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  • Cindy Ellis

Sports Photography Tips

Choose your spot.

  • Get as close as you can.

  • Know your sport.

    • For instance know where the red zone is, and position yourself to get great photos there. This is why you see lots of photographers along the edge of the end zone in football, under the basket, near rail at race, or near the goal at a soccer game. (Red zone=last 20 yards of the field.)

  • When choosing your spot, consider the lighting and prime location of the action.

    • For daytime sports, consider shooting with the sun at your back if possible. While shooting into the sun gives your subject depth, it also can lead to a dark silhouetted face. If you must shot into the sun consider using the spot meter or exposure compensation.

    • For indoor sports, try to avoid shooting directly into light generated from an outdoor light source like a window. The light from the window can fool your light meter and create a dark subject. If you find yourself in this situation, this will be another good opportunity to use a spot meter or flash. Flash is often not allowed for indoor sports.

  • Shutter Speed and ISO

    • Try to maximize your shutter speeds when capturing action. To increase your shutter speed range, try raising your camera's ISO. For instance, you need at least 1/250 second or higher to stop a slow skateboarder. Try to maintain 1/500 second on the football and soccer field. If you own a DSLR, experiment using shutter priority and different shutter speeds on moving action to see different effects. This soccer photo was taken with higher shutter speed allowing the soccer ball and players to be sharp.

  • Timing

    • Try to capture action at its height. For example, the BMX biker at the top of his jump or skill. Timing is often difficult with compact digital cameras since they have shutter lag, delay between pushing the button and taking the photo. Start shooting before the action occurs in the sports mode in an effort to catch the prime action. 

  • Focus Mode Choice

    • Most cameras have different focus modes. Some focus modes track an object which can be great for sports. When using focus tracking make sure your camera locks on the subject and you continue to hold down the shutter button to allow the camera to track the subject. Once you release the shutter button, the camera will need to refocus and relocate your object. Most camera's sports modes automatically put the camera into the subject tracking mode.

  • Rapid Fire

    • Use the continuous or rapid fire mode which allows you to take multiple photos at one time as long as you hold down the shutter button. In some compact cameras and some cell phones, this mode may decrease the quality of your image.

  • Know the team

    • Long or short passes?

    • What position does your child play?

    • Defensive or Offensive?

  • Lens Choice

    • Lenses with lower aperture numbers like 1.8 and 2.8 allow you to shot in lower light and allow you to use higher shutter speeds. All of these are great benefits for sports. For under $200 you can buy a 50mm f1.8 lens for your digital SLR which is an ideal lens when shooting basketball and volleyball from the court. Remember when shooting at the lower aperture number like f1.8, background blur will occur.

  • Panning

    • Move your camera with the action. Follow the action with your camera while continuously shooting. Make sure you select continuous fire as well as continuous tracking focus. Panning takes practice. See the bike race photo for an example of panning.

  • Don't forget those that are not playing

    • Photograph the dugout, sidelines, bleachers, and bench for great candids.

  • Fouls and Penalty Shots are great opportunities for photographers

    • Corner Kicks

    • Foul Shoots

    • Jump Balls

    • Extra Points

    • Coaching

More information found on the web that may be useful below

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