20 Sports Photography Tips for Beginners

Sports photography is a fun way to capture exciting memories and have fun at sporting events. You can be there, in the heart of the action, at sporting events, rather than watching from the sidelines (literally, though). This article contains several tips for sports photography that will improve your photos and allow you to take better action shots at sporting events and games.

1. Learn the rules

It is crucial to be familiar with the rules of the sport that you plan to photograph. Your pictures will look better the more you understand the sport. You can find online resources that will teach you the rules, how to shoot, what types of images to search for, and the equipment you should use.

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2. Learn how to use your camera

You should spend time learning about your camera if you’re new to photography. You have little control over your images if you shoot in full auto. Practice with different camera modes, such as aperture-priority or manual.

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3. Use a rapid shutter speed

Your camera should have a shutter speed of between 1/500s to 1/2000s if you want to freeze the action. Your shutter speed should be faster if your subject is moving fast. You can use a slow shutter speed to photograph swimming but not baseball.

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4. Plan your shooting position

You want to position yourself so that your subject is facing you. To see runners head-on, you can aim your shot towards a curve during a track meet.

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5. Use a telephoto zoom lens

A basic telephoto zoom lens for $200 is a good choice. A 55-200mm f/4-5.6 will allow you to be very flexible with your shots and still keep within a budget. A 70-200mm F/2.8 is a great option if you are looking to upgrade.

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6. Learn more about exposure

It is important to understand how ISO, shutter speed, and aperture affect the images you take. Sports photography will typically require a fast shutter speed and large aperture. The ISO can be adjusted depending on the lighting.

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7. Respect officials, coaches, athletes, staff, at all costs

It is an honor to be invited to the event. Do what is asked of you. You can have a disagreement with someone, but it should be discussed after the event. Don’t be an annoying photographer who makes everyone look bad.

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8. Pay attention to the world around you

It is best to keep your head swivelled while attending an event for your safety. You can get hit by a ball, or have a player crash into your head if you are chiming or checking your photos. Don’t do that until the event ends.

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9. Do NOT use on-camera flash

The flash built into your camera, or even the flash unit attached to your hot shoe, won’t be able to illuminate your subjects. Flash can also distract spectators and athletes.

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10. Wide-angle lenses are recommended

It doesn’t mean that all sports photos must be taken with telephoto lenses. To give your photos a unique twist, use a wide-angle lens. This will make your viewers feel as if they were right there at the court.

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11. After the event, analyze your photos

About 1000 photos are taken when I photograph events. About 50 of these get sent to event organizers and about 5 are added to my portfolio. Keep only the best shots, and discard the rest. To understand the areas that need improvement and what works, look for a pattern in your success or failures.

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12. Face, action, and focus are the keys to success

This is often the secret formula for great sports photographs, according to experienced sports photographers. Let’s look at each part of the formula.

  • Focus – Your image is sharply focused, not blurry.
  • Face – You can see the facial expressions of the athletes, particularly their eyes.
  • Action – An act of athleticism, or an emotional event, is being performed.
  • Equipment The athlete holds a piece, particularly a ball.
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13. Tell a story

There are two types of sports photos: stories (a story about a group of athletes) and sportraits (one athlete participating in a sport). You should look for emotional moments such as a team celebrating their win or two runners running neck-to-neck as they reach the finish line.

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14. Keep your back towards the sun

Your subjects should be illuminated by sunlight as they approach you. Light is everything in photography. You will have trouble achieving proper exposure if the light is not in a favorable position, such as behind your subject.

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15. Use continuous autofocus

Continuous autofocus maintains focus on the subject no matter how far they are from the camera. This ability is available on all modern DSLRs and mirrorless camera models. Learn more about autofocus modes.

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16. Preparation for the action

It is important to be proactive and not reactive. Reacting to what happens on the field is a sign that you have missed the opportunity. You need to learn the sport’s rhythm and be alert for signs of imminent action. As they prepare to hit a pitch, the muscles of baseball batters will contract.

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17. When to upgrade your gear

Once you are proficient in sports photography, you might want to upgrade to a faster or longer lens. When you are frustrated with your camera’s limitations, and not your ability to get the shot, it will be a sign that it is time for an upgrade.

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18. Perform some post-processing

You can make your images look amazing with a little cropping and some lighting adjustments. Although I don’t recommend photoshop to make your images perfect, it is worth taking a few moments to edit your best shots and give them a professional presentation.

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19. You can expect action on the field

You can use fans, coaches, mascots and food vendors as interesting subjects to complement your standard sports photos. Photographing the details of the event will make your audience feel more involved.

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20. Keep practicing

Practice is the best way to improve. You can always improve your skills by constantly challenging yourself.

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Closing Words

It’s both challenging and exciting to photograph sports. It can sometimes be frustrating but rewarding in the end. Your skills will improve as you gain experience. You can always turn to fellow photographers in the field and the internet for help if you are stuck. It is important to have fun and to capture the moments that are most meaningful to you.