Sports Photography TipsSports photography combines the thrill of action with the science and precision of photojournalism. As a sports photographer, you’re capturing something that is near and dear to the hearts of your viewers, and also trying to make a point with your image.

With thousands of people shooting pictures of their favorite sports every day, what can you do to distinguish your photography from the crowd. You can learn how to capture the moment with this course right here at Udemy. True sports photography captures the decisive moment, and brings it into sharp clear focus for everybody to see. When you prepare to go to a sporting event as a professional photographer, there are some points to keep in mind that can make your sports photography the most exciting.

Understand the Sport

Sometimes it can be very difficult figuring out what’s important in a sport, especially when the sport has a long history, and an enthusiastic fan base. If you don’t understand football, take a course in football like this one  before you get on the field or you won’t know how to shoot football. Is there a particular player who always makes certain moves that get the fans excited? Is there a rule violation that may not be obvious to everybody, but that people who follow the sport would recognize immediately? Knowing these things can help you figure out what the most important aspect of the sport is, and direct your eye.

There are a few basic rules for sports photography that are always good to keep in mind. If there’s a ball, and there’s a racket or a target, make sure your shots include both the ball and the racket or the target. If there’s a finish line, you want to catch the runners crossing the finish line. If there’s a weight to be lifted, or a barrier to leap over, you want to catch the weight at the height of the lift, or the vaulter in mid-leap.

Reaction shots from the fans and from other players can be interesting, but they’re not what sports photography is all about. The viewers want to see the ball going through the hoop, soaring between the goalposts, or flying off the bat.

It may seem obvious, but if you’re a fan of a particular sport, you may find it difficult to remain focused and calm enough to take excellent photographs while your sport is in play. If you’re trying to make a career out of sports photography, it can be a good idea to put your attention on photographing sports that you understand, but not necessarily ones that you follow intimately. Otherwise you might need to choose a different specialization. This blog post can help you identify the photography career that suits you best.

Use a Long Fast Lens

In sports photography more than almost any other field, the ability to get close to the action is critical. Having a long lens, At least 200mm, is critical if you want to be able to bring your viewer right up there on the field with the players. Ideally, you should have a lens with a zoom range that lets you focus in on specific details, but still pull back enough to see the scope of the action. As long as you’re shooting in high enough resolution, you will be able to crop after the fact. But the closer you are to the actual shot you want, the better the quality will be.

Make sure your lens is a fast one. Fast lenses have apertures that open to 2.8 or lower. The lower the aperture number, the wider the aperture of the lens can get, and the more light will be able to come through. A wide aperture gives you a couple of advantages. not only can you set a faster shutter speed with a wide aperture, but a wide aperture also narrows the focus so that the subject you’re focusing on can be sharp and stand out against a blurry background.

Use Manual Exposure

Sports photography is not the time to trust the camera’s automatic exposure system. Camera manufacturers have created automatic exposure modes to take average pictures of average scenes for average photographers. Sports photography is anything but average. Even the sports settings on some modern cameras can’t match the intelligence of a skilled photographer.

One of the advantages of sports photography is that it tends to happen in a setting where the lighting stays pretty constant from moment to moment. Unless the particular sport you’re photographing is outdoors on a cloudy day, you can usually count on being able to set a manual exposure in advance, and having the exposure remain appropriate for the entire event. If you don’t know how to use the manual exposure settings in your camera, check out this course about shooting in manual mode.

It’s also a good idea to set manual white balance, rather than relying on automatic white balance. As the range of elements in the scene changes from shot to shot, automatic white balance can insert subtle color shifts across your photographs, making them look inconsistent with each other.

Set a Fast Shutter Speed

Sports photography is usually about capturing and freezing the action. In order to do that effectively, you need to be able to set a high shutter speed. Typically a shutter speed of 1/500 of a second or less will be necessary for almost any action sport. 1/500 of a second will freeze droplets of water as a swimmer splashes, and stop the ball in mid air right after it bounces off the strings of the tennis racket.

In order to be able to set a high shutter speed, you need to make sure that your lens has a sufficiently wide aperture, and your camera is set to a high enough ISO to support that shutter speed. If you have to sacrifice one of the three, the first one to sacrifices the ISO, and the second one is the aperture. Preserve that faster speed for all it’s worth. Unless you’re an expert at panning your camera smoothly as a runner goes past, you want to be able to freeze the action.

Take Advantage of Burst Mode

Burst mode is is something that many advanced cameras offer these days, allowing you to take as many as five or 10 shots in a single second. This can be a miracle for sports photographers. When you see something important just about to happen, you can point your camera in the right direction, and just hold the shutter button down while the camera snaps all of the shots in very quick intervals. That way you can capture the player jumping off the ground, the ball going toward the hoop, and the expression on his face when the ball makes it through to score the winning point.

Don’t worry about wasting shots. In the old days, photographers had to pay for film, and change rolls every 20 to 36 pictures. Nowadays, with digital photography, you can take as many pictures as you need to in order to get the shot one you want. There’s practically no cost to shooting more pictures than you need. All you have to do afterwards is erase the memory card and start again. Just make sure you bring enough memory cards to capture all of the shots you going to want.

The drama of sports photography comes from learning how to let the viewer feel right there in the moment, seeing the beads of sweat, and feeling the expressions on a favorite player’s face. Try to position yourself on the field, as close to the athletes as possible, so you can get a low angle that puts viewer right there with them. Keep a steady hand, and keep your eye on the progress of the game. You can learn more about photo composition with this course.

With focus and attention, you can come away with sports photography shots that will amaze.

Page Last Updated: February 2020

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