Sports photography is one of the more challenging photography categories to master correctly. A lot of action takes place in just a matter of seconds and you only get one chance to capture them.
Sports photography is very difficult but can be very rewarding if can shoot the right photos. You can earn a large sum of cash if you can shoot the right photos.
You just need to be in the right location at the right moment.
To help you with your sports photography journey, we have prepared a guide that will hopefully make you a better photographer. Doesn’t matter if you are an amateur or a professional, there is something for everyone. But, first let’s learn a little bit about sports photography.
So, what is Sports Photography?
Sports photography is all about capturing the best actions and memorable moments of the athletes. This type of photography is a section of photojournalism. It covers every type of sports, whether it be football, cricket, tennis or gulf. Sports photography is primarily used for editorial purposes. Sports photographers usually works for news agencies or sports agencies.
Now, let’s get started with our guide.
Some Pre-Preparation Tips
For professional tasks, never use a smartphone camera or a normal digital camera. These don’t have the control and capabilities that a professional camera offers.
Choose either a DLSR or a Mirrorless camera. For something compact, use Mirrorless cameras. But keep in mind that these doesn’t have good battery life like a DSLR, so take some backup batteries with you.
Be sure to ask for permission from the event authorities before shooting. Once you got the permission and everything else is sorted out, you are all set for your photoshoot.
1. Look for Inspirations
We always recommend that you first see what others have done and take inspiration from it. You can gain a lot of ideas and knowledge just my looking at others work.
Search online for the locations and see the style of photos that people have taken. If possible, contact those who have already shot in sports events to get some useful tips.
2. Use Lenses with Large Focal Length
The lens you choose will play the most important role in something like sports photography. It will seriously affect how your photos look.
You need to be able to capture a closeup shot from a faraway distance without getting physically close to the subject. It can be achieved through a telephoto lens with a large focal length.
Use a lens that is at least 200mm. By having something smaller you may not be able to get a proper closeup shot. Also try to get one that offers some sort of image stabilization, it will help if for some reasons you decide to shoot any video.
3. Avoid using Fully Automatic Mode
It can be a bit tempting to use the fully automatic modes of your camera but you need to be able to control how your photos look. You can take good photos using fully automatic mode on some occasions but there will be situations where you will be better off using manual or semi manual mode.
Beginners tends to make the mistake of going fully automatic. You may see some dedicated modes on your camera like, action or sports mode, try to avoid using those.
4. Increase your Shutter Speed
Usually everything will be in motion in a sports environment. You need to be able to freeze everything to get clear shot. It is not possible for you to freeze anyone or anything, so what you can do is, just increase your shutter speed.
Keep your shutter speed very high, maybe 1/500s or even something like 1/2000s. Your shutter speed should be adjusted based on the speed of your subject. For faster moving subject you will need faster shutter speed.
5. Use Shutter Priority Mode
In shutter priority mode you have to set the shutter speed at which you want to shoot at. The camera will automatically decide what aperture it needs to use. This is semi-automatic mode.
Use shutter priority when you are shooting fast moving subjects. Take some test shots before you start using it on the event.
6. Use Aperture Priority Mode
This is another useful semi-automatic mode. This works great in sunny days. In this mode you will set the aperture that you want and the camera will automatically adjust the shutter speed. Decrease the f-stop number to as low as possible, which will let in more light inside the camera lens.
Professional sports photographers usually use this mode. It works great if you want to capture a fast-moving subject or if you are in a darker environment.
7. Maintain Proper Exposure
Three components that makes up the exposure triangle are aperture, shutter speed and ISO. We have discussed about aperture and shutter speed, now let’s discuss ISO.
You can control how bright or dark your image will be using ISO. If you are shooting in bright daylight, then you may want to lower your ISO, in such situation having something around 200-400 maybe fine.
When you are in a darker environment, increase your ISO to make your photos brighter, maybe something like 800-1200 will work fine. You have to try out yourself to see what works best for you.
Keep in mind that increasing ISO too much may add grain or digital noise to your photos.
8. Don’t Use Any Flash
Flash will be very ineffective in sports photography. You may think having a flash during nighttime will be useful, but that’s not the case.
You will need a proper lighting setup to properly illuminate the subject, and carrying such setup in events is not easy and it is highly likely that you won’t even be allowed to use such setup.
Besides, the athletes won’t be interested or have the time to pose for you. They will be busy with their game.
Another problem with using flashes are, that it may distract the athletes if the light hits their eyes. It can be very disastrous if they are in any crucial moment of the game. So, avoid using flash.
9. Shoot using Burst Mode
You may see some amazing expressions that only lasts a few split seconds. You definitely wouldn’t want to miss taking such shots. So, we highly recommend that you shoot in burst mode when there is something serious going on in the event.
Also, switch on autofocus if your camera supports it. It will focus on your subject, rather than focusing on a fixed location.
10. Position Yourself Correctly
Standing in the right position will be important for your image quality. Stand in the location where you have the sunlight hitting from behind your back. By doing so, you will have more light hitting the subject. It will let in more light to your camera lens and thus, you can increase the shutter speed to get a better shot if your subject is in motion.
11. Learn the Game Rules
If you want to be a great sports photographer, if is very important that you learn the rules of the game and be able to anticipate the next moves of the players.
You have to try predict what will happen next in the field and plan your shot according to it. You can position yourself properly if you know where the next major action is going to take place.
You need to predict things like, when a cricketer is about to get runout or when a footballer is about to shoot the ball inside the goal post.
Another important tip is that do not stop when the game stops. You will get the most outrageous or joyful expressions after someone has lost a point or even lost the entire game. Always stay focus and be active.
12. Take as Many Photos as Possible
Not just in sports photography but in every other photography genres you will hear people telling you to take as many shots as you can. You should definitely follow this rule as there is no harm in doing so.
It is absolutely fine to have over 1000 images after ending the event. Taking less photos means you have less chance to find something interesting on your memory. Try to capture as many pictures as you can, doesn’t matter if there is nothing interesting going on. You can always delete the unnecessary ones after the event.
Just make sure you have taken backup memories and batteries to keep you going.
13. Shoot from a Lower Angle and Crop Tighter
Shooting from a lower angle will give your photos a different perspective to look at. You can focus on your subject ignoring the grass and other players.
Also try to crop in to your subject as much as possible, it will help to remove any other distractions from the photo and get a clear and focused shot of your subject.
14. Use a Tripod or Monopod
Sports events can last for many hours and you may soon get tired of holding the camera on your hand. Even if the camera is not very heavy your hands will start to pain. So, its best that you take a monopod or a tripod along with you.
Monopod is just a metal rod with camera mount attached at the top. It will help to keep your camera steady when taking photos from different angles.
Tripod is similar to monopod but the only difference is that it has three legs supporting it to stand.
The reason why we included monopod is because it takes less space. If you are in a crowded environment, for example, standing with the audiences, then having a monopod will be beneficial.
15. Use the “Panning” Method
If you are shooting in any racing event, using the panning technique will give you a dramatic motion blur by keeping your subject in focus. It is a really good technique if you want something unique.
How to do panning? First, you have to set your shutter speed lower than normal and select the target. Move your camera at the same speed as the subject. Then keep your subject in focus and take continuous shots.
You can get great photos using this technique, but it is a bit difficult to master. You need to do a lot of practice for it.
16. Pay Attention Off Field
Not just on the field, a lot will be happening off field as the game is going on. You will see people celebrating, angry, crying, laughing and expressing all sorts of emotions.
Audiences can be a great subject for you to photograph. You can capture the different activities that the audiences are doing.
Also take photos of coaches and team managers. They tend to be very active and gives out solid expression if something serious happens.
See if something interesting is happening. Often photos from sports events gets featured in various online social medias and different agencies. If you can manage to take amazing photos, it will be easy for you to earn money from it.
17. Respect the Officials and Other Stuffs
Always respect everyone regardless of who they are. Maybe you hate a team, but that doesn’t mean you should give them bad names. If someone hired you to take photograph for the event and they asked something that you don’t agree on, then simply let them know, don’t be disrespectful.
Sports event will generally be crowded and noisy, which may distract you with your work. There’s nothing you can do about it; you have to learn to deal with it, don’t go into an argument with anyone just for that.
18. Check your Photos After the Event
19. Don’t forget Post-Processing
Editing photos is essential. There might be some unusual defects that might need to get fixed. But do not over do anything. Keep it original and only make small adjustments like, color correction, saturation, highlights, shadows etc.
Try to edit your photos even if you think it is perfect. You may get amazed by how much difference can be made by just doing minor adjustments.