Wow, the summer flew by! Here were are in September, and the extracurricular activities are in full flutter.
The kids have been shooting selfies and groupies all summer long, and now it’s your turn for some time behind the camera. And, since it’s Texas, that means the Friday night lights will be ablaze as our kiddos march up and down the football field—some with cleats, helmets and pads, many with clarinets, plumes and pom poms—all buzzing with team spirit, hard work and action-packed fun.
So, what’s a parent to do when you want to capture these events and the razzle-dazzle of your summer-time super-phone doesn’t have the oomph to get the job done? Taking pictures at fast-paced extracurricular events is different than snapping vacation pics on glorious mountains or flowing beaches. It’s decidedly different than the poolside pace of tanning, lounging and an occasional cannon ball.
Pictures for the active, high-paced extracurriculars in which our kids are engaged are often at night or in closely confined spaces like dance and martial arts studios, with strange lighting, at a distance and at speeds and angles that defy most of what we know about physics and anatomy.
How do you capture your cheerleader’s perfectly executed round off? How do you snap with precision your mountainous lineman’s perilous pancake block? How do you secure the precision honed twists and turns of the marching band’s well-oiled melody machine? How do you pinpoint a pirouette or nail the perfect shot of the board-breaking ninja that is your sweet little six-year-old princess?
The answer can be complicated, but with your calendar already threatening to burst at the seams, there’s no reason to add insult to injury. I’ll try to make it as straightforward and unencumbered as possible.
Here are some options:
1 Use what your momma gave ya…or in this case use what Apple, Sony or Samsung charged you an enormous amount of money for already. That is, you can keep your picture-taking budget low by trying to get the most out of your smart phone. To do this, you’ll need to undertake a little experimenting. You don’t want to be trying to figure out complicated menu settings during the OMG-how-could-you-have-missed-that moment of the year.
Many of the flagship phones have very nice cameras, but they struggle with low lighting, repeat and action shots. Block off some time and tinker with the burst shot, ISO and metering settings. Rather than try to become an expert photographer, just take several shots in various settings and see what works best for you and your camera. There’s likely a sweet spot that you’ll find will do “good enough”for much of what you are wanting, especially if it’s for posting on social media.
2 Show me the money! Okay, if money’s no object, but you haven’t yet determined what you want out of a snazzy camera, it’s your lucky day. We live in an amazing technological time. Technology is exploding…hmmm, let me rephrase that…technology is advancing so rapidly that new innovations are driving down prices and driving up capacity for having a pro-summer or even professional camera at your disposal.
When you step into the world of DSLR cameras, the sky is the limit. And you can easily stack money to the sky paying for the thrill of owning some of the professional level cameras. These cameras take phenomenal pictures. They are fast. They are precision honed and crafted to take abuse. With the right glass (as the pros like to call their lenses), you can get amazing shots at a distance, inches away and on and on. Also, with these cameras, you’ll have the ability to have external microphone connections for capturing HD video and great audio. At the very highest levels of tech kit, you’ll even have the ability to shoot stunning 4K video—which might be about the only content that you’ll have available for that mind-blowing 4K TV that the folks at the electronics store talked you into, but that’s a story for another day.
3 A third way. So, probably like most of us, you may linger somewhere in that great expanse of the bell curve known as average. Or, as I like to think of it: normal. You don’t want to try to skimp on pictures by using your cell phone for everything, but you also don’t want to pay as much for a camera as you did for your first car. Sounds reasonable—I mean, normal. There are some really great point and shoot cameras on the market that will do a fantastic job for you. One camera that the many tech reviewers I follow are just gaga over is the Sony RX100 II. It’s a fantastic little point and shoot camera that can sometimes make you think you are using a DSLR that costs three times as much. It has amazingly cool features, such as controlling it from your phone via Wi-Fi. And most importantly, it takes amazing pictures, which is after all why you want it.
There are other cameras in this middling category, but the Sony is likely the best example of credibly cramming a near-DSLR experience into the palm of your hand. That makes a lot of sense for the average extracurricular road warriors. You’ve already got the SUV packed full of kids, friends, snacks, equipment, instruments and a nagging french fry or two that seem to elude your vacuum and your puppy. Why add another ten pounds of camera gear on top of that? Unless, of course, your bell curve is a little misshapen. And if so, you probably know better than most of us what you’re doing already.
As this busy and exciting time of year gets started, no matter if you’re snapping pics with your phone, zooming in from hundreds of yards away with your DSLR or clicking away with your snazzy little point and shoot wizardry, make sure to remember that it’s not megapixels and megabytes that you’re trying to capture; it’s the journey of life. Sometimes the best memory you can make happens when you put away the gadgets and allow your mind’s eye to soak in the wonder and beauty that is the child you’re cheering on from the crowd. May you have an amazing school year of doing just that!
Richard Singleton, MACE, MAMFC, LPC, is the executive director at STARRY in Round Rock.