A Guide to Capturing Sports Photography-Tricks and Camera Tips

Soccer player hitting the ball

Canon EOS 600D, 1/1000, f3.2

Capturing real-life action of a thrilling sports event such as in football, soccer, tennis, volleyball, rugby league, etc., is a great feeling for every photographer. However, sometimes, it can be hard to consistently capture great shots such as those we see in newspapers and magazines.

However, what you need to know is that sports photography is not always a walk in the path for even the best photographers. In the mainstream media, we see great shots of perfectly-paused moments, but we don’t get to see the hundreds of images left on the photographer’s camera that led to that one great shot. The truth is that you will get blurry shots more times than you want, but that should not discourage you.

Whether you are starting out on sports photography or you are a seasoned photographer who wants to learn something new, here are a few quick tricks and tips you can use on your next shoot to help you capture a few crisp shots that will help tell a story of how the sporting action was.

Tips for Capturing Great Sports Photos

Plan Ahead

Sports photography is majorly all about knowing when to anticipate an event, which is why you need to know your sport. Of course, there are photographers who handle any type of sport, but most of them specialize.

To be successful in this field, you will need to learn the rules of the game so that you can anticipate action or the next move. If you follow a sport or a team, you will begin to know the players and how they react in certain situations. Try to focus on one or two individuals.

In addition to learning about your sport, acclimate to space. Position yourself in a spot where you know that will be free from distractions. Also, don’t forget about switching directions/teams, etc. after half time. Keep in mind that in sports, actions happen quickly, and you will want to be in the right position to capture them.

Use a Faster Shutter Speed

One of the key tips for capturing great action shots is using a shutter speed that is faster than the action. Many professional photographers use a shutter speed of 1/1000, but keep in mind that by using a fast shutter, you will have to alter several other functions of your camera.

With a fast closing shutter, you will have to adjust your aperture accordingly so as to allow enough light to enter your camera to make up for the short time the light is allowed in.

Most DSLR cameras feature a Sports Mode, and thus you can use it if you do not want to adjust camera settings in Manual Mode. It is a great starting point before you learn how to adjust manual settings accordingly.

With fast shutter speed, you will be able to freeze actions so as to prevent a lot of blurry shots. However, as you advance, you will know when to switch between different shutter speeds so as to add several shots that show motion.

Use Aperture Priority Mode

Tennis US openningNikon D810, 1/4000, f2.8

In the previous tip, we mentioned that you could use Sports Mode when starting out on sports photography. However, the best mode to use in sports photography is Aperture Priority Mode, which is displayed by AV in Canon cameras and A in Nikon Cameras.

By setting the camera in aperture priority mode, you will be allowing it to determine the shutter. On a sunny day, this is the best setting to use. Many sports photographers use aperture priority mode, whereby they set large apertures such as f/4. This ensures more light is allowed in, which in turn tells the camera to use a fast speed to expose your shots correctly.

With more light entering the camera and the shutter closing fast, you will be able to freeze the action.

Watch Your ISO

Since your aperture and shutter speed are working hand-in-hand, you want to pay attention to your ISO setting so as to make the right lighting adjustments. You should alter your ISO level based on the environment you are shooting in.

In a bright environment, use a lower ISO. For Indoor, darker environment, use a broader ISO to expose your shots more.

Equip Yourself With Interchangeable Lenses or Zoom Lens

Sports are normally conducted in an expansive space. This means that your subjects will sometime be far or near your spot, which is why you need to equip yourself with several interchangeable lenses or have a zoom lens.

The choice of lenses depends on the type of action you intend to capture, but you should not limit yourself to one lens. Therefore, invest in quality lenses with different lengths.

Consider Composition

Horse races

Composition is one of the key things to keep in mind in sports photography. Find a good position and viewpoint where you will be able to frame your subject in the right position.

Consider taking some shots from a distance to add context to your images and zooming in to isolate a small event of the action. Remember to take pictures of starting blocks, corner flags, and venue details.

Use Auto-Focus

For your camera to keep up with fast movements, you need to set it to continually focus on your subjects rather than get locked on to one spot. In addition to this, you should also set “burst” or “frames per second” to make it take multiple shots.

Switching on this setting will make your camera take the maximum shots it can manage per second. This increases the chances of you capturing that ideal shot.

Take Shots From a Low Angle

By shooting from a low angle, you will be capturing images with a richer background rather than one with other athletes and grass. Shots taken from low angles give your photos excellent depth.

If you analyze photos taken by pro sports photographers, you will notice that most of them are taken from a low angle.

To help you keep your camera balanced and steady when shooting from different angles, especially from a low angle, invest in a monopod.

Bottom Line

As ironic as this may sound, to successfully capture action shots in a sporting event, you need to be more proactive and reactive rather than master a lot of camera settings. This means you have to understand the sport and learn how to anticipate an event.

We hope that you will be able to capture several great shots in your next shoot to tell the story of how the sporting event was.

Posted in: Photography for beginners