There’s nothing quite like a local sports event for some top notch action shots. The only trouble is that taking photos of people in the midst of sometimes grueling exercise can be challenging to say the least. You see, sports photos are already in high demand, and that demand looks set to increase even further. With many states across the US set to pass legislation on sports betting, those photos you took at your local soccer match could be exactly what marketers are looking for. Take the UK betting market, for example, where the industry is so competitive that providers offer incredible incentives such as free bets and offers for new customers. And as content marketers look to attract more and more visitors to their websites, the demand for professional and high-quality sports images has never been higher.
So, as you can imagine, mastering sports photography is certainly worth your while. With this in mind, we’ve come up with some tips and guidelines to get you off to the best possible start.
Get the right equipment
We’re going to go right ahead and assume that you have a high-quality camera and that you are familiar with how it works. But the camera isn’t enough – you also need a lens that is at least 200mm. Now, if you’re good with your camera, you can no doubt get away with using something in the range of 18-135mm, but you will need to be very good.
The idea here is that you want to be able to zoom in and isolate the subjects of your shot. And if you’re far back from the action, which is often the case, your shots will lack that polished look.
Know the sport
Understanding the rules of the sport or even the various strategies that are in play is a huge benefit in sports photography. This means that you have a fairly good idea of where or when most of the action will take place. Of course, you don’t need to be an avid fan, but you should have watched at least a few games to get an idea of what to expect. It’s even better if you actually like the sport as you’ll have a much more vested interest in getting the perfect shot.
Don’t use the auto mode
It pains us to have to repeat this, but the auto mode is generally for those who are holding a camera for the first time or who just want to take basic pictures. Don’t use it at all. Sports events are action-packed and your camera won’t be able to keep up with the pace on auto. Interestingly, that sports mode on your camera is also a no no. Best to set your own shutter speed and set the camera to Aperture Priority.
Always opt for a fast shutter speed
Let’s say you want to capture a particularly fast piece of action. In this case you’ll want your shutter speed set closer to 1/2000s. Generally speaking, you don’t want to drop below 1/500s, but you might reserve that speed for golf or tennis. The faster the sport, the faster the shutter speed. Simple, right?
Think about your position
Remember, you’re not here to watch the sport, you’re here to take action shots. So start thinking about where would be the best location for shooting. For example, if you’re at a soccer match, you won’t get to see much action at the halfway line. However, if you set up somewhere to the side of or behind the goal, you’ll get much better opportunities for action. Like we said earlier, this is why it helps to understand the sport itself.
You also want to take note of the position of the sun. Ideally, you’ll want it behind you at all times so your subjects are bathed in plenty of natural light. And that brings us to our next tip.
Forget the flash
It doesn’t matter how good your external flash is, you probably won’t need it at a sports event. Outdoor events will have plenty of natural light making your flash completely pointless while indoor events should have good lighting. Besides, flash photography can be off-putting for the athletes taking part.
This is an important one that many aspiring photographers might want to take note of – always pay attention. That means, unless it’s absolutely necessary, don’t take your eyes off the action for a second. Forget checking your images, you can do that at home later.
The great thing about sports is that they’re so unpredictable and those taking part are generally highly charged with all of their emotions on display. So pay attention and grab those opportunities as they come along. As a side note, paying attention also keeps you and those around you safe. Remember that time a photographer took out Usain Bolt with a Segway? That’s the last thing you want to happen.
Look to the crowd
Sometimes some of the best sports photography is shots of the crowd as they celebrate a win or feel the dejection of a loss. So look at the people around you and see if there are any opportunities to capture some highly emotional moments off the field. Remember to be respectful of spectators; they’re out to enjoy themselves and, for the most part, won’t mind having their photo taken.
Take lots of photos
We’re lucky enough now that we can take hundreds of photos on a digital camera so take advantage. Don’t worry about taking too many shots of one piece of action or one player. Take as many as you can so you can look back over them later. You never know when you might capture just the right moment.
This one is just plain common sense. Keep at it. No matter how bad your first attempt may be, keep trying. Sports photography is difficult and it’s why we listed it as one of the four challenges for aspiring photographers. So spend as much time as you can trying out new angles, positions, and settings. Trust us, with a little practice, you’ll be a master of sports photography in no time at all.