Sports photography is all about the “action” of the sport. It is not so much about the outcome of the game as it is about the journey to the outcome.
Sports photography is any photography that features athletes in action. It could be a swimmer, a golfer, a hockey player, a runner, an equestrian, a soccer player, a boxer, an American football player, or whatever. All this is what makes up the “action” of the sport and it is what the photographer captures and transmits to the viewer.
Sports Photography Equipment Essentials
You don’t need a ton of equipment to get good sports photos. However, if you want to be able to do some serious sports photography, then you should consider getting one or more of the following:
+ Full Frame Camera
+ Good lens – at least a 50mm f/1.8 or a 28mm f/2.8
+ Wide-angle lens – at least a 14mm f1.8 or a 10-14mm f/2.8
+ Telephoto lens – at least a 70-300mm f/4-5.6 or a 100-400mm f4.5-5.6
+ Tripod: A sturdy, quality tripod is an absolute must for getting sharp photos.
+ Good memory card – at least 64GB for your camera
Best Lenses For Sports Photography
Use A Telephoto Zoom Lens
A long lens lets you isolate a subject and make it the main focus of the image. This works especially well when you are shooting at a distance and your subject is small, like a player on the field or a bird in the sky.
Telephoto lenses have a focal length longer than normal (like 300mm) and they allow you to get close without losing the subject. They also have the added advantage of letting you take pictures from farther away, so you don’t have to get as close to your subject as you would with a shorter lens.
A long focal length (telephoto) lens will compress the subject, making it appear much closer to you. This is great for tight shots of a runner’s face during a race, for example. A long focal length will also exaggerate any awkwardness in the athlete’s body language.
Some commonly used wide-angle lenses have focal lengths of 70-300mm, 100-400mm or fix 400mm.
Use A Wide-Angle Lens
A wide-angle lens lets you include a lot of the action in your frame, but it also means that you will have to compress the scale of everything else in the photo.
This can be good or bad, depending on your intended use.
+ If you are trying to show the audience the vastness of the field, or the size of the stadium, then a wide-angle will do the trick.
+ However, if you are trying to show the crowd, or a small player, then you will have to use a longer focal length and a higher resolution to get the same effect.
Some commonly used wide-angle lenses have focal lengths of 16mm, 24mm or 35mm.
Use A Fast Shutter Speed
Shutter speed is how long the camera’s mechanical shutter is open to let light hit the sensor. When you are photographing moving subjects like athletes or children playing sports, you need to use a very fast shutter speed.
A really fast shutter speed will freeze movement, and give you a sharp image. However, a really fast shutter speed can also cause the image to be a little blurry if the subject is not absolutely still when the shutter is open… which most subjects (except for babies) are not.
So, the compromise you have to make is to use a faster shutter speed than you would otherwise consider, and then just adjust the image in post-processing (in other words, after the photo is taken) to make the movement of the athlete or child or whatever else you are photographing perfectly clear.
Use Continuous Autofocus
You should use continuous autofocus (AF-C) whenever your camera is set to focus continuously. It also means you don’t have to worry about getting a ‘good enough’ shot every time because you can just keep shooting until the subject is in focus.
If you use autofocus, it will keep adjusting the focus as the subject moves, even if you don’t move the camera. This is very useful for sports because athletes often move around a lot. It will help you get sharper photos and reduce the chance of losing the action because the camera became confused by movement.
Do Not Use On-Camera Flash
Even the most expensive camera will use a cheap little flash to illuminate the subject for you. This is great for everyday snapshots, but if you are a serious sports photographer, you should never use on-camera flash.
It will wash out the colors in the game, making it look like a boring digital photo instead of the real thing. Instead, you should use an off-camera flash, such as one of those “Speedlight” flashes that are designed for use with a Nikon or Canon SLR.
Use A Tripod
It is amazing how much difference a tripod makes. Even if you are a seasoned pro, you will still find a tripod useful to have around. It can help you hold your camera steady to get those critical sharp shots, especially if you are shooting action. And it is especially important for beginning photographers.
So, if you are photographing a race car driver or a skier flying down a hill, using a tripod will give you a much better chance of getting a sharp shot.
Respect the officials, coaches, athletes, and staff at all times
This is the most important point of all. There is nothing more infuriating to an athlete than a photographer who is constantly in their face asking for a autograph or trying to get them to smile or laugh or do something that makes them uncomfortable. And you will never hear an athlete say, “Oh, go ahead and take my picture. It won’t hurt anything.”
No matter how good you are at your sport, no matter how “connected” you think you are to your subject, you will always be seen as an outsider. And that is the biggest mistake you can make when you are shooting sports.
Always remember you are an outsider. That means you are neutral. You are just observing. And if you learn to do this, then you will have the freedom to make truly great images.
Anticipate The Action
A great way to add interest to your photos is to anticipate what the subject will do next.
+ For example, in the case of a race car driver, anticipate which direction he will swerve to avoid a pothole, or what gear he will shift into to accelerate away from a speed trap.
+ In the case of a runner, anticipate which direction he will run to the left or right to avoid a oncoming car, or what gear he will shift into to sprint away from you.
In all cases, you should always be ready to shoot when the action is about to happen, because that’s when the adrenaline is at its peak and your subjects will be most responsive to your promptings.
Take Pictures Of Some Sports
Improve Your Marathon Photography
Marathon runners run 26 miles. That’s a long way. And yet, they do it over and over. Why? Because it’s fun. And because it helps them train for other races and improve their times. You should photograph marathon runners the same way.
Not because it will help you sell more books (it won’t) or get more attention (you won’t), but because it will make your photos more interesting. Look for unique ways to shoot marathons – the drama of the starting gun, the crowd reaction to the runners as they cross the line, the expressions on the faces of the winners and losers, and so on.
How to Take Professional Photos of Swimmers
The secret to taking great photos of swimmers is the same as the secret to taking great photos of anyone else…
You have to be able to see the subject clearly! Most people think it’s obvious, but it’s not.
+ When you are shooting someone who is in a pool or a lake or some other body of water, you have to make sure you can see their entire body.
+ And, if you are shooting them from a boat or a bridge or something else where you are not right on top of them, you have to make sure you can see their head, their arms, their torso, and their legs.
It is very hard to get all that detail in your photo when you are a boat or a plane or a mountain away from the subject, so you really have to be as close to them as possible without getting in the way.
How To Take Powerful Boxing Photography Shots
The most important element of great boxing photography is the subject himself. As a general rule, if the subject looks like he is having fun, the viewer will enjoy looking at the photograph too.
The secret is to get close enough to make the viewer feel as though he is right there in the ring with the boxer. In fact, if possible, it is best to be inside the ropes just outside the ring where you can actually touch the fighters if you want to. This adds a whole new dimension to your photography.
It is very exciting for the boxer to know that you are willing to get this close to him and capture his image on film. He will immediately sense your enthusiasm and he will respond in kind.
This is one of the best ways to win the confidence of a fighter and it will make him eager to work with you.
How To Take Professional Baseball Photography
Many people think baseball is hard to photograph because the action is so fast. That’s sort of true, but it is the subtle things that make the real difference.
Like the “look” of the batter as he is about to hit the ball, or the catcher just as the ball is about to be thrown to him, or the pitcher just before he releases the ball, or the hitter as he is about to swing. All of these things and many others are what makes a good photograph and give the viewer a sense of what is going on. If you can catch these moments, they will be frozen in time for eternity.
Do Some Post-Processing
It is often said that “90% of the work done in photography is done in the darkroom.” This is absolutely true. However, it is also true that “most photographers don’t do any post-processing at all.”
So, if you are starting from scratch, spend some time in Adobe Photoshop or similar software learning the ropes and then applying those skills to your own images. You will be amazed at how much better your photos will look when you get rid of the distracting elements and add a bit of contrast, brighten up the colors, or remove the background.
The most important advice I can give you is… Keep Shooting! It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Yet, so many of us stop shooting because we get discouraged or we think our photos aren’t good enough. Or we get busy with other things and forget about taking pictures for a while. Well, if you truly want to learn to do something, you’ve got to keep at it, plain and simple.
Don’t get me wrong – you should take breaks to recuperate from all that effort you put into creating your images, but you should also make sure you are constantly re-invigorated with new challenges. Don’t become a “weekend warrior”, trying to scrape by on fumes. You need fuel to run a marathon, not a sprint. So keep shooting !
This is an exciting and challenging area of photography. The most important thing is that you should always stay focused and determined to improve your skills. You should also remember to always be positive and look for the good in everything.
If you follow these simple rules, your photographic adventures will surely be more exciting and more successful.
We hope that you have enjoyed reading this post and that it has helped you in some way.