Golf Photography — How To Take Great Golf Pictures Read more at New York Institute of Photography - Golf Photography

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"Be the ball!"

Info media photography : Ah, that sage advice offered by Chevy Chase in one of our all time favorite movies, Caddyshack, should be kept in mind by photographers who hoist a camera on the links.

In a nutshell, sports photography is tough. While there are lots of great sports photos published, the average newspaper is full of mediocre sports photos nearly every day. The reason that sports photography can be tough is because it's hard to get a good photograph of action in most sports.

That's the bad news about golf photography. The worse news is that golf is one of the hardest sports to photograph. There's no physical contact between players, the course is tremendous and the ball is tiny and travels very rapidly through the air. It's hard to get a good angle to take golf photos without impairing the golfer's concentration or risking getting conked by an errant drive.

Golf Photography
Taking good golf pictures is hard. As NYI students have learned, we say "If it's hard, that's terrific!" Because if it's hard, most people won't do it, and therefore the benefits and rewards will flow to those that do. With those words of encouragement, let's turn to the job at hand and offer some golf photo tips.
The photographs you can take on the golf course can be broken into several distinct types:
The basic action photos you see in all types of golf photography are "big swing" pictures of golfers driving off the tee or hitting long shots in the fairway; players blasting out of sand traps and other hazards; and finally, putting on the green.
Golf photography offers up lots of opportunities to photograph players reacting to their own shot or someone else's. Finally, we can take "location" portraits of golfers and record some of the scenery on the course.

Before we look at each type of golf photo, it is essential that you remember that regardless of the kind of picture you want to make – golf photographs or any other sports photographs – following NYI's Three Guidelines for Better Photographs will determine whether or not your photo succeeds.
As regular readers should know by now, NYI's Three Guidelines are best recounted in the form of these simple questions you should ask yourself before pressing the shutter on your camera:
Guideline One: What is the subject of my photograph?
Guideline Two: How can I give emphasis to my subject?
Guideline Three: What can I do to simplify my photograph?
Particularly with a subject such as golf, the action of your photo is likely to be so minimal that if there are distractions they will seriously interfere with your sports photo. Look at the example below.

Golf Photography
What's the subject in this golf photograph? The golfer in red? His cart? The town behind? The mountains? We could go on endlessly about the flaws in this sports photo, but we don't like to teach from negative examples. Suffice it to say everything here that isn't the subject of the photograph detracts from whatever is the intended subject. We assume it's the poorly cropped golfer in the lower left, but the other elements in the picture are certainly putting up a battle to distract the viewer.
If you are unfamiliar with NYI's Three Guidelines we strongly suggest you look at our Picture of the Month feature. Each month we take an interesting photograph and give it a thorough analysis using NYI's Three Guidelines. Now let's look at some good examples of the various types of golf photos.

Big Swing Golf Photos

Golf PhotographyThis is the bread-and-butter type of golf photograph – the golfer has completed the follow through of his swing and watches as the ball sails (hopefully) right down the fairway. We see the golfer's form, golf clothes and little else. Unlike a game played on a court or small field, in this type of sports photography, it's nearly impossible to show the player, the trajectory of the ball and the location of the green in one photo.
The lack of a visible ball is a problem. For most sports photography, the first rule is always show the ball in the photo, but that's nearly impossible to do when players are driving off the tee or making iron shots on the fairway, unless you make an image before the ball is hit.
This photo shows a more modest approach to a similar situation. Here the golf ball is visible because the player hasn't hit it yet. Instead, we captured what looks to be the beginning of the golfer's downward stroke. His golfing partner (we doubt it's a caddy) looking on from the left side of the image adds interest to the photo.

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