Sports Photography is a genre of photography where you have to be ready for anything and there are no do-overs. You only get one shot to do it and you have to make the most of it, there is not much room for errors because one mistake can ruin your shot. Sports photography requires a lot of planning and skills. It sometimes can be hard even for a professional sports photographer.
That is why I decided to write this article which is solely dedicated to a beginner photographer. In this article, I will be sharing “16 Awesome Sports Photography Tips For A Beginner Photographer”. So, make sure you read this article till the end as every tip is important for you to capture a good quality professional-looking sports photography.
Before we get into our main topic of this article, let’s first take a look at a short description of sports photography.
What Is Sports Photography?
Sports Photography is a genre of photography that is solely dedicated to displaying all types of sports. Sports photography is a very broad term that contains photojournalism as well as vernacular photography (daily life photography). In the majority of cases, professional sports photography is a branch of photojournalism, while amateur sports photography, such as photos of children playing association football, is a branch of vernacular photography.
The main application of professional sports photography is for editorial purposes; dedicated sports photographers usually work for newspapers, major wire agencies, or dedicated sports magazines. However, sports photography is also used for advertising purposes both to build a brand and as well as to promote a sport in a way that cannot be accomplished by editorial means.
Now that you have a pretty good idea about sports photography, let’s get back to our main topic of this article.
16 Most Important Sports Photography Tip For A Beginner
Here is a quick look at the list of 16 sports photography tips:
- Use A Telephoto Zoom Lens
- Learn About The Sport
- Don’t Create Interruptions For Your Photographs
- Consider Using Wide Angle Lens
- Use Fast Shutter Speeds
- Learn To Use Manual Modes
- Use Continuous Autofocus
- Try To Anticipate The Actions
- Be Ready For Anything
- Do Not Use On-Camera Flash
- Learn Everything About Exposure Settings
- Make Sure You Capture Audience Reaction
- Find Interesting Angles
- Don’t Waste Your Time Looking At Your Photos
- Capture Each And Every Detail
- Do Some Tweaks In Post-processing
Now I am going to explain what each one of those means and how will it affect your sports photography. So, let’s get started!
1. Use A Telephoto Zoom Lens
You are a sports photographer, not a sports player, so you will be on the sidelines away from the action. It is nearly impossible for you to get close and capture the actions of the sporting event because most of the sports involve a huge field such as football, baseball, etc; With the exception of some pre-game and post-game events, photographers are not allowed onto the field with there huge cameras and lenses. That is why you should use a telephoto zoom lens. A telephoto zoom lens will help you get closer to the players without creating any sort of disturbance on the field.
If you are a beginner sports photographer, I would recommend you to invest in an entry-level telephoto zoom lens. Something like a 55-200mm f/4-5.6 will give you a ton of flexibility with your shots which will cost you around 200$. If you are someone looking for an upgrade or someone who is working for a major sports league such as NFL, I would recommend you something like a 600mm f/5.0, which will cost you somewhere between 1100$ to 2700$ or even more depending upon the brand and features.
Always remember, it’s not true that an expensive lens will somehow make you better. Don’t think that if you spend over 1200$ on a lens your photos will automatically get better. The only thing which will make you better is your photography skills.
2. Learn About The Sport
This is the most important tip of all, you should always learn the sport you are photographing. If you don’t understand the sports you are shooting, there’s a 100% chance your sports photography is terrible.
You need to know the rules of the particular sport you are shooting because if don’t understand the sport you will not be able to predict what will happen next, which is where the best sports photographer excel which helps them capture every important moment.
Bottom line is, the better you know the game, the better your pictures will be. You can check out online resources to learn about the sport or you could just ask someone who knows the sport you are photographing. Once you’ve figured out the basics, it will be a lot easier to figure out the critical things, like where do you need to be to capture great images.
3. Don’t Create Interruptions For Your Photographs
It doesn’t matter what sports event you are photographing, you should never create any sort of interruptions that can ruin the game. Especially, you do not want to be the one causing any disturbance to judge, referee, or sports players.
So, make sure you keep your distance from the action and always respect the judge, referee, or sports players, if they say you to stay away, you should stay away, and in return, they would do the same for you.
4. Consider Using Wide Angle Lens
Although in sports photography you need to use a telephoto zoom lens, yet there are times you would want to capture wide shots. For instance, you want to capture the reaction of the audience after someone scores a point or you want to capture the whole team celebrating just after scoring a point. In those kinds of situations, it can be impossible for you to capture it while you fully zoomed in.
That is why you should consider using wide-angle lenses to enable you to capture those kinds of situations. If you are a beginner photographer, I would recommend something like 18-200mm focal length lenses. Why something like 18-200mm, because you do not want to miss something important while you are changing the lens. Focal lengths of 18-200mm give you flexibility for each type of shot such as wide shots, close-ups, medium shots, etc. If you are looking for an upgrade, invest in something like an 18-400mm lens.
5. Use Fast Shutter Speeds
The ideal shutter speed when you are shooting a sport where there is a lot of fast movements is somewhere above 1/1000s. Always keep in mind that your shutter speed doesn’t need to be above 1/1000s, it will depend on what type of sports you are photographing. For slower-moving sports, you can capture it even somewhere around 1/800s. For very fast moving sports you might even have to go around 1/4000s.
You just need to set your shutter speed fast enough to freeze the motion. You do not want to end up capturing a blurry photo or introduce a camera shake because of a slow shutter speed.
6. Learn To Use Manual Modes
If you are a beginner photographer, the first thing you should do is learn how to use different manual camera modes especially, Shutter priority mode (S or Tv), Aperture priority mode (A or Av) and full Manual Mode (M). This is important because cameras do not respond to light and movements the same way a human eye does. That is why you should be the one to take control over atleast one or all exposure settings.
I would recommend you choose the one you are comfortable with amongst the above-mentioned camera modes. This will help you capture every moment according to your desired results.
7. Use Continuous Autofocus
If you are a beginner sports photographer, I would highly recommend using Continuous AutoFocus [AI Servo AF (Canon)/AF-C (Nikon)]. this mode is most useful for keeping moving objects sharp within the viewfinder as you track the object. As soon as you begin to depress the shutter release, the camera goes into action and begins to focus. In Continuous focusing mode, the camera detects the subject’s movements and refocuses accordingly to keep the object sharp as a tack.
Always remember, this mode uses a lot of battery power because it is continuously focusing and refocusing. Also, the autofocus technology might not accurately predict the direction in which a chaotic, fast-moving subject is going to move so you might still get a blur.
8. Try To Anticipate The Actions
If you are waiting for the sports player to do something, you might end up losing to capture a great moment. Instead, try to anticipate what is going to happen next, which will help you give an idea and get ready to capture your next photograph. Learn the rhythm of the sport and look for signs of impending action.
9. Be Ready For Anything
You should always be ready for anything because you never know what might happen next. There could be a last-minute goal and you don’t want to miss that. You should always be ready for whatever comes at you, there might be a crazy celebration, or who knows maybe a fan runs onto the field, or maybe some players got into a fight.
10. Do Not Use On-Camera Flash
Your camera’s built-in flash, and even a flash unit attached to the hot shoe, probably will be ineffective because you are far away from the action. Additionally, flash is a distraction for the sports players and spectators.
11. Learn Everything About Exposure Settings
The most important element in photography is your lighting and since you can’t use much or no lighting equipment you need to learn everything about exposure settings and get better at it. You need to understand how shutter speed, aperture, and ISO affect your overall images. For sports photography, you will usually have a fast shutter speed, a large aperture, and a variable ISO depending on the lighting.
12. Make Sure You Capture Audience Reaction
Sports photography is not just about capturing the players performing, you also need to make sure you capture the audience. For instance, capture the reaction of the audience after a player scores a point. Shots that capture the emotion of the crowd will help tell the story of the game. Show the crowd size or the anticipation on fans’ faces.
13. Find Interesting Angles
Get creative with your sports photography by trying out different angles to find out the most interesting ones. Kneeling and shooting from a low perspective is an easy way to make athletes appear larger and more heroic, while overhead shots are ideal for setting the scene or showing players working as a team.
14. Don’t Waste Your Time Looking At Your Photos
Never waste your time looking at your photos, only see the photos whenever it’s necessary, keep it a minimum. In photography, it is referred to as chimping, while sometimes it might be necessary to get a sense of your exposure and color balance, but doing it excessively will result in you missing some important moments on the field. Instead, look through the viewfinder while capturing photos and take a lot of photos so that you will have many options if one turns out to be terrible.
15. Capture Each And Every Detail
You need to make sure that your sports photographs have every detail. For instance, your photographs should not turn out blurry or you forget to include something important in the frame. Always make sure that your photographs have every detail as it will help you tell a story which is an important element in sports photography.
16. Do Some Tweaks In Post-processing
As I mentioned earlier in tip #6, cameras do not respond to light, colors, movements, etc. the same way a human eye does. That is why you must do some degree of post-processing before submitting your final work. Just simple cropping, or few lighting adjustments, or a few color corrections can do wonders to your photographs and will make sure that it looks more realistic.
Sports photography does require a lot of skills but you can get better at it. Just go out and keep practicing and focus on getting better at basics. The most important thing for you to keep in mind while doing sports photography is, make sure you enjoy it.
At the end of the day, it’s a sporting event, you need to live in the moment, which will also help you understand and capture the emotions of the player and audience as well as tell a beautiful story of the game through your photographs.
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