How To Get “THE SHOT”

Most folks who sign up for this course envision sports illustrated action shots of their kids during the game.

They want to catch that perfect moment of their kids hitting the home run, making the winning basket, catching the touch down. Or even if it’s not those big game deciding moments, we all dream of getting great action shots of our kids right at the height of a moment within the game.

Pics like this:

Btw, all of the above pics are taken by (one of) your own instructors for this course, Vincent Pugliese. :)

Okay, so let's start there! How do we get these "decisive moment" action shots? Let's talk about what it takes.

  • Is it about equipment?
  • Or can I capture these moments with the equipment I already have?
  • Or maybe it's just more about timing?
  • Or about luck..."being at the right place at the right time."
  • Or is it about _________ (you can keep filling in the blank)?

Like everything, there isn't just one single magic pill that will help you capture the definitive moment. You'll need to learn how to use your camera. And then adding the right gear will help.

But here's what you need more than anything to get the shot.

You need to get off the bleachers.

Everything improves when you get off the bleachers!

How so? Check out the video!

Video Summary:

What improves when we get off the bleachers and get closer to the action?


You'll go from "muddy backgrounds" (where everything seems to blend in and look messy) to simpler backgrounds, where there's separation from your subject and the background. Why? Two main reasons:

  1. Your background will no longer be the ground (looking down), but the stands or horizon which is much deeper, creating separation.
  2. You'll often be able to shoot into a neutral toned background which will also help your subject stand out. Remember, the eye goes to the brightest part of the frame.


When you're closer to the playing field/court, your foreground is minimized. Your subject will immediately carry more "weight" in the final image.

In the video Kyle mentions being at Spring Training and getting some great shots with his 70-200mm 2.8, but "something was missing" in terms of it having that "pro look and feel." And truth told, the only thing missing is access to the field level. Imagine all of the following pics if Kyle's camera was near ground level and not from the bleachers:

All of these pics would change dramatically if I was able to get closer to ground level. Granted, I was only about 10 rows up. But that's the perfect example, as most of the time at our kids games we are only a few rows up. Still, getting just that much lower will change your pics dramatically.

Note: Vincent pointed out that there's times when you actually do want to be up high. You just have to know the difference of when it's better to be low and better to be high.

Well, when I (Kyle) walked into the stadium that day, I noticed the awesome Cubs logo/banner behind home plate! I knew I wanted to get an image of that "banner" somehow. Turns out my favorite image of the banner was when Kyle Schwarber walked right by it. And this was one of those cases where being high became an asset:

For this pic, if I had been low, I wouldn't have been able to see the Cubs banner/logo in the grass. So the point: the "rules" apply most of the time. But not always. Knowing them will help you understand when to break them!

Okay, what else changes besides backgrounds and foregrounds?


Wait? How in the world does light improve?! It's not like you replaced the sun or the gym lights! :)

True. It's just that your relationship to the light changes. And this is often helpful the lower you get to the court / field / water / etc. For example, in basketball you're able to get more of the reflection from the overhead lights off the floor. Same thing with outdoor sports (remember, light reflects off light colored dirt and blonde grass).

At any rate, you have options to play with the light and dance with it and position yourself to use it a lot better. We'll get more into this...we have an entire module devoted to light!


When you get off the bleachers, it simply allows you the opportunity to get closer to the action. This changes what you see, what you hear, what you observe. It gives you a new perspective on the entire story in front of you. And this all leads to better pictures. As a storyteller (photographer), you need all the input you can gather to help you decide where to point the camera next.

Better yet, when you're closer you'll capture more:

  1. Emotions
  2. Actions
  3. Story

A Word About "ACCESS"

I (Kyle) have learned from Vincent that the word "Access" is one of the most important words in a pro photographer's vocabulary. Pro sports photographers have to work for years climbing the "access ladder" until finally, one day, they get the coveted press pass to photograph from field level and perhaps even behind the scenes in the locker room or club house.

And this access changes their pictures entirely.

And that's our point. Your pics WILL CHANGE ENTIRELY when you get close to the field.

Especially when you get down low on the playing field / court / surface.

We'll talk about this more later in the coming 2 modules. But the quick hint: the lower your camera to the floor/ground, the more your pics will resemble that pro look. Again, we'll talk more about this in module 2 + 3, and we'll mention it over and over again, because it will change your final pics!

But back to "Access." When our kids are young, from youth sports through even Varsity and college sports, getting access to the court-side or field-side shouldn't be too difficult. In youth sports, it's pretty much free reign. :)

When your kids get older, it's always best to ask coaches and administrators if you feel like "getting close (access)" would be a distraction. Be respectful and thoughtful. And when you get access, don't ruin it by being a distraction. Act like a pro and you'll get continued access, and this will absolutely make all your pics much better!

Final Word

Okay, we admit it, getting "the shot" is a culmination of a lot of different things. You'll need to learn your camera, understand light, and learn how to anticipate where the action is going.

But those lessons would take an entire course.

See what we did there? ;)

But with all of that said, if there's ONE thing you can do right now, today, before learning the rest of what's in this course, it's to get off the bleachers. Get closer to the action. And get down low (literally) when you're there.

Complete and Continue