How to Take Photos of Sports

Do you want to take photos of people practicing sports?

This type of photo a.k.a. sports photography results in images with the main subject (the person practicing sports) in motion as if the movement was frozen in time. Even though this seems to be magic, everything depends on technique, and with patience and training you can take great pictures of any type of sport, such as running, auto racing, cycling, football, basketball and many others!

Techniques to Take Photos of Sports

It doesn’t matter if the people practicing the sports are amateurs or professionals, having a beautiful image of a goal, the launch of a ball or the moment of arrival at the finish line in a running competition as a souvenir is always valuable.

In this post you will discover what camera gear you need for sports photography and how to take photos of sports.

Let’s get started!

Get a tripod

The first thing you can do to get better photos of sports is use a Camera Tripod, and that goes well for any type of camera, even if you’re using your smartphone. When there is space available where the sport practice is taking place, using a tripod to place your camera will grant your photos more stability, more security for your camera and a greater probability of having clearer pictures taken with low-speed telephoto lenses (this type of lens is explained ahead in the posts).

Tripods are important for taking photos at low speed because the longer the focal length, the more stability is needed to achieve good results. You can also use a camera monopod (the same of a tripod but with one leg) because it has good mobility and also offers stability for your camera.

Use a telephoto lens

To take good pictures of sports, you can invest in a telephoto lens because most of the time you will be far from where the action takes place. This is a type of long-focus lens that has a physical length shorter than the focal length.

Tips of Sports Photography

Telephoto lenses have a quality level that allows photographers to capture the athlete’s expressions at a greater distance due to its millimeter. The ideal is to have a telephoto lens with a minimum focal length of 200mm.

You can look for specific telephoto lenses for your camera type, such as telephoto lenses for DSLRs and for Mirrorless Cameras. Also, there are mobile telephoto lenses.

The aperture of the lens (f) is also important, many zoom lenses have apertures considered dark because they are very small, which makes you depend a lot on the natural light of the photo shooting place. If the lens has a good aperture, such as f 2.8, the chances of a good shot increase exponentially.

During the day, you can put a teleconverter on your camera lens so that it has a longer range. This device fits between the lens and the camera and increases the focal length. With a teleconverter, a 200mm lens gets a focal length of 300 to 400mm. Teleconverters are also called tele extenders.

If you are purchasing a teleconverter, don’t forget to buy the model that fits your camera. Remember that the teleconverters should not be used at night to avoid them from removing light points from your photos.

Try the buster mode on your camera

A camera function that is very useful in sports photography is the continuous shooting a.k.a. buster mode. This technique makes the camera take several photos while the shutter is pressed. Most machines make 3 frames per second, that is, three photos. So check if your camera has this function, it will guarantee you good photos of sports. Also, remember that you will have to wait a while before starting to shoot again because the photos have to be saved on the memory card and sometimes the files size can be large in terms of storage space.

Use the photo freezing technique

It is worth using high shooting speeds to create frozen images, although this is not a rule. Generally speaking, cameras need a minimum speed of 1/100 seconds to get clear photos with the frozen effect. To obtain even better result, you need to set your camera shutter speed above that value, at something like 1/500 seconds. So choose to shoot between those two values and focus on what you want to show more on your photo, such as the sport athlete or a detail of the movement.

Learn to Take Photos of Sports

Another important thing is to pay attention to the amount of light in the scene when you’re shooting the frozen image. The more light in the scene, the higher your changes are of capturing a frozen image in a spectacular way. If you are taking pictures in stadiums with poor lighting, look for angles that take advantage of the stadium light, this will help you to obtain very good photos.

Also, remember that you can use your camera ISO combined with high shutter speeds. The higher the ISO, the more you can increase your speed, which can be decisive for the results you get of “still” photos.

Practice the panning technique

Do you know about the panning technique for taking sport pictures?

The panning technique produces photos in which the background is blurred and the focus subject is sharp. This style of photography is used for the production of sport photos such as auto racing, people running, cycling and others.

How to Improve Your Camera for Sports Photography

Panning is the optical effect made by a camera with a slow shutter speed in which it is possible to keep a subject in focus at the same time that its background has a blurred effect. This is possible because of the shutter speed: when it’s at lower ranges, you get images with a “movement” effect, when the shutter speed is at higher ranges, you can capture “still” frozen images.

This effect happens when you put a moving subject on your camera viewfinder and move the camera from left to right or from right to left, following the direction and speed of the photo subject.

You must make several attempts until you get a good result. You also go out to take pictures of and the cars in motion until you get the car in the photo frame.

To develop the panning technique you need patience and training. Start by trying to take multiple photos at different shutter speeds and track different photo subjects/objects.

For a good result, it is better to put the subject in motion on one side of the photo frame and move to the negative space on the other side of the photo frame. In case you don’t know, photo frame is the space or area of the photo scene that you include in your final photo through the “eyes” of your camera.

Take photos in JPG or JPEG formats

Most DSLRs and Mirrorless Cameras shoot photos in RAW and in JPG or in RAW and in JPEG at the same time. Professionals who work with sports photography usually take photos in JPG or JPEG because the images in those format are lighter and are stored quickly to the camera memory card. On the other hand, RAW images are heavy and the photographer has to wait longer for the photos to be stores on the camera memory.

In a sports event with many moments that can become photo scenes, it is better to use the JPEG format to shoot images faster. If your camera is capable of shooting in both formats at the same time (RAW and JPG or RAW and JPEG) then you should set it to do that, which is great for beginners in sports photography.

How to Shoot Great Images of Sports

Conclusion

Great! Now you know how to take better photos of sports and how to set up your camera for this photography style. Constant practice is essential to become an expert in sports photography.

Capturing a sports photo that is really impressive requires speed, accuracy and a lot of patience! Remember to be very attentive around the subject of your photo and choose exactly what you want to show. So don’t hesitate to put what you’ve learned into practice!

You can also share your thoughts in the comments below!

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