Golf Tips - Photography - 'Be the ball!'

By Chuck DeLaney

Golf ball close-up on felt

New York Institute of Photography

Ah, that sage advice offered by Chevy Chase in one of our alltime favorite movies, Caddyshack, should be kept in mind by photographers who hoist a camera on the links.

In a nutshell, sports photography is tough. While there are lots of great sports photos published, the average newspaper is full of mediocre sports photos nearly every day. It's hard to get a good photograph of action in most sports.

Golfer completing a swing and eyeing the path

That's the bad news. The worse news is that golf is one of the hardest sports to photograph. There's no physical contact between players, the course is tremendous and the ball is tiny and travels very rapidly through the air. It's hard to get a good angle without impairing the golfer's concentration or risking getting conked by an errant drive. Good golf photography is hard. As NYI students have learned, we say "If it's hard, that's terrific!" Because if it's hard, most people won't do it, and therefore the benefits and rewards will flow to those that do. With those words of encouragement, let's turn to the job at hand.

The photographs you can take on the golf course can be broken into several distinct types:

  1. The Big Swing
  2. Sand Trap Photos
  3. On the Green
  4. Reaction Shots
  5. Golf Scenics

Woman teeing off down a long green

Before we look at each type of golf photo, it is essential that you remember that regardless of the kind of picture you want to shoot, following NYI's Three Guidelines for Better Photographs will determine whether or not your photo succeeds. As regular readers should know by now, NYI's Three Guidelines are best recounted in the form of these simple questions you should ask yourself before pressing the shutter on your camera:

Guideline One: What is the subject of my photograph?
Guideline Two: How can I give emphasis to my subject?
Guideline Three: Is there anything I can do to simplify my photograph?

Red-clad golfer and a collection of mountain homes, with his cart beside him

Particularly with a subject such as golf, the action of your photo is likely to be so minimal that if there are distractions they will seriously interfere with your photo. Look at the example to the left. What's the subject here? The golfer in red? His cart? The town behind? The mountains? We could go on endlessly about the flaws in this photo, but we don't like to teach from negative examples. Suffice it to say everything here that isn't the subject of the photograph detracts from whatever is the intended subject. We assume it's the poorly cropped golfer in the lower left, but the other elements in the picture are certainly putting up a battle to distract the viewer.

Red-shirted golfer completing a swing, looking away at his drive

While it may be hard to capture that perfect golf action photo of the key shot made by the big star that won the major tournament, we guarantee if you follow the advice in this article, you'll be able to take great golf photos of your friends and family next time you head out to your local course. Think of the benefits - fresh air and a camera that is much lighter to tote than a bagful of clubs. What could be more pleasant than a round of golf without having to worry about whether you break par? Now let's look at some good examples of the various types of golf photos.

Read More Professional Golf Tips and Watch Instructional Golf Videos