Zoner Photo Studio X: The photo editor for your entire workflow

Top Sport Photography Tips

Jeff Cable shares his advice on shooting sport photography.

|  Sports and Action
 Add Comment
Since most sports are different from each other, it's important to know the details of the sport. Not only is it key to know the way the game is played, but different sports also require certain camera settings and shooting techniques to capture the best moments.

Determining the best shutter speed

You need to determine whether you want to freeze the action, or show some motion in the image. Typically, when I photograph a sport such as swimming, I want to freeze the action of the swimmer and the surrounding splashes of water. To achieve this, I set my camera to shutter priority and, depending on my lighting conditions, set my shutter speed to a minimum speed of 1/750 second. If there’s a lot of light, I may shoot at a faster speed (approximately. 1/1500 second).


Remember that the higher the shutter speed, the narrower the aperture, meaning you will have less chance to capture the entire subject in focus. In the best conditions, you will have the option to, if you want more of the image in focus, shoot at a fast shutter speed and still have an aperture of f5.6 or better.

Alternately, when photographing auto racing, it’s usually a good idea to slow the shutter to the point where you get some blurring and motion in the tyres and the background. If you freeze the action in an auto race, it may look like the car is parked on the track, taking away from the impact and excitement of the shot.


Never missing a moment with "burst" mode

It’s a good idea to set your camera to capture images in “burst” mode. Newer DSLR cameras can capture anywhere from three to 10 pictures per second, giving a huge advantage for shooting sports. Most sports are fast action and so the odds of you hitting the shutter at the perfect moment are low. This is why most sport photographers shoot in burst mode so as to grab that perfect image in a sequence of many.


Staying in focus

When shooting most sports, your subject will be moving quickly and constantly, varying their distance from you. Learn how to change the focus mode of your camera to “servo focus.” This will allow your camera to continually change focus while you hold down the shutter release button, as opposed to locking the focus at the first point where you hit the shutter. If you don’t change your focus mode, your first picture will be in focus. But if your subject is moving closer or further from your camera, each subsequent image will be out of focus.

Keep that buffer clear

I typically shoot on a 32GB 600x CompactFlash memory card, so I can shoot lots of RAW images without having to stop and change cards. Remember that faster memory cards allow you to fill flush the buffer of the camera quickly, so that you can keep shooting and not miss any action.

Some other helpful tips to keep in mind are:
  • Keep an eye on your background to make sure that it complements your subject(s) and does not distract from them.
  • Most often, when shooting sports, the closer you are to the action, the better your images will be. Do your best to get as close and as low as you can to the athletes.
  • Know where your light is coming from and position yourself to take advantage of the best light (try to avoid harsh shadows on the faces of the athletes).
  • Look for unique shots, trying to differentiate from the typical shots that many others are taking.

As with most photography, there is not one exact way to photograph sports. You should experiment with your shutter speeds, your camera angles, your focal lengths and your creative ideas.

Words by Jeff Cable, professional photographer and director of marketing at Lexar.Visit Lexar.

MPB Start Shopping

Support this site by making a Donation, purchasing Plus Membership, or shopping with one of our affiliates: Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon CA, ebay UK, MPB.

It doesn't cost you anything extra when you use these links, but it does support the site, helping keep ePHOTOzine free to use, thank you.

Other articles you might find interesting...

How To Capture Motion In Your Images With These Top Tips For Beginners
5 Top Tips On Shooting Water Sports Photography
How To Photograph Action Shots At Running Events
7 Top Tips On Using Blur To Create A Sense Of Action In Your Photos
17 Top Sports Photography Tutorials For You To Learn From
Tips To Help You Shoot Sharp Action Shots
Getty Images Share Most Iconic World Cup Photos
Wide Angle Images With Action Photographer Philip Ruopp


jamsa 18 17 United Kingdom
28 Mar 2012 4:16PM
Paintballing is one sport where the speed of the ball is very high, the running shooting player also is hard to keep in focus for every frame. I have found also that the low shots, and getting in close works best but it also stings as you get hit in the process...the camera is well wrapped though. I will take hundreds of images in a day and get half a dozen good ones, thanks for the good tips ...freezing a paintball in flight, the paintbal lbreaking on a pair of goggles or getting the "streak of flight" of a paintball the hardest thing I have tried to capture.
tuareg 10 1
15 Apr 2012 7:30PM
Hi Jamsa,
Im trying to catch golf ball off the tee, I dont know ball speed for paintball but i know that even beginer can go 60 mph in golf and decent player hit it up to 120 mph.
Check this calculator for lens you need
Shutter speed is basicly 1/4000 sec on prosumer dslr, flash and good positioning is real help.
Keep shooting Smile

Sign In

You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join For Free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.