Commack High School Girls Varsity Tennis vs. Smithtown East
Congratulations to Commack's girls varsity tennis team on their win over Smithtown East. They have a nice run going.
Another bright, sunny day. Photographing tennis at Commack is especially challenging on days like this due to the extremely strong sunlight on the players coupled with the relatively dark backgrounds. No way can you trust your camera's exposure meter in a situation like this. It will always blow out the skin tones. You could try center-weighted or spot metering but I find this leads to erratic results that require even more complex corrections in post.
What I prefer is to expose for the highlights and adjust the shadows in post. This requires a lot of negative exposure compensation and, on our courts, it varies because the backgrounds behind each court are so different - baseball fence screening, dugout sheds, black handball courts, baseball field, we've got it all. I find I need to dial in between -3/4 and -1 3/4 stops. This may sound like a lot but when you have a black handball court (in the shade) behind you and full sun on your subject it's necessary. Once the skin tones blow out (go totally white) nothing will be able to bring them back except some extensive work in Photoshop, and you don't want to be spending the rest of your life doing that.
Back in Lightroom, even with all that negative exposure comp I'll still need to reduce the highlights further on some of the photos. After that, I'll raise either the overall exposure or just the shadows, or both, to bring the background exposure levels up. I like to keep the background slightly underexposed to make the player stand out. Finally, I may need to open up the shadows a bit on the shadow side of the face to give it a little definition. There is one advantage to all this high contrast light - your camera will have no problem autofocusing.
As far as the strategy for photographing tennis, shoot loose. By this I mean leave plenty of room around your subject in order to get at least part of the racquet and the ball in the shot. You won't know until it's too late how far the player will have to stretch to return the ball so it's best to err on the side of leaving more space around your subject than less. If your camera is small enough, keep both eyes open. This will let you see where the ball is going so you can get a jump on the shot. Finally, if you're shooting through a fence use your widest aperture to keep the fence out of the photo, rest the lens against the fence and put a rubber lens hood on the lens. This will keep you from scratching your plastic lens hood and help cushion the lens if the ball hits the fence.