How-To: Storage, Bags, Straps, etc.
And just when you thought you were done spending money on a camera body and a lens or two, right? Wrong. I'm not kidding when I say this can be an expensive hobby. But not everything I mention here is needed so pick and choose what you feel like you have to buy. Also, a few of these items (battery, strap, and lens hood) almost certainly come with your equipment.
Without a battery, you aren't going to be able to even turn your camera on. While your camera should have come with one, I'd suggest having a second one as backup. My limited experience so far also says you are better off using the battery made by your camera company. Off brand batteries are definitely cheaper, but sometimes they won't register how much charge they still have with the meter in your camera and they also don't seem to hold as much of a charge. But if that's what you can afford to start, at least get a cheaper battery and use it as your emergency backup.
Cameras vary widely on their battery consumption so keep that in mind. While I've never needed to replace a battery during a game (including one where I shot just under 3500 photos), you don't want to have your battery run out during a game. Always bring 2 fully charged batteries to the game to make sure you aren't stuck with a dead weight that won't take a photo of that winning goal in stoppage time. Keep an eye on the battery when you get a break in the action and replace it if you get down around 25% just to be safe.
First of all, be careful to get the card (or cards) that work with your camera. There are various types of memory cards (Compact Flash, SD, Micro SD, etc.) and your camera will only take a specific kind (or perhaps 2 different kinds if it can take 2 cards).
To shoot sports you want a card (or cards) that has a good amount of space and is FAST. I'd suggest, if you can afford it, to get at least a 64GB card, although shooting with 32GB cards and swapping them out during a halftime or period break if they seem to be getting more than half full is another option. If you're only shooting JPGs you can probably live with the smaller card for the whole game, but if you are shooting in RAW format you'll want the bigger card to handle the bigger files.
As for speed, you want a fast card (and if you shoot 2 cards simultaneously you want 2 cards of about the same speed so one doesn't slow the other down). This is because you are asking your camera to write a lot of pictures quickly so that you can keep shooting. I'm not going to write specifics about what speed is good for what card type, but take a moment to read up on the fastest cards available and try to buy that or something at least in the neighborhood.
I'd suggest having at least 1 backup for each card you need in case of emergency. Cards get lost or can be damaged.
My final advice is that you reformat your card(s) in the camera before every game. Dont' format them in your computer as this can occasionally cause issues with your camera. Starting with a fresh card means you should have enough room. Plus it encourages you to get your photos stored safely quickly between games so if you lose a card or it gets damaged you don't lose more photos than necessary.
Lens hoods are those funny rounded looking things that are put on the end of your lens. They help block stray light from getting into your photo and giving you an image like the one below.
While they won't stop all bad light from coming in (nothing can save you from straight on sun for instance), it will help with it.
But lens hoods also have 2 other purposes. First off, they help you protect your lens. If you bang your lens, it's better to hit the lens hood than the actual lens (which, if damaged can cost a ton to fix or replace). You can also leave your lens cap off (or even at home) with the lens hood on so you won't have to fiddle with it. Secondly, if it's raining, the hood can help keep the rain off your lens. It probably won't help in a blowing rainstorm, but in a drizzle it can definitely be a big help.
I use my lens hood all the time. Unless you have absolute control of the lighting, it's almost always worth it (and will next to never cause an issue with your lens unless it's a very wide-angle lens).
There are a few types of filters that screw onto the end of your lens, but the one you most likely want to consider for sports photography is a clear or UV filter. It really won't do much for the image, but it is another layer of protection against damaging the front of your lens. I don't know about you, but I'd rather spend $20-30 on a new filter than have to consider replacing a lens that costs over $1000. UV filters are not total guarantees you won't damage your glass, but it might just help.
You will most likely get a camera strap with your camera and that is perfectly sufficient for shooting sports. But definitely use it so you can walk around with it more easily and don't risk dropping your camera. Just be sure it is well attached to your camera.
One other option, which is what I use, is to use a sling strap. It goes over one shoulder and the camera will hang down by your hip when not held up. I like this for walking around as I can walk with my hand on the camera in a crowd, keep track of it, and not have it bumping into people because I can tuck it just a little behind my hip. My sling also has a little strap that goes under my armpit so it doesn't rotate that easily. And there's room on it to attach some little items, like a small bag for my spare battery and memory cards. I also just find it more comfortable than a neck strap.
All I can really say about bags is get one that has a weather cover and that will carry what you'll need for the game. And be aware that many stadiums won't let you bring in a camera bag so you might need to leave it in the car.
If it's raining and your camera isn't very weatherproof (or even if it is and it's raining a little harder), you should have a cover. You can buy ones that are essentially clear plastic bags with an adjustable hole for the lens, a hole for the eyepiece area, and a hole to permit your hand to go in. Or, if you don't have one of these, you can always try using a big ziploc with a cut for the lens, but it won't be as tight as one of these covers designed for the purpose.
You'll want at least 2 places to save your photos. I keep a copy of every photo I take (even the ones I don't edit and post) in 2 locations. First off, I keep them on an external hard drive that I then store in a fireproof safe. Secondly, I store them online. The photos that I edit and post to my website are kept in both of those locations and then I also keep the JPG final copies on my computer hard drive for easy access. I also make sure I backup my catalog file from Lightroom (the software that organizes and edits my photos) in an external location regularly as well as on the external HD.
Make sure you have your photos properly backed up before you reformat your memory card. Nothing is worse than realizing you've lost some photos because you forgot to make sure they were all backed up.
Tripods and Monopods
Tripods (3-legs) let you completely set your camera up so you don't have to hold it. They are good for getting rid of any movement for shots. Monopods (1-leg) are primarily to get the weight of the camera off you. Because you can still move the camera around pretty easily on a monopod, you will have to make sure you aren't getting any camera motion in your shots.
Most professional stadiums won't let you bring either in if you are sitting in the stands. Check with the team whether you are allowed to bring them. If you can bring one in, practice using it ahead of time to make sure you have the feel of it. And if you're standing down near the action, make sure you can move quickly with it because there's always the chance of ending up as part of a tackle or being hit with a ball.
You'll want to always have a microfiber cloth with you (I have one that hooks onto my sling strap) so that you can wipe the lens if it gets wet or dirty. Also you'll want some internal cleaning equipment. It's scary to take the lens off and clean the sensor but sometimes you need to (or you'll need to pay someone to do it at a camera shop). Use a rocket blower occasionally to blow any dust off the lens and then cleaning fluid and a special brush to really clean the sensor as needed.
Finally, if your camera has a self-cleaning mode, make sure you hold your camera parallel to the ground when it runs. Basically what this does is shake the sensor to knock off any dust into the bottom of the camera. If you have the camera tipped down so the lens is toward the ground, you'll be knocking the dust into your lens where it will still mess with your images.
Last updated 12 February 2017