Sports Photography: Tips To Ace The Game

If you’re looking for something a little more exciting than portrait and scenery shots, then sports photography might be what you’re looking for.

Much like an athlete, you’ll need quick reflexes, good positioning, and an in-depth knowledge of the game. You’re not just capturing the essence of your subjects, you’re telling a story with each click of the shutter.

This article will show you how to snap the most dynamic and crisp shots when shooting a game.

1. Look for game-defining moments

It’s incredibly easy to tell when a photographer actually loves the game they’re covering.

Their shots are focused on key areas of the game only someone with knowledge of the game would be aware of.

They ask questions much like a serious fan of the game would, such as:

  • What is the most important ground the team has to cover before they can stage a comeback?
  • What pinch position will opposing players have to fight over to break a stalemate?
  • Where is the critical weakness of a team? That’s likely where the opposing team will throw all their energy at.

You don’t need the insight of a legendary veteran here. Simply go to a few games as a spectator. Understand how, where, and why the suspense is created to understand how you can take better photos.

If you want an idea of what a game-defining moment looks like, stock photos can give you a good idea of what to look for.

2. Secure the camera’s pole position

Every sports game is going to have a million phone cameras capturing the most generic shots from the stands. Your job as a sports photographer is to get the shots the crowd can’t, from a vantage point the crowd could never take.

So prepare your credentials well in advance. Talk to the people working in the facility or those managing the teams. True professionals have a press pass. They stake out the most important locations in advance, making sure to get full permission from everyone involved.

Here’s an exercise you can do right now: find samples of stock photography and deduce what position the camera must have been in to take a photo of the subject.

This is a useful exercise for beginners that can give you ideas of the best spots to photograph from.

3. Don’t fall for “sports mode” or “action mode”

A common rookie mistake is making use of the automatic mode in your camera to capture sports moments. You always, always, always want a semi-manual mode where the shutter is fast enough to keep up with movements that teeter on the millisecond. Most of the time, at least.

The minimum shutter speed you’re looking for is 1/500th of a second so you can successfully freeze important moments. You don’t want to come home to an album full of ridiculous blurry faces and bodies.

Understand the speed of your subjects and adjust accordingly. For example, a sharpshooter event with rapidly spinning discs will require different settings than a boxing match or football game.

4. Get the dramatic angle

So you’ve got the right camera, the right lens, and the right settings for your camera. But all your shots leave something to be desired.

Why is this?

Scene composition.

As a photographer, you need to memorize the movement of your subjects and the light sources the moment you walk into a room. Your scene composition is everything.

Shoot from a low angle to give your shots a sense of depth. Use a monopod to stabilize the camera. This is one of the biggest reasons why the weight of your camera is so important.

You could also take a photo from above. You don’t need a drone to take aerial shots. A simple stool, ladder, or table honestly works wonders with a basic wide-angle lens.

Look for the right lines, shapes, patterns, and framing to make your composition stand out. Study stock images and try to learn what makes each composition work.

5. Tell a story

It’s common to cover a game and simply end up with a mishmash of different shots. Most people simply select the photos that showcase the high and low points of the game and call it a day.

Great photography happens when you carefully concoct a narrative with your shots instead. A picture is worth a million words, after all, and you have the potential to tell a riveting story with each shot.

Use your photos to walk people through the game from start to finish. Sometimes you want a clear freeze-frame where two players collide into a ball. But other times, you want a slower shutter speed to actually capture blur to show movement and action to help narrate a story.

Experiment with zoom and focal length to isolate subjects when necessary. Zoom out when you want to show the whole picture to depict what a player is up against.

This means you want to actively consider the story you want to tell when you’re taking your shots. Your zoom, angle, and composition all depend on it.

Wrapping Up

Sports photography is a very exciting and rewarding passion to pursue. No matter if you are a sports fan or not, it cannot be denied that a sports venue has unmatched energy and liveliness. Make use of the tips provided above, and you will be able to capture the essence of a game and relay the full experience to sports enthusiasts everywhere.

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