Nowadays, everyone with an iPhone thinks they are a photographer, but they aren’t. Paintball and Airsoft Photography takes years of practice and a good amount of natural talent to become good at it. One of the most demanding photography challenges is taking pictures of Paintball or Airsoft. Doing it well makes absolutely awesome photos, doing it badly makes you just another goober with a camera.
In this blog post, we will explore the best practices for paintball and Airsoft photography and provide you with tips and tricks to capture amazing shots.
Understanding the Game of Paintball or Airsoft
Before we dive into paintball and airsoft photography, it’s essential to understand the game’s rules and mechanics. Both events are highly intensive games that usually involve two teams of players trying to eliminate each other by shooting paint-filled pellets or small bbs from air or battery-powered guns. Players wear protective gear, such as masks, to prevent injury from the pellets.
The game’s objective is to eliminate all players on the opposing team or capture the opponent’s flag. With this in mind, paintball and airsoft photography require capturing the fast-paced action, emotion, and energy of the game.
The Right Equipment
To capture epic moments in paintball photography, you need the right equipment. Here are some of the essential gear you need:
Camera: A good camera is the most crucial element in paintball photography. You need a camera that can handle fast-moving action and capture high-quality images in low-light conditions. A DSLR camera with a fast shutter speed and burst mode is ideal. I use a Canon Eos 7D Mk2
Lens: A telephoto lens is a must-have for paintball and airsoft photography as it allows you to zoom in on the action and capture close-up shots. A lens with a focal length of at least 70-200mm is recommended.
Protective gear: Since paintball is a high-intensity game, it’s essential to protect your camera from damage. Protective gear, such as a rain cover, lens hood, and camera bag, can help protect your camera from paint splatter, scratches, and impact.
Extra batteries and memory cards: Paintball photography involves multiple shots, and your camera’s battery life and memory card space may run out quickly. It’s always a good idea to carry extra batteries and memory cards to avoid missing out on any critical moments. You can always take pictures off a memory card when you get home, but you can’t put them in when the action is over.
Capturing the Action
Once you have the right equipment, it’s time to capture the action. Here are some tips for capturing epic moments in paintball photography:
Get close to the action: To capture the intensity of the game, you need to get as close to the action as possible. Use a telephoto lens to zoom in on the players and capture close-up shots. You should almost become a player to get the perfect shots. Hide behind trees and bunkers,
Shoot in burst mode: Paintball is a fast-paced game, and capturing the perfect shot can be challenging. Shooting in burst mode can help you capture multiple shots in quick succession and increase your chances of getting the perfect shot. Burst mode or continual shutter speed of around 10 frames per second is ideal.
Focus on the players’ faces: The players’ faces can reveal their emotions and intensity during the game. Focus on their faces and try to capture their expressions as they play. So many so-called “Pro Paintball” photographers regularly take pictures of player’s backs and the backs of heads. One in particular who takes photos of tournament paintball is especially bad for this.
There are golden rules when it comes to Paintball and Airsoft photography. Always shoot the player from the front, no one wants to see the back of someone’s head. Always make sure you have the player’s feet in the shot. So many poor photographers cut the feet off their subjects. And most importantly, always make sure to have the whole gun in shot. Never cut off the end of the gun.
Capture the movement: Paintball involves a lot of movement, and capturing the players’ movement can add a sense of motion and energy to your photos. Use a slower shutter speed to create motion blur and convey the sense of movement. If you can, use back button focusing where you can assign different modes to your camera. For example, when I am taking photo’s one of my camera’s back buttons is a single-point focus, this is for taking pictures of players who are sitting, standing or posing with hardly any movement. But then the other button is AI Servo mode, just in case a player runs into a shot and I need to switch in a fraction of a second.
Experiment with angles: Shooting from different angles can add variety and interest to your photos. Try shooting from high or low angles to capture unique perspectives of the game. The best shots are from a very low angle where a lot of ground is seen. This gives the impression of playing the event. Get into a trench and try to be at floor level for the best shots.
Don’t be scared of waiting, patience can really pay off, especially if you have a really interesting tree stump or barricade in frame.
Keep some smoke grenades with you, pictures look amazing when the subject is surrounded by coloured smoke.
If the sun is very bright, you can use a very short shutter speed to try and get a picture of the paintball or airsoft BB leaving the barrel of the gun, or a paintball splatting on someone’s mask.
Dealing with Challenges in Paintball and Airsoft Photography
Paintball and Airsoft photography come with its fair share of challenges. Here are some common challenges and how to overcome them:
Low light conditions
Paintball games often occur in low light conditions, making it challenging to capture high-quality images. Use a higher ISO and a wide aperture to let in more light and increase your camera’s sensitivity to light. You can also use a flash to illuminate the scene, but be mindful of how it may affect the players’ vision. If you go too high with the ISO though, your shots can become very grainy. Taking action shots in winter in a heavily wooded environment is very challenging. It could be a good idea to ask some players to stage some shots where you can bring in a bit of artificial light.
Paintball games involve a lot of paint splatter, which can damage your camera and lens. Use protective gear, such as a rain cover and lens hood, to protect your camera from paint splatter. You can also clean your camera and lens regularly to avoid any damage. You can also buy lens filters, but I have found in the past that they can reduce the quality of the photo.
As a photographer, it’s essential to prioritize your safety and the safety of the players. Always wear protective gear, such as a helmet and goggles, and stay aware of your surroundings. Follow the game’s rules and regulations and avoid obstructing the players’ movements. Taking pictures in a pair of goggles can be a real challenge. I try to zoom out a little more than I would normally do so that I can frame the shot in Photoshop afterwards. A good quality camera can get high enough quality shots to zoom in enough without losing quality.
Capturing the perfect moment in paintball photography requires timing and anticipation. It’s essential to pay attention to the players’ movements and anticipate their actions to capture the perfect shot. Be patient and keep shooting to increase your chances of capturing epic moments.
Look for possible choke points on the field of play, or buildings you know are about to be attacked. Get in front of the players, get low, put your hood up and make sure you are wearing lots of layers. Getting good shots usually means getting shot from time to time.
Don’t be scared to use any camera going. The best camera you can get is the one you have at the time. If that’s a phone, then so be it. But remember, a paintball or airsoft bb will shatter a phone screen, so make sure it’s an old phone.
The sun can be your worst enemy or your best friend, depending on which direction you are facing. Always try to get the sun behind you, especially close to the end of the day during the winter months.
Get a good camera with back button focusing. Make sure the lens is long enough not to have to get too close to the action. Use the light to your advantage. Never chop off player’s feet or the end of their guns. Don’t take photos of people’s backs. Take photos as though you were playing. Take as many pictures as you can to be able to delete those you do not want to use.
And above all. Never ever show anyone or upload onto social media, any picture that you are not 100% happy with. 7 pictures that are of amazing quality will make people think you are an amazing photographer. If you upload 100 pictures, some not so good, even if they include your 7 good ones, people will think you are an amateur.
Oh, and one more thing. Learn to use Photoshop. There is nothing shameful about giving your shots a bit of a tweak.
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If you would like to book midweek or have fewer than 10 players, please contact us on 01757 289322.
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