If you love sports photography and want to take some great photographs up close and personal to the action, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, we will provide the top 10 tips for producing dynamic and compelling action shots in our sports photography guide for beginners.
1. Plan of action
If you’re interested in sports photography, you’re likely in love with many sports, which is great as this passion will translate into your photographs. However, as photographers usually cover various types of sports photography, you won’t necessarily be intimately knowledgeable about all of the games.
It’s important to be familiar enough with the sport you are photographing. Photography tells a story – you don’t want to shoot random moments of action which don’t support an interesting narrative of the game. When you properly understand the rules of the sport you will be able to prepare for significant highlights. By doing some research beforehand, you will be able to plan what kinds of images you should be photographing, the best angles to shoot from, and which equipment will be beneficial to your sports photography.
2. Keep the sun behind you
This is one of the quintessential rules of photography to avoid overexposure, and it is particularly important if you are shooting outdoor sports. Make sure you are shooting with the sun behind you for optimal lighting.
3. Use the right camera
Using the right camera will help you take a high-quality photograph. Even a hobbyist using a good camera can take snaps from their kid’s football match look like a Sports Illustrated editorial spread. An ideal camera for sports photography will have:
- Burst mode: This is especially handy for beginners, given that photographing action quickly is a skill acquired over time. Because most sports happen quickly, taking images in burst mode will help you take a range of images, giving you a wider selection of action shots to choose from.
- A good buffer depth: The buffer is the number of continuous shots a camera can take before pausing. It’s usually only pro-grade cameras that can shoot a high volume of raw files in a burst, but generally many cameras have a good buffer depth for JPEGs if you don’t mind compromising on the raw image data.
- Fast autofocus: Because the action can change in a split second, fast autofocus is mandatory for sports photography.
Here are our top picks for sports photography cameras:
- For beginners, and those on a budget, we would recommend the Panasonic FZ330. Although a bridge camera doesn’t offer the same functionality as a DSLR, this camera is a great contender for a budget sports photography camera. It boasts an impressive 24x optical zoom and offers burst shooting in 4K Photo mode.
- Our recommendation for an amateur photographer is the Canon 7D Mk II as it has amazing HD quality for both photo and video, high-speed continuous shooting, an astonishingly reactive autofocus system, and dual pixel CMOS AF, all at a great value.
- Our recommendation for a sports photography pro camera is the Sony A9 Mark II. As it is a mirrorless camera, it is one of the fastest cameras around, and impressively offers 20fps burst shooting, top-of-the-range autofocus and a superfast Wi-Fi function.
4. Use the right shutter speed
To reduce camera shake and get a crisp, clean shot your shutter speed should be inversely proportional to your focal length. For example, a 200mm focal length lens should be shot at around 1/200 to reduce camera shake.
Remember that to freeze action, then your camera’s shutter speed should be between 1/500s and 1/2000s. The faster the action, the faster your shutter speed will need to be to get a clean shot of your subject. With a slower sport, for example, swimming, you can use a slower shutter speed, but with tennis, you will need a faster shutter speed.
5. Use the right depth of field
To get a sharp focus with a fast shutter speed, your camera has to use the largest aperture available so it can quickly take in a lot of light. The side-effect of a higher aperture is a shallow depth of field making the background out-of-focus. This can look great, as it often focuses clearly on your subject in the foreground. However, if too many parts of the image are blurry, increase the camera’s ISO to create a larger depth of field.
6. Use a telephoto lens
In terms of your sports photography kit, lenses may vary depending on what kind of sport you’re photographing. That being said, a telephoto lens is valuable when photographing a wide range of sports. A telephoto lens is a long-focus lens that allows you to photograph players from a distance so you can adapt more easily to the fast-changing action. For instance, when photographing a football game, the ball can fly across the pitch in a matter of seconds. Being quick to react and using a telephoto zoom lens will let you photograph the action effectively. 85-200mm is an ideal focal length for a telephoto lens.
7. Consider using a wide-angle lens
Although we just suggested using a telephoto lens, one of the under-the-radar tips for producing a unique and interesting sports photo is to use a wide-angle lens. Because most sports photography examples you see will be taken using a telephoto lens, a wide-angle lens will set your images apart, and certain sports photos may benefit from showing the wider context. For example, a photograph of a game of golf showing the wider environment of the course can show the distance of the green, or a basketball photograph showing the wider court can make the viewer feel like they are there.
8. Practice panning
One of the best sports photography techniques for pros is panning. Panning is useful in fast-action situations because it saves you a few seconds so you can compose the image. It usually works around 1/60 of a second or faster for more rapid subjects. Panning takes a little bit of practice but it is a necessary skill for proficiency in sports photography.
9. Use negative space wisely
Many amateur sports photographers will take action shots with their subject right in the centre of the image, but this composition can make for an uninteresting photo – or even a bad photo if they crop tightly! This cropped composition creates the sensation of stagnation. To create a well-composed, dynamic image, you should use negative space wisely in your frame. By leaving negative space in the direction of travel of the subject, you can show action in your photo.
10. Anticipate the action
This is a skill you will get better at with practice, but anticipating the action will help you take much more compelling images and to tell a story with your photos more effectively. Of course, if you are in love with the sport you are photographing, this helps you to anticipate the action hugely.
We hope you enjoyed our top 10 tips for sports photography! When starting in sports photography it is a labour of love. As you know, the action moves quickly, and the score of the game can change dramatically in a split-second. Because of this, it is difficult for amateur photographers to take captivating, dynamic, and informative sports photos. If you have an important sports event coming up that you need to take photos for, consider going with a professional photographer who can remedy these issues for you.
Book with Splento for a reliable, on-demand photographer who will take brilliant photographs of your sports event at a fixed, affordable rate. Contact us today to confer with a member of our team who can help you with your sports photography needs.