Sports are great to watch. Almost everyone has a favorite sport and player, and it’s a joy seeing the players give their best to win a match. I have been photographing the yearly edition of Portugal Open, my country’s biggest tennis tournament. Here are some sports photography tips I picked up along the years.
Use a long Lens
In sports photography, you may never be right next to the action. The playing fields are usually big, and the moment you’re trying to capture may be far from you. So, a long lens is a must. It depends on the sport, but at a minimum have a 70-200 lens. In tennis that’s what I use, sometimes with an extender. 400mm lenses are common, but are almost only used by professionals since they cost thousands of dollars.
Use a fast shutter speed
Sports is all about action and capturing it. The players and the ball move fast and are rarely still, so you must use a fast shutter speed. One way to work is to use Shutter Priority Mode. Choose a comfortable enough speed to freeze the movement, and let the camera set the aperture.
All DSLR cameras have burst mode, where it continues taking images as long as you keep the shutter button pressed. This is a great help for fast moving situations, such as a tennis player hitting a ball, or a football player hitting a header. This will mean you will have more images to sort through in editing, but it could mean getting a great shot when otherwise it can slip away in the moment.
Know the sport
The more you know the sport you’re photographing, the better your images will be. You’ll be able to anticipate the best moments to capture and the position the players will be in. I photograph mainly tennis, a sport I follow with great interest. So I’m always looking for a player’s reaction or movement I can capture.
Include the ball
Most sports are played with a ball. It always adds to the image if you can include the ball. The information you provide will be more complete, and the viewers will immediately identify the sport.
When photographing people, be it a portrait or sports photography, be sure to clearly include the face of the subject. A photo with the back of a player is no way near as interesting as one where you can see his expression. There are some exceptions of course, like the image opening this post. It’s not a typical sports action photograph, it’s more of a moment.
Clear the background
Backgrounds are fundamental in photography in general. They should not distract from the main subject. In sports it’s harder to get a clear background. Most fields are surrounded by advertisement plaques, audience, and other elements. A wide aperture is helpful in these cases. The background will be blurred and attention will go to the action being photographed.
Do you usually photograph sports? What are the biggest challenges you face? Share in the comments.