple Leafs photography team and long time OMHA photographer.

One of the best ways to truly look back at your kid’s minor hockey experience is through photos. By capturing these moments, you can always see them playing the sport they love. There are few better photos than a smiling face on the ice or that incredible action shot that seems to fit perfectly on the kitchen wall or on the mantle.

You don’t need to buy an expensive camera or being an expert photographer to capture great photos. But you’ve got to get on your feet and practice.

Here are my Top 5 tips to help you take better hockey photos:

1. Fast Shutter Speeds:
Use a fast shutter speed to freeze the fast-paced action on the ice. A shutter speed of at least 1/1000th of a second is recommended to capture quick movements without motion blur. While covering the Leafs we shoot at 1/2000 because Willy is just that fast. 

2. Use Continuous Autofocus:
Use continuous autofocus mode to keep fast-moving players in focus. Read your owner’s manual but really just watch YouTube to see how this mode works and why it’s important. 

3. Shoot in RAW:
Capture images in RAW format to provide greater control over exposure, color, and other adjustments. You may have to brush up on your photo editing skills or try to use the software provided with your camera to make any final touchups. 

4. Find Unique Angles:
Experiment with different shooting angles to add variety to your photos. Shoot from behind the goal, in the hallways, or from an elevated position for a different look. I’ve walked every inch of the Scotiabank Centre in reach of a different look. At minor hockey rinks you may need to get creative.

5. Capture Reactions and Emotions:
Never put down your camera because great moments happen after the play. These moments add storytelling elements to your hockey photos. My favourite part of covering the Leafs is the off-ice stuff that happens before and after the game. The action shots look just as good as the celebrations. 

Here are a couple advanced tips for those who may be more familiar with a camera:

1. Choose the Right Equipment:
Try to buy lens with f-stops of 2.8 or lens because this will isolate subjects and perform well in low-light conditions. The lower the f-stop, the more money you can expect to pay. 

2. Adjust White Balance:
Hockey arenas are famous for poor quality of light so adjust the white balance settings on your camera to ensure accurate color reproduction. If it looks yellow on your screen, adjust the WB until the ice looks white. After years at Scotiabank Arena we’ve been able to dial in the WB. 


Practice Panning Shots:
Experiment with panning shots to convey a sense of speed and motion. This technique involves tracking a moving player with your camera while using a slower shutter speed to create a blurred background. Start at 1/30 and work your way down to 1/8 if you want to live on the edge. 

Really at the end of the day, it’s all about taking photos of your kids playing the greatest game and having a memory of this special time in their lives. Take as many photos as you can as you won’t know exactly how they turn out until you can see them on a larger screen.

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