• Connor-Alex_Ruble_2014_5210_edited-1

    Photographing Youth Action Sports

    Jan 22, 2015, 11:24:01 PM

    By Ken Munson

    The action is almost always more dramatic when it is coming towards the photographer.

    One of the most popular subjects people photograph is their children.  Everyone is always showing off photos of their little ones.  And when those little ones grow bigger, we photograph their activities. One of the more challenging children’s activities to photograph is youth sports.

    With a few exceptions, sports tend to take place on large fields, where a photographer will have limited ability to get close to his subject. Couple that fact with a lack of control over lighting, and sports of any level can be a challenge to photograph.

    The biggest issue most beginners seem to have with sports is stopping action.  Motion blur, caused by using too slow a shutter speed, frustrates many new sports photographers.  The bottom line here is very simple: a minimum shutter speed of 1/500 is needed to freeze action.  The longer the lens, the faster the shutter speed needs to be.  So while 1/500 is the minimum, if your focal length is 600mm, you will need a shutter speed of at least 1/640. Faster is better.


    Using a faster shutter speed ensures stopping the motion of the ball as it hits the racquet.

    The next issue to contend with is the backgrounds.  Youth sporting events take place in parks, at schools, or in other places where the background is less than pleasing.  It could be a parking lot, a building, or you may just have  a lot of spectators in the background that can cause your subject to get lost in the mess. Photographers have two options here.  The first is to move to an area where the backgrounds are cleaner.  Since that may not be an option, the second becomes much more important.  Shoot your images at the widest aperture possible with the lens you are using.

    Pro sports photographers typically use wide aperture lenses with apertures of f/2.8 and f/4 for a variety of reasons.  One reason is because they allow more light into the camera, thus allowing for faster shutter speeds.


    The second reason is that a wide aperture creates a shallow depth of field- meaning while your subject will be sharp, the background will be nicely blurred, eliminating distractions.

    Lens choice is another important part of the equation when shooting sports.  Not everyone will have access to a 400mm f/2.8 lens, but great sports shots can be captured with a variety of lenses- not just the big telephotos.  A 70-300mm zoom lens, which is typically one of the more popular telephoto lenses available, makes a great choice for shooting youth sports.  While not as fast as a lens with an f/2.8 aperture, as long as the light is good enough to get a fast shutter speed, these lenses do just fine.  The 300mm focal length will get you enough reach to get closer to the action, but remember to stay disciplined.  Let the action come to you. Shooting across the field will simply result in lots of pictures where the athletes don’t fill the frame, and the dramatic impact is greatly diminished.  For on-field action, typically a lens with a focal length of at least 300mm will be needed. Most pros use anything from 300mm f/2.8 up to a 600mm f/4.

    Telephoto lenses with wide apertures blur the background nicely, eliminating anything unsightly or distracting in the background.

    For clarity purposes, a good rule of thumb is when using a long lens - 200mm to 600mm, focus on the eyes of your subject to get a total crisp in-focus image. If the eyes are in focus, the rest of the subject will be too.


    A wide angle lens is useful for situations where you want to show the complete context of where the athlete is. In this case, a fisheye lens shows the entire tennis court as well as the players, their coaches, and the beautiful tennis complex.


    Most people don’t think of wide angle lenses as good sports lenses, but there are several times where a wide angle can be the perfect lens.  Generally, wide angles work well when the photographer can be close to the athletes, be it for a team huddle on the sidelines, a post-game handshake, or a portrait taken on the bench with spectators in the background.


    When shooting action on the field, working with the available light becomes incredibly important.  Most of these outdoor games take place in midday sun, which is often harsh.  Add in helmets, hats, or other headgear which can cast shadows over faces, and you’ve got a lighting nightmare. With sports such as football, baseball, or tennis with hats and helmets on the athletes,  use of exposure compensation can be helpful in opening up the shadows on faces.  A setting of +1/3 or +2/3 is a good starting point.  For later afternoon or early morning games, shooting backlit can add a bit of drama to the lighting, with the sunlight creating a nice rim light on the athletes.  Exposure compensation can help open up the shadows again to maintain detail in the faces.


    For indoor sports, the use of flash can be problematic.  Always be sure the use of flash is permitted, first and foremost.  In many sports, such as gymnastics, use of flash is strictly forbidden.  If the available light allows, it’s best to try to shoot without flash. This is where today’s extreme high ISOs and the outstanding noise performance of today’s DSLR’s is especially handy. Photographers often find themselves in school gyms with ISOs set to 3200, 6400, or higher.  Fast lenses with apertures of f/2.8 or larger are also useful in these situations. The same rule for stopping action applies, using a shutter speed of at least 1/500 or faster.

    Sideline portraits can sometimes be more impactful than the action on the field. Don't be afraid to turn away from the action and photograph a subject that may not be moving, but still supports the storyline.

    Athletes tend to move quickly, so you’ll want to make sure your autofocus is set to Continuous (dependent on what brand of camera you use). This allows the camera to refocus as the athlete moves towards or away from the camera.  Setting the drive to continuous will also allow the camera to take multiple photos by holding down the shutter button, ensuring that peak action is captured.

    Today’s cameras offer a variety of AF arrays, from 9 or 11 AF points on entry level models, all the way up to 61 AF points on high end models.  Generally speaking, it is easiest to select one AF point and keep it on your subject, though some cameras are especially good at using all available AF points to track a moving subject. Photographers should experiment and practice to find which settings work best for them.

    Sports offer a variety of photo opportunities aside from the action on the field.  The sidelines are great for shots of players interacting with each other, coaches instructing players, or the facial expressions from spectators intently watching the contest.







    With all the ups and downs of competition, the emotion on the sidelines makes a great subject all by itself.  Don’t be afraid to turn away from the action to catch a special moment that underlines the primary purpose of youth sports - having fun. 


    Jubilation shots can be some of the most rewarding and sought after shots. It takes discipline to remember to continue shooting even after the play has ended.

    In addition, the pomp and circumstance that goes with many youth sporting events also make for great photo ops.  Watch   for the halftime performances of cheerleaders and bands or how the fans interact with each other in the stands. 

    Knowing where to stand is one of the most important parts of sports photography.  Each sport is different and the games have their own flow of action.  Photographers want to be where the action is going, not where it has been.  Each sport generally offers a ton of options as far as where a photographer can stand.

     Personal knowledge of the sport, as well as the teams being photographed is especially helpful.  Photographic knowledge is only half of the battle when shooting sports.  When a photographer knows a team’s or player's tendencies, he can anticipate the play, as well as reactions and get something special from it.   Shooting the same teams or players repeatedly makes this easier.  The added bonus is that the team or players also gets to know the photographer, making them more comfortable and willing to be open in front of the camera, in much the same way people open up to their friends.

  • Tennis_kam-104B

    We're only a few weeks until the top 50 men and women from the ATP and WTA Tours take the courts at Cincinnati's premier tennis event, the Western & Southern Op. The tournament runs from  August 9-17th and the close-up intimacy of this venue affords just about everyone with an opportunity to capture great photos of their favorite players.  I will once again be shooting for World Tennis Magazine, spending long hours in the hot and humid Queen City summer temperatures on the court. By the same token, I encourage everyone to take the opportunity to improve their own photography skills by bringing your DSLR to the tournament and clicking away. That being said, I thought I'd share some of the lessons I've learned in my many years of shooting this game. If you're interested in pro-sports photography, you can put these tips to use. In addition, these tips apply to shooting players of all levels, so bring your camera to your area club or public court and snap away.


    Don't Wait to See the Ball

    Timing tennis action photos is not as straightforward as the uninitiated might think. The ball is traveling so fast, that if you wait to see it in your viewfinder, you've already missed the photo.



    Instead, try using a timing technique to help you anticipate when to click the shutter. One of my favorites is to watch the player's muscles to move as he or she is about to swing. That will tell you that the player sees the ball coming, so you'll know it's coming too. Then fire the shutter quickly. If you have a newer DSLR that has a "continuous" mode setting, set your camera for continuous shooting and start firing before until after the shot. You can then use your LCD to play back and see the results of your timing. If you're exposing your image too early or too late, you can adjust on the very next point. You'll soon be getting the ball in almost every shot and will learn how to anticipate the action.


    Don't Let the Player Get Between You and the Ball

    Unless it's for creative reasons, don't shoot the player's back to the camera. . When it comes to action photography, that means you generally want to shoot forehands from the player's forehand side, and backhands from the backhand side.


    Here's a simple rule to remember. Keep the ball between you and the player. Then he or she will always be looking towards the camera's direction when making the stroke. This will certainly help you achieve more dynamic results.




    Don't Put Down Your Camera Too Early

    Sports is about more than who wins, and sports photography is about more than shooting the action. When the point is over, keep your camera focused on the players.




    Especially after long or important points, you can make excellent photos of the athletes reacting.

    Their facial expressions to the real story. They yell, laugh, pout, scream, throw their racquets and pump their fists. Sometimes the joy and frustration they exhibit will tell more about the match than a hundred photos of great backhands, forehands, serves, and volleys.  


    Don't Ignore the Follow - Through

    Many photographers are so focused on getting the ball in the frame, they forget there are great photo opportunities during other moments of action. A good example of this is the follow-through.



    When a tennis player hits the ball, the stroke is not over. Continuing to swing after contact is an important part of sound mechanics, right to the point of holing the racquet over the shoulder. It also provides a nice moment for the photographer - while the player is poised  between bursts of action, and the racquet neatly resting behind the head, eyes focused on the ball, and the opponent outside the frame. If their hair or clothes are flying, even better.  So just like a good golfer or tennis player - remember the follow-through!



    Don't Neglect the Background

    One of the first lessons a developing photographer learns is to pay close attention to the background. There is a big difference between taking the shot and making the shot. A little pre-planning will help you turn a good picture into a great photograph if you just take the initiative to think about your background before firing away.


    There is a time for excellent detail and depth of field, a time for blurring out the noise in the background, a time for a solid screen to bring attention to the athlete and time to market your photos.



    Use a small f-stop (Between f11 and f22) to not only focus on the player and the action, but the background can also tell a story. In the photo above, it is fairly obvious that Rafa has just won the 2013 Western & Southern Open, but the reaction of the fans clapping, smiling, and cheering in the background is like placing an exclamation point after a sentence.




     Removing the noise or blurring the background in the Sloan Stephens shot above helps place the emphasis on the athlete. The viewer isn't bother with distractions in the background that quite possibly could take away from the impact of the photograph. In this instance, it is fairly obvious what just transpired on the court. The composition of the photo and the blurred background makes the message clear.


    There is also a point in time when you merely want a solid background to magnify the action and the athlete. In the example below I have used a long lens from the top of the stadium court in an effort to use the green background of the court to frame John Isner. I also used this angle because John is nearly 7 feet tall and it's not always easy to get his entire body in the frame from courtside. Nevertheless, you can see how the solid color background of the court provides a wonderful canvas for this photograph. There are no people, water bottles, ball kids, towels or stray racquet bags mucking up the shot or taking the focus away from the athleticism of the player.



    Focus on the Eyes

    Photographing a tennis match can be difficult at times because there are so many things going on the court, in the background, foreground and with the movements of the players. If you are not careful, your auto focus mechanism of your camera will focus on the least important aspect of the shot. A simple rule to remember is "Focus on the Eyes."  If the eyes are in focus, chances are you'll be on your way to taking great photos.



    As you can see in the above photo, yes, I've captured Victoria Azarenka at the exact moment of striking the ball, but for all intent purposes, the real story is in her facial expression and the effort that she is putting into her forehand. For this, I've tried to focus on her eyes or eye brows. That being said, the clenching of her teeth, the popping veins in her neck, the squint of the eyes, and perspiration on her shirt are all in focus and tell the viewer that she is giving 150% effort on every stroke.


    Use your foreground and backgrounds to market your photos. A secondary income source for many professional photographers is sponsor signage opportunities. Sponsors invest a lot of marketing money in their sponsorship and will often welcome being contacted by a photographer who has captured both the essence of a celebrated athlete with their corporate logo or brand name.  In the example below,



  • Fish_3888

    Tell Me a Story ...

    Jan 13, 2014, 7:20:00 PM

    It can be argued that photojournalism is the most universal form of mass communication. Writing and speaking both require the knowledge of a specific language, but the visual image can in many instances be understood by anyone. Facial expressions, emotions, movement and body posture as well as composition, light and shadow can tell a story in the same way that words can.

    Gifted journalists have an art for telling stories. Likewise, a good photojournalist has to learn how to tell a story by merely using images rather than a specific language or writing style. Unfortunately, good stories just don’t happen. They take planning and some type of structure.

    Before you start photographing a story, I suggest you consider what type of shots you might need to tell it. Basic stories will usually include the elements of introduction, plot/body and conclusion:

    Introduction – shots that put the rest of the images into context. These shots introduce important characters that will follow, give information about the place where the story is happening, set the tone that the story will be told in and introduce the themes that the story will feature.

    Introductory shots need to lead viewers into the body of the story. If you think about a good novel, it’s often the first few paragraphs that determine whether people will buy and read the book in full or not – the same is true with visual stories. Introductory shots should give people a reason to go deeper into the story.

    Plot/Body – good stories are more than just empty words. They explore ideas, feelings, experiences etc. on a deeper level. Plot shots will probably make up the majority of your photographic story. They show what happens but also explore themes, ideas, and emotions.

    Some photographers write themselves a ‘hit list’ of shots that they want to get in a given day (this is what I do for a specific tennis match) while others do it more informally in their mind – but most good photographers have the ability to not only take good spontaneous shots but also are quite intentional about getting the types of shots that they need.

    Themes – a good sports photojournalist will build a theme by focusing upon a specific player or players, particular teams while weaving the salient aspects of the contest through visual context. Some photographers will provide a setup or start by illustrating pre-game or pre-match preparations and then focus on the emotional highs and lows during the contest; individual effort, the struggle, battle, the conflict through the journey, and finally … victory or defeat.    If the phrase, “a picture tells a 1000 words” is accurate ….the photographer’s primary objective should be to allow the camera to do the communicating.

    Talented journalists will weave their story by using a specific theme or themes. They can be visual themes, stylistic themes, locational themes; emerging themes, or a combination of each. Personally, when shooting sports, I like to tell my story via a more “relational theme”.

    Conclusion – good story tellers are quite intentional about the way they end their stories. Last impressions count and it’s worth considering what lasting image/s you want to leave with the viewer of your photos. Like a good story teller, a photojournalist needs to include a beginning, a middle, and an end, but most importantly, make the visual narrative complete. Some writers like to leave their readers asking more questions or with a feeling of wanting more. I on the other hand try to leave my viewers feeling not only satisfied, but extremely pleased with the visual experience. 

    In regard to the following photo story, I'll set it up by saying it's the Quarter Final match between two very intense and competitive tennis professionals - Mardy Fish and Andy Murray. Fish had been battling back from a series of illnesses and injuries that knocked him out of many matches in 2008 and 2009 and was finally gaining some confidence in 2010. That being said, Mardy won a handful of matches at lesser venues, but still had problems beating top 10 players players. Mardy was granted a Wild Card just to enter the tournament. Fish"s career was obviously at a turning point and he would soon have to make a decision on whether to continue fight to stay on the ATP Tour or retire.  Murray on the other hand was not only a rising star, but ranked 4th in the world and seeded 4th in the 2010 W&S Open Masters Series 1000 Tournament held in Cincinnati. Despite playing the match on a brutally hot and humid August day in the Queen City, Fish's was playing a guy who was riding high after a major win at the Rogers Cup in Canada the week before. The winner would meet 9th ranked, Andy Roddick, in the semi finals. 























    (WC) Mardy Fish d. (4) Andy Murray 67(7), 61, 76(5)  


    Fish went on to beat American Andy Roddick in the semi finals 4-6 7-6 6-1


    Rodger Federer  beat Mardy in 3 sets in the final  6-7 7-6 6-4






  • Photographing Action Sports

    Nov 26, 2013, 5:54:00 PM

    Sports and action photography is all about timing. It’s about reacting. It’s about being in the right place at the right time and it’s about execution. Each sport has predictable and unpredictable moments. An essential ingredient to becoming a good sports photographer is to know the sport so you know those predictable moments don't turn into unpredictable missed shots. For instance, in tennis, there are opportunities to shoot someone serving, returning serve, hitting forehands and backhands, overheads, and volleys, but it's the critical moments during the match that everyone wants to capture. "Chance favors the prepared mind." Louis Pasteur


    By knowing these moments you can anticipate the action. This helps in two ways, one it helps you with focus, and secondly, it helps you press the shutter at the right time. As the saying goes "If you see the action, you missed the shot."This basicallymeans if you wait for the tennis player to hit the ball and then press the shutter release, the ball most likely will be sailing out of the frame. You have to push the button "before" the action so that the mirror has time to flip out of the way and the shutter open and close. There is a delay between the image hitting your optical nerve and the shutter closing. One has to, through experience, learn what that time is and adjust for it.

    As you'll note below, the shot of Victoria Azeranka making contact with the ball is more exciting with the ball hitting the racquet than without the ball in the frame It is also clear that this shot was taken at the W&S US Open Series event held in Cincinnati as displayed in the background. (I'll talk more about choosing the best background for your photos later)

    Raising your camera’s ISO

    Most professional sports photographers use a shutter speed of around 1/1000 of a second to stop motion. This is not a problem during the day when there is sufficient sunshine or natural light. Remember though, the faster the action, the higher shutter speed is required to freeze action. A shutter speed of 1/1000 may be suitable for stopping the action at a soccer game, track meet, or football game, however, when shooting a NASCAR event, I recommend increasing the shutter speed to 1/1600, 1/3200, or 1/4000 of a second.

    Sometimes when I shoot at night, I may need to use a faster “f stop” than my lens is capable of delivering. To compromise, I simply increase the ISO setting. This now allows my camera to see more light without sacrificing my shutter speed.

    The photo of the World's Greatest Doubles Team, Bob & Mike Bryan, (below) was taken around 10:00 PM at night using an ISO of 3200 which still allowed me to freeze the action by using a shutter speed of 1/1600 sec.


    So, how high do I raise the ISO to insure quality pictures?  Actually, it all depends on the camera being used. My Nikon equipment, for example, is capable of shooting at an ISO as high as 3200. Years ago, when shooting with a 35mm film SLR and selecting an ISO of 3200, my results would diminish drastically.  I’d see a lot of noise and pixilation. With newer camera systems, though, pictures look great shooting at any level. So don’t be afraid to experiment by shooting at a high ISO.

    That being said, I usually shoot at 1600 ISO. It provides a good happy medium between 800 ISO and 3200 ISO and allows me to shoot at a much faster shutter speed for my action sports assignments.

    The photo (below) festures Mike Bryan stretching for a forehand volley while playing around 1:00PM in the afternoon on a very hot day with a high sun. In this instance, I shot the photo using an ISO of 800 and a shutter speed of 3200/sec. As you can see by the clear background, I chose to use a higher aperture so that I could increase my shutter speed.

    When light conditions fade or vary, I use the “Auto ISO” setting to allow my camera to automatically choose the best setting for the situation. The one unique feature about this is that the “Auto System” doesn't change the ISO at full steps, such as 400 ISO to 800 ISO, instead it can change the ISO from 200 ISO to 210 ISO. I highly recommend considering using this setting if you are just starting to use ISO settings for improved night shooting.


    Try Something Different 

    Every sports picture doesn't have to look the same. Instead of shooting at eye level with a telephoto or zoom lens, I alter my shooting positions and focal point.  Don’t be afraid to lay on the ground and shoot with a wide angle lens in the end zone or soccer field.  Climb a ladder or shoot from an elevated vanish point. For example, I constantly change my court position when shooting a tennis match because shooting the same athletes from a variety of different positions and angles helps tell my story. The first photographers to use this technique were …. you guessed it, Sports Illustrated photographers. Now, everyone does it.

    The picture (below) features Mardy Fish serving to his opponent during a noon match when the sun is high in the sky. In order to change the perspective of a "straight on shot" where the sun would undoubtly effect the details and contrast of the photo, I chose to shoot from 3 stories up behind the grandstand court. By shooting down, I use the sun to my advantage rather than trying to cope with shooting into it. This not only changes the perspective, but adds a little artistic drama by including Mardy's shadow.

    When I shoot, I think “originality” - try something different. At each event I cover, I look for as many new ways to approach the match as possible while keeping in mind those predictable moments. I primarily work as a professional tennis photographer, but at each tournament there is a new setup. This allows me to try new backgrounds, new angles, and a wide variety of shooting locations.

    You don't have to be shooting professional sports to try something different. Whether it’s photographing high school football or pee wee soccer, challenge yourself to make a picture - rather than just taking one.

    (Above) Here's another good example of a predictable moment. Doubles teams in tennis typically acknowledge their partnership and support of each other by slapping hands between points. In order to to emphasize the importance of this unspoken ritual I focus on Mike and Bob's hands to draw the viewer into the action.

    (Below) Another example of changing the viewer's perspective is by lying on the ground and shooting a tennis ball before the player picks it up. The ball now becomes the certer of attention and changes the dynamics of the photo.

    I hope you enjoyed this new post. I'll continue to add a few more tips on how to improve your sports action shots tomorrow. In future segments I'll discuss - Choosing the Right Background,Tell a Story,Choosing Your Equipment", "Using Long Glass, Special Effects, and the Sports Photographer's Code of Conduct"  In the meantime, keep snapping photos and ....

    Happy Thanksgiving!


  • Play Your Camera

    Nov 21, 2013, 2:02:00 PM


    Play Your Camera ....

    I wish more people would get involved with a camera. Photography is like music. There are no language barriers or culture barriers. You can communicate with people around the world with an image. I believe that photographs sustain life and life sustains photos.

    I also think a photography class should be a requirement in all educational programs because it makes you see the world rather than just look at it. 

    One of my favorite photo artist’s was Ansel Adams. He said ...


    “A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense, and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety.”  




    With all the love, joy, beauty, laughter, variety, history, adventure, movement, emotion, and awesomeness that makes up life, how could anyone not be inspired to get out there and experience it? With camera in hand, of course. 

    In the coming weeks I plan on posting some of the tips I've learned over the years from my own experiences as well as the knowledge passed along to me from other professional photographer's. My last blog was merely a conscious outreach from people who have continually asked me how to improve their results when taking pictures of their children or grandchildren. I hope the information I shared was helpful.

    Next week I'll focus (no pun intended) on how to take dramatic sports action photos. Since there are a myriad of important areas to cover I'll discuss one segment at a time. In the meantime, I hope everyone has an enjoyable weekend by taking your camera with you wherever you go so that you too, can take advantage of those magical moments offered by life's unexpected opportunities.

    Ken Munson Photography strives to provide unique photography services in the Cincinnati area, but also travels around the country on special assignments. 

    Established in 2013, Ken Munson Photography specializes in producing high-quality images and will ensure that your special occasion is relaxed, professional and trouble-free. We provide a secure and easy-to-use online store for purchasing professional print and digital products that you will treasure forever.

    Visit my portfolio for examples of my work or contact me to discuss your requirements and let us show you how we can make your event extra special. I hope you enjoy the site. 


    Here's sharing my eye with you ....


      Ken Munson  


  • Tips On How to Photograph Children

    Nov 18, 2013, 5:38:00 PM

    People often ask me about the best way to photograph kids. First of all, I am by no means an expert on the subject, but I’ve been generally happy with my results. Here are a few tips that have served me well me over the years.

    I love to photograph children in natural surroundings. In fact, I prefer candid shots over portraits. I have found that children can be some of the easiest subjects to photograph if you follow a few simple rules.

    Spend a little time getting to know the child on their level. I strive to show I am “genuinely” captivated by the child’s interests. At times, I'll even get down on the floor (getting much harder getting back up these days) to look them in the eye or shoot from a position that provides me with the child’s view of the world. At times, I’ll experiment by shooting directly down or up at the child. It’s merely a matter of “using your creativity or mind’s eye” and trying something a little out of the norm.


    Lack of vanity. I’ve discovered that children are traditionally not as vain as adults. Candid and spontaneous is better than posed and planned. Children don't seem to worry about hair, makeup or what they're wearing. Less posing often times reaps better rewards.


    Children are uninhibited. And therefore are not afraid to display their emotions i.e. laughing, being happy or silly; sad, angry, pensive, curious, or surprised. Their facial expressions immediately reveal the way they are feeling at any given moment.


     I like to shoot children in fun and/or natural surroundings.  I’ll photograph them at a park, a zoo, a birthday party, in their room, while their singing, playing games or make believe or when participating in a sporting event. In essence, a comfortable environment.


     Crop, fill the frame, and focus on the face.  I try to remember the rule of thirds when composing a picture, but more importantly, I try to shoot from a variety of positions while changing my camera’s aperture and speed settings.  Changing the depth of field and speed can be the difference between a good picture and a great picture.


     Click, click, click, click, and click! Since my camera is capable of shooting 4-5 frames per second, I shoot a lot of pictures. It doesn’t cost any more, plus I’ve found that it improves my chances of capturing a money shot.



     Invest in quality optics. Over the years, I’ve discovered that the camera body is merely a box and if I want to invest in equipment, I save my money to buy a variety of good quality lens. Taking good pictures with your camera is more about focal length, focal point, speed of optics, and light. Since I am not an internationally renowned and highly compensated photographer and the industry has yet to develop a camera that will automatically shoot what my mind sees, there isn’t a whole lot of difference in a photograph shot from a camera body that cost $6000 or one that cost $500.


     "Open your mind’s eye.”  OK, so what’s “Your Mind’s Eye!?” Quite simply ….The phrase “Your Mind's Eye" refers to the human ability for visualization, i.e., for the experiencing of visual mental imagery; in other words, one's ability to "see things with the mind .” before you click the camera. It’s what makes my photographs different than other photographer's. Not necessarily better, but different. That’s because I see the world differently than others. That is God’s doing, not mine. I don’t know any other way to explain it, but “Your mind’s eye” is a gift. It’s up to each individual to learn how to find it, develop it, explore it, use it, and apply it. 

    As an example, photographing a little girl on a swing while wearing a Cinderella costume is a fairly routine snapshot.  More than 90% of the world would simply snap a picture of a young child sitting on a swing wearing a colorful princess costume. So how does a photographer go from taking a picture to making a picture? By focusing on her feet, the viewer is now drawn into wondering what happened to the lost slipper.  So what’s changed? By changing the focal point, a paradigm shift occurs - which not only alters the photographic dimension, -but changes the story line.


     Camera settings? Although the camera is merely the vehicle a photographer uses to “make pictures”, there are some technical aspects of photography, and specifically in photographing children, that I've honed over the years. Here are a few tips on how I set my camera up when photographing children.

    Aperture Priority Mode- I start by switching my camera to the Aperture Priority mode. This will let you have some creative control over depth of field which can be an important factor, especially when shooting portraits. If your camera doesn’t have aperture priority mode – it might have a ‘portrait’ mode which can be worth shooting in to get those nice fuzzy backgrounds.

    Aperture – I typically set my aperture at f5.6 to start with (you can adjust it up and down as you start shooting). This will throw the background out of focus (unless your kids are right up against a wall) but will give you enough depth of field that every detail of their face will be in focus.

    ISO – Depending where I am shooting (inside or out) and the type of available light – I manually set the ISO to 200 (lower is better if you have lots of light). If it is too dark and this makes my shutter speed too long I can easily push it up – but I try to keep it under 800 or I start getting a lot of pixilation). If at all possible, do not set your ISO on automatic because the camera typically takes the easy way out and boosts your ISO to compensate for the lack of available light. Shooting at 1600 to 3200 are going to cause graininess during the enlargement process and the colors won't be as vivid either.

    Shutter Speed – I try to keep an eye on the shutter speed automatically chosen by my camera. I make an effort to keep it at 1/200th of a second or faster if I can (if the kids are running around, jumping, swinging, playing in a park or participating in a sports activity – I’ll push it up to 1/500th of a second or more). Like I said – if it’s too dark and if necessary, I can always increase my ISO or even push my Aperture up a little. If I’m not confident with shutter speeds and my photos are coming out blurry because the kids are moving too fast – I might even try putting my camera on the ‘Sports Mode’(On a Nikon there is a little figure of someone running.)

    Focus Mode – I go to Menu and set my Auto focus to “Single Point Focusing”. I could leave it on the "Multi-Point Focusing" mode but I find with kids that move around a lot that it’s better to know my exact location of the subject's focal point.

    Lens – I like to take a couple of approaches when it comes to lenses. The main approach I take is to use a lens with some real zoom capability. I usually use my 70-200mm lens. This enables me to shoot from a distance and yet still fill the frame with the child I’m photographing (this lens also has the advantage of being fast while maintaining image stabilization) Note: (I also turn my lens VR setting to the "on" position. (Vibration Reduction (VR) systems compensate for image blur caused by small, involuntary movements (from unsteady hands, shooting from a moving vehicle, etc.) Also known as camera shake.)

    Another approach that can be fun is to shoot at the other end of the spectrum. Shooting with a wide angle lens or the widest setting of your zoom lens provides a whole different perspective. I typically use my 18-300mm lens because it provides me with more options. Getting in nice and close with a wide lens can produce all kinds of fun distortion (which when used creatively can lead to some amazing shots). If shooting indoors or in poor lighting you might also want to go with the fastest lens in your bag.

    Flash/Lighting – I’m not sure if you have an external flash unit, but my preference is to limit the use of my camera’s built in flash as much as possible. If you do have an external flash and you’re shooting inside – bounce it off a roof/wall (if they are white) or use a diffuser to give indirect light. Otherwise I try to find situations that are well lit with natural light – this is my preferred situation – if I can do it in natural light I’m placing myself in a position where I do not have to worry too much about using artificial light (flash). Existing light is always softer. If I’m shooting into the sun I will often times use a flash to provide a little “fill flash” that will lighten up the shadows? A good example of this is when I photograph a child wearing a baseball cap and the brim of the hat projects a shadow over half of the subject’s face. By adding a little" fill flash", I eliminate the shadows or a photo where the child only has half a face.

     Focus on the eyes. Last, but not least, I try to focus on the child’s eyes. The eyes don’t lie, they are the key to the child’s facial expression, and technically, if I get the eyes in focus, the rest of the details in the face will be in focus.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

    As I said previously, I certainly do not have all the answers, but these little tips have worked well for me over the years. The one thing exciting about photography is that there is so much to learn from other photographers and I'm all ears. Remember, a camera takes pictures, but a photographer makes them!

    Say Cheese!

     Ken Munson





  • Thanks for stopping by to visit my blog and for checking out my new photo website. Just click on either the "Home" or "Portfolios" icons.

    Photography has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. In fact, photojournalism was actually my minor in college, but after graduation, I entered the workforce, got married, started a family, and my camera unexpectedly found a special place on the top shelf in my closet. Still, whether on vacation, shooting my kids at soccer and baseball games, parties, family gatherings, or special events; my heart skipped a beat whenever I captured a special moment. I was not only having fun, but I realized that without my camera - that moment would have been lost forever. I have always been intrigued with the magic of taking pictures and eventually learned that you do not really take pictures - you make them.

    It wasn't until years later as I moved towards retirement that my late brother-in-law, Dr. Peter Benson, would say, "Your SPARK was rekindled". Well Bens, you were right and the embers are burning brightly.

    Given the onset of DSLR's, auto focus lens, laptop computers, Photoshop, and Lightroom, more people are gravitating towards photography. As for me, I definitely have more time on my hands so it's only natural that I'd want to do something that brings me joy. That being said, I'm having fun! I'm trying to turn my hobby into a business. I'm accepting special assignments for national publications, I'm a credentialed photographer for the ATP and WTA professional tennis tours, I shoot for a number of online media outlets and I especially enjoy capturing those magic moments of being a grandpa. I love it when people say, "What a beautiful picture! You must have a really nice camera!" I simply smile and think to myself ... No ... a camera is merely the box that captures the photographer's eye and it just happens that we all have a different vision of the same subject matter.


    Everyone sees things differently. Put 100 photographers in a room and you’ll get 100 different photos. The way you see the world is unique, and photography lets you share that perspective with others.

    Notwithstanding, photography is a fantastic story-telling medium. Whether you’re telling a story with one image, a sequence, a series, or an entire portfolio, the possibilities are endless. Just ask yourself what story you want to tell, and your photos can get you there.

    Ken Munson provides unique photography services within the Greater Cincinnati area, but also travels around the country on special assignments.  I focus on professional, collegiate, and youth action sports, special events & parties, senior pictures, rock bands/concerts, outdoor family portraits, children at play and pet portfolios. Visit my portfolios for examples of my work or contact me to discuss your requirements.

    Everyone Should Take Pictures ....

    I wish more people would get involved with a camera. Photography is like music. There are no language barriers or culture barriers. You can communicate with people around the world with an image. I believe that photographs sustain life and life sustains your photos.

    Furthermore, I believe a photography class should be a requirement in all educational programs because it makes you see the world rather than just look at it. 

    One of my favorite photographer's was Ansel Adams. He said ...

    “A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense, and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety.”  

    With all the love, joy, beauty, laughter, variety, history, adventure, movement, emotion, and awesomeness that makes up life, how could anyone not be inspired to get out there and experience it? With camera in hand, of course. 

    Ken strives to provide unique photography services in the Cincinnati area, but offers his services around the country. 

    Established in 2013, Ken Munson Photography specializes in producing high-quality images and will ensure that your special occasion is relaxed, professional and trouble-free. I provide a secure and easy-to-use online store for purchasing professional print and digital products that you will treasure forever.

    Visit my portfolios for examples of my work or contact me to discuss your requirements and let me show you how I can make your event extra special. I hope you enjoy the site and I'll try to add something new and fresh to my blog each week. Stay tuned!



     Ken Munson