Sports photography can be one of the most rewarding areas of photography. The action and the emotion of the athlete define one of the rawest and moving moments to capture in your subjects. There are a number of things a budding photographer needs to learn when taking photos that are of fast paced action. A fraction of a second can make the difference between a compelling photograph and an average photograph. While the old adage that “practice makes perfect” applies, there are some things that a beginner can do to take better sports action shots. We gathered the most important ones in this sports photography tips article.
1. Look Back for Inspiration
When you are trying to figure out how to best shoot your subject, do some research in advance. Magazines and stock photography can be a great resource for sports photography tips and inspiration. Pull out some older issues of your favorite sports magazines and use the pictures in the magazine to find out what works. If you identify professional elements and enjoy looking at the picture, your audience will probably enjoy the photo as well.
2. Understand the Sport
In order to understand what will make the best sports photograph, it’s imperative to understand the mechanics and rules of the sport first. It’s easier to anticipate when to take the picture and how to position yourself for the shot when you understand the rules and the course of action of a particular sport. It is important to be able to anticipate the exact moment that you need to capture the picture that best illustrates the action.
Hint: Watch or participate in the sports you are interested in photographing.
3. Know Your Camera
This is one of the most important sports photography tips: get to know what your camera is capable of. Make sure you know your camera and its settings, especially if you are working with fast moving subjects. During a sporting event photo shoot, it is important that you can successfully and quickly change lenses. Adjust the aperture and shutter speed and know how to quickly navigate your digital camera’s menu. The best way to get to know your camera is to use it as much as possible.
4. Get Up Close & Personal
If you don’t have a telephoto lens, don’t let that stop you from pursuing sports photography. Learn what creative angles will get you the shot you are looking for. Use the close-up position to figure out the type of shot you want to get and capture as many details as you can. A wide angle lens allows you to get in close to the action to capture every minute detail and the look on the athlete’s face.
Hint: Use a 17-40mm lens to get in close to the action and capture as many details as possible.
5. Plan Your Angles & Locations
Two very important sports photography tips is to make sure that you plan out your photo shoot in advance. That is why it’s so important to understand the sport you are shooting, because you need to decide on what you want as the backdrop for the action. The backdrop can be just as important as the subject.
If possible, plan a trip to the site of the event and plan where you want to shoot from. If it’s not possible to make the trip, research online and look at other photos that have been taken at the venue. While you are on-site, take a few sample shots and figure out the best angles to take pictures from. Pay special consideration to the lighting and how that may come into play.
6. Use Burst Mode
As you know sports move at a very fast pace. Your camera has a setting that will help capture more of the action, burst mode helps to ensure that you capture a series of shots. Having a series of shots from around the time you press the shutter makes sure you get the shot even if you hit the shutter half a second too early.
Hint: Take an extra memory card with you. Since burst mode captures a series of photographs, the amount of space required will be increased exponentially.
7. Vary the Shutter Speed
You may feel that the only way to photograph sports is to use a high shutter speed. A high shutter speed will freeze the action. Practice using slower shutter speeds, which will allow you to emphasize movement and speed. Altering the shutter speed can allow you to create differing effects based on the shutter speed and the subjects speed.
Hint: 250-750 shutter speed – freezes action shots, 15-30 shutter speeds – emphasizes movement and speed.
8. Use an External Flash
Turn off your camera’s internal flash and setup an external flash. Using the internal flash tends to make the subject look surprised. If you want to create a dramatic sports portrait or a sports action photo, an external flash will make the subject really pop. It takes a bit of getting used to and you need to practice since it’s an extra device you need to use and control. Nevertheless, the results will be well worth the effort.
One of the best sports photography tips is to not be afraid of the camera. Try different aperture settings and different exposure settings. It is important to try different lenses to generate different effects. Internal camera settings can also make a difference in the results. Practice the different effects you can achieve with your camera and become familiar with its settings to lose as little time as possible while on the job.
10. Paint a Picture by Telling a Story
One picture is a great thing, a series of pictures that allows you to tell a story is quite another. Rather than concentrating your portfolio on just the action shots, use the powerful medium of photography to tell the full story. Use a variety of techniques to increase the breadth of your portfolio.
Include portraits, close-ups of equipment, lifestyle photographs, landscape photographs of the arena or venue, and scenes associated with the sport you are working with. You want your still images to paint a complete picture of the sports lifestyle. Your photography portfolio should play like a movie, capture the attention of the audience, and engage them.
All in all, learning your equipment is among the most important of sports photography tips. Once you learn how to position yourself and work the equipment, it is easy to create great photographs that not only capture the action, but also tell a story. However, you need to have a keen eye and a swift hand since the best moments in sports are fleeting. If you have any other sports photography tips and tricks or comments, please share them below.