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Paintball Photography: The Basics

Rule of Thirds

The art of paintball photography is growing into much more of an art than merely just some simple action shots of the game. We are seeing more and more magazines with a mix of both action photos and conceptual photos. You don’t need to be a professional to create images of magazine quality but there are a few things you need to know in order to create great paintball photographs.

Just like when your getting ready for a big game, you can’t go out without having the right gear. Taking pictures of players is no exception. There are a few pieces of gear that are unique to paintball photography that you want to make sure and have in your camera bag.

BRIGHT REF JERSEY- The need for this is simple, you don’t want to mistaken for a player and be shot at. If you don’t have the means to acquire a ref jersey, ask the owner of the field if you can borrow one for the day. They usually have plenty of extras. A orange hunting vest will also do the trick and can double as a photographers vest if it has lots of pockets.

MASK – Obviously you cant get on the field without a mask but if the field will allow you to wear only a half mask take advantage of it. When wearing a full face mask while taking pictures it becomes a burden and unnatural felling. A half mask is more comfortable and easy to work around. Hopefully you wont be getting shot at so you don’t have to worry about getting a fat lip.

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CAMERA FILTER- For just a few dollars at any photography store you can buy a filter to cover the end of your lens for protection. A skylight filter is just a clear piece of glass that screws over the end of your lens. This piece will protect your lens from splatter and getting scratched. And in the event that you actually take a hit right in the lens your filter will take most of the hit, hopefully sparing your lens. Thus protecting your expensive lens with an inexpensive piece of equipment.

Paintball Photography- Composition

When photographing players there are a few steps you can take to turn a would be snap shot into a professional looking photograph. You must learn to see what the camera sees and then you must learn how to make it better.

The biggest piece of of advice to be offered is something photographers call the rule of thirds. The rule tells us that we should envision a tic-tac-toe like grid trough our viewfinder. When taking a picture the main subject of your photo should ideally fall on one of the intersecting lines or on the line its self. For example, if you were taking a full body shot of a player on the run his head would be the main point of interest and should fall on the top line of the grid. Another example might be a close up shot of a player popping out from a bunker. His eyes, or goggles, should fall on the top line of the grid as well. Remember that eyes are almost always the focus of interest on a close up.

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Getting to eye level is another important concept used in creating professional looking photos. It is habit to want to stand and aim the camera up or down at the subject. You want to try and avoid this. Try instead, doing what the player is doing. If they are kneeling, you should kneel to take the picture. If they are standing, you should stand to take the picture. And so on.

Almost any picture is made better by getting closer to your subject. You can either do this physically or with a zoom lens. A 70-300mm zoom lens seems to work the best. It can keep you out of the line of fire but wont let you miss the action right in front of you.

Paintball Photography-Setting Up the Camera

When you are taking a picture of any moving subject your shutter speed is the one setting you need to adjust accordingly. Most SLR camera have a setting from 1 to 1,000 of second. Faster shutter speeds freeze action better than slower ones. However, if your are shooting in a dark wooded field you may not be able to use a fast shutter speed. A good speed to shoot with is between 250 and 500.

A good rule of thumb for action shots is to pan your subject. This means to follow them in your viewfinder and snap the picture when you feel the time is right. Avoid having your camera set up on a particular spot and waiting for your subject to run through it. This will usually end up in a blurred photograph. Panning can result in great photographs.

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When working in darker wooded fields you may or may not want to use a flash. A camera flash could give away the position of a hidden player so choose wisely when to use your flash.

Paintball Photography- Taking the Picture

While planning and skill lead up to taking the picture, the actual shooting of the photograph is pretty basic. Teach yourself the skills mentioned above so that they are instinct. Great pictures can come and go in the blink of an eye so if you have to think about composition and shutter speeds you will miss out on the action. The only way to get better at this is practice. Within no time though you should be taking pictures worthy or print in magazines.