How To: Take Great Sports Photos

by Reads (547)

Your favorite player just rounded third base and is headed for home. Your daughter is finishing her dance recital and is ending with the perfect plie. Your son is getting ready to shoot the game winning goal. All of these moments are just a click away…if you have the knowledge and equipment.

Sports photography isn’t easy. It takes the right equipment to get that perfect shot. Slow cameras and lenses will leave you frustrated and missing the shot. A basic knowledge of the sport and an indepth understanding of your camera’s settings will also help you get the perfect shot.

1. Owning the right equipment is critical. Investing in the proper equipment can be expensive and overwhelming. Fast lenses and DSLRs are not cheap, but purchasing the right camera and lenses from the beginning will ensure that your images are sharp and recorded quickly. Cameras that have a high frame per second count are a top priority when shooting sports. Continuous shutter mode is an important feature in sports photography. The more images you can take in a rapid burst, the better your chances of securing the best shot. Also, you will want to make sure your lens can keep up with the camera. Purchasing a fast lens with a wide open aperture and a long zoom will ensure you can shoot in almost any lighting condition at a variety of distances. Most point and shoot cameras are not able to keep up with the demands of sports photography. Ultrazoom cameras are a better option, but some lack good image stabilization at the long telephoto end of the zoom. Also, adjusting the zoom by way of a toggle can be frustrating. It only takes a split second to miss an important shot. Some mirrorless cameras are able to autofocus very quickly and they all offer a variety of lenses including long telephotos.

2.  Know your camera, know your settings. Most sports move quickly. There’s not a lot of time to fiddle with your settings in the middle of a basketball or football game. Knowing your camera and its settings is a vital part of getting that perfect shot. Make sure to read your manual so you know the fastest way to access important settings and modes. It is also important to spend a great deal of time with your camera learning how to change the settings without missing a beat. This only comes with repeated practice. After a while your camera will feel like an extension of your hand and it will be second nature to change your settings without looking.

3. Pick a great vantage point. A big part of getting the right shot is being in the right place. If you can be on ground level with the players that is ideal. The closer you can get to the action, the more emotion you can evoke in your images. If you can’t be close to the action, you will need to make sure you have a long telephoto zoom lens. Again, try to frame your image as to make the viewer feel that they are a part of the action. Most times I will try to single out one or two players for each shot. This allows me to capture the feelings and emotions of each play instead of simply recording the play.  

4. Capture the emotion. The emotion of the player in an photo makes the difference between a good image and a great image. For some players this takes great patience and a lot of shutter releases to get the perfect shot. In other cases, the player exudes passion in every play. Just keep clicking. Another important thing to note is depth of field. Having a lens that gives you an aperture of f2.8 or f/4 will be very helpful when creating a soft, defocused background. It will also help to separate the subject from the background. My personal preference is to shoot in aperture priority while shooting sports. I like to make sure my aperture is wide open (f2.8 or f4), my shutter speed is high (at least 1/125 second for slower sports, but I prefer 1/250 second or higher) and an ISO that allows me to keep these in balance. I generally shoot at 100, 200 or 400 ISO for outdoor sports. For indoor sports, you might make to bump up your ISO to 800 or 1600. Just make sure you camera can easily handle 1600 ISO without too much noise.

5.  Insure your equipment. This is an important, but easily forgotten tip. When you spend a large amount of money on your cameras and lenses you want to make sure that you can get reimbursed if it gets hit by a ball or knocked over by a player. Insurance companies have rider policies that cover camera equipment. Also, if you are a part of a professional photographers group most of them offer additional insurance for your equipment.

6. Edit, edit, edit. Get ready to spend some time editing your images. We highly recommend Adobe Lightroom for editing large amounts of images. Lightroom allows users to quickly choose the images they wish to keep and then add presets to the images. Presets give the images that extra edge that most people enjoy looking at. In Lightroom you can change images to black and white, boost color or adjust exposure — just to name a few.

We have just scratched the surface of taking great sports photos. We would love to hear more tips from our readers. Help other photographers by posting your ideas and suggestions in our forum.

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