Ian Smith stopped playing rugby to start recording it. Around fifteen years ago, he left the pitch and began covering junior rugby matches and cricket, until he eventually felt confident enough to approach local papers. Since then, he's freelanced for the Press Association and Action Images, and has had work published in all the major nationals, together with various sport magazines. He's also Worcester Warriors', Guinness Premiership rugby, and Worcestershire County Cricket Club's photographer.
His basic advice for anyone wanting to get into sports photography is learn the basics of photography, know your gear, know your teams and practise, practise, practise.
From the start there are some shots such as players scoring a try, a drop goal, hard tackles and injured players that you know are important but others, such as capturing the winning try, are something which come with experience.
“You learn to check out who the top try scorers are and, therefore, likely to score and position yourself accordingly - this applies to pretty much all sports.”
Checking out the key players and other pieces of relevant information, such as, where the teams are in the league, will help you take better pictures, as too will arriving in plenty of time. Ian usually arrives two hours before kick-off, and looks for a position which will allow him to take photographs of the match without burger vans in the background. He also covers the attack of the team he expects to win in the first half, and then makes a decision on who to focus on for the second half at half-time.
Ian uses a 400mm f/2.8 lens and creates action by keeping a wide aperture to ensure the image will have a narrow depth of field. Having the background out of focus is also important, as if the image is in focus from back to front, you can lose the action in the background.
Ian also keeps his shutter speeds high enough for the movement expected in the particular sport he's covering: “rugby doesn't need a shutter speed as high as motor sport for example.”
Knowing your gear is also important as you don't want to be fumbling to change the ISO and miss the crucial shot, goal or try of the game.
Visit Ian Smith's website
for more details.