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Sports photography tips and hints


Photographers must react as quickly as the players


Professional baseball action calls for a telephoto lens, a fast shutter speed and a good shooting angle
Professional baseball action calls for a telephoto lens, a fast shutter speed and a good shooting angle

Sports have universal appeal, and are a natural subject for photography at all levels. A child’s baseball game and a big league match-up share many of the same characteristics that photographers seek in order to make great images - drama, involvement, excitement, suspense, action and interest.

The professional sports photographer has numerous advantages over the average picture-taker, not the least of which is equipment selection. Most photographers who make their living from shooting sports use expensive, top-of-the-line 35 mm SLR cameras equipped with fast, super-long telephoto lenses that bring them close to the action. They are generally able to shoot from field level, ringside or wherever the best camera angles can be found. They are practiced in their techniques, experienced with their equipment and have in-depth knowledge of the sport and its players.

You may think you’ll never capture images that can compare with those the pros get, but you can. If you wish to get serious about sports photography, an important accessory is a fast, medium telephoto lens or a fast, quality zoom lens that ranges from around 80 mm to 200 mm or more. Such lenses will bring you close enough to sports action to take many a good picture, particularly at smaller, local events where you can position yourself nearer to the play.

KNOW THE SPORT

The photographer who understands the game and has knowledge of individual players' styles will find it easier to anticipate the action and will know where to be positioned for good photographic opportunities. Effective camera angles will not only include key elements in the composition, but will be chosen for lighting that works to your advantage.

INDOOR SPORTS

Wouldn't it be great if all sporting events took place outdoors under balmy skies with just the right light for action-stopping photography? Wishful thinking.

Sports activities that occur in enclosed arenas, gymnasiums, aquatic centers, etc. place an additional challenge on the photographer. Lighting is generally dimmer, and has different characteristics than sunshine. Shutter speeds must remain fast to stop action, requiring faster film or higher ISO setting in your digital camera or larger apertures, which means sacrificing depth of field. Although shallow depth of field is often desired when shooting an individual participant in order to separate the player from a busy background. Electronic flash may be a solution, although the distance from flash unit to sports action is often too great to affect exposure. If you check your manual for your flash, you will probably be able to find its effective distance.

Click on the links at the bottom of the page for more information on sports photography.

SEND US YOUR TIP

We invite you to send us your own sports photography tip to share with our viewers. We will provide you with a credit if we use it and if you send us a picture you took that illustrates the point, we will credit you for that, too.

Good sports photography  has such key elements as player, ball, target, tension, setting, color and other key elements, all included in an interesting, uncluttered composition
Good sports photography has such key elements as player, ball, target, tension, setting, color and other key elements, all included in an interesting, uncluttered composition

Arena lighting, helmets and face masks make hockey photography challenging
Arena lighting, helmets and face masks make hockey photography challenging

 A bright, super-fast (ƒ2.8), autofocus 80 to 200 mm zoom lens such as this provides the sports photographer with versatility for great pictures. A 300 mm or longer telephoto lens brings the action even closer, but can be prohibitively expensive.
A bright, super-fast (ƒ2.8), autofocus 80 to 200 mm zoom lens such as this provides the sports photographer with versatility for great pictures. A 300 mm or longer telephoto lens brings the action even closer, but can be prohibitively expensive.

Even armadillo racing needs a fast ISO setting when the event is held indoors in low light
Even armadillo racing needs a fast ISO setting when the event is held indoors in low light

A good shooting angle is needed to capture the key elements  - intense batter, alert catcher, concentrating umpire  & disinterested team members.
A good shooting angle is needed to capture the key elements - intense batter, alert catcher, concentrating umpire & disinterested team members.

 
Further information...
Emotion in sport
Sport shooting location
Camera equipment
Flash in sports
Get the ball in
Figure skating
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