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Sports Photography

Sports Photography golfer taking a swing

Learning Sports Photography

You can learn more about photography and develop your skills faster by spending some time shooting sports events. Sports Photography is a very demanding form of photography with a lot of conditions out of your control. Your subject matter is constantly moving, usually in unpredictable ways, and faster than normal activity.

Thus, it is best to start out with slower moving high school sports and then move up to college and professional levels. Try to cover both indoor and outdoor events to broaden your skills.

Beginner Sports Photography Tips

Learn to be more assertive. This is crucial! Try to get as close as you can to the subject matter without getting in the way of the fan’s view, or intruding on the game. Don’t be afraid to move in, the worst that will happen is an usher will ask you to return to your seat. However, if you look like you know what you are doing and are doing your best to keep out of the way, they probably won’t bother you.

Know what the light will be before you go to the game. If it is an indoor event, this is crucial since all manner of artificial lighting is used and some is so bad you are better off using a flash. If you HAVE to use a flash, make certain you are not aiming that flash into the player’s eyes. Do not get involved in the game. Keep quiet. Concentrate on getting the best photo you can.

Click here to explore the 21 best sports photography tips for beginners

Sports Photography handball

Don’t bug other photographers with questions about exposure, etc. You must figure these concerns out yourself. Do NOT talk with any players or coaches. Players sometimes will bug you to take their picture …. just smile and avoid conversations or the coach will do everything he can to keep you from shooting anymore photos. You become a distraction to the players – keeping them from concentrating on their game – and coaches hate that.

photographers taking sports photos

Do NOT bring a tripod to any game. They are usually too big and bulky and players can hurt themselves if they make contact. A monopod (one-legged camera stick-support) is lightweight and easily moved.

If you have a motorized camera and can remove the motor or use manual shutter button, please start off avoiding the use of the motor. There is a significant delay between the time you push the motor’s shutter button and the actual time the exposure is made. If you shoot without the motor the delay is reduced. The delay when shooting non-motor is about 1/200th of a second. That may sound fast but, with fast moving subjects, it is not…. and you need to learn how to compensate for the delay. Learn to shoot an instant before the peak action. If you wait until you SEE the peak action you will miss it. Using the motor’s shutter button means an even longer delay and it will take you longer to time your shooting.

Practice Makes Perfect

Don’t overlook close-up, sideline pictures of players and coaches. You can get some marvelous portraits of the passion, pain, and energy of the game by keeping an eye on players not on the field.

Get to Know Your Subject Matter

  • Find the best vantage point in terms of good lighting and maximum activity.
  • Bring equipment that has the best chance capturing the images you want.
  • The key to capturing all fast action sports is to develop your ability to concentrate and anticipate. You will do much better if you know WHAT to concentrate on and WHAT to anticipate.

Once you gain the ability to concentrate, anticipate, and have developed the other photography skills needed to be a successful sports photographer, there are various routes to becoming a professional sports photographer. Some photographers work for local or big time newspapers on “work for hire” contracts where all the images belong to the company who hired the photographer.

photograph of rugby players

Other sports photographers work freelance, or sell the pictures off after they’ve gotten that perfect shot. The photos can be sold to various publishing outlets or to stock photography agencies. So, if you are interested in making a career out of photography, your best place to start is with an education and then start making some impressive photos that people will either buy from you or hire you to make more of them.


  1. As a fan only and an amateur, I am shooting high school football games using a Nikon D90 and a 80/200 zoom. I can’t get my settings down to focus in the center of the view.(Pardon, me. I don’t have my camera here.)It seems to be focusing on a right point & my subject is blurred. I start in the “P” mode, but I dont understand the f/stop & shutter speed directions from my manual. I have reset to default and started over. Any help getting my settings will be appreciated.

  2. I agree with the fact that you shouldn’t ask advice from other photographers shooting at the game- but you can still be social. Interact with them, chat a bit while your looking through the viewfinder. They may give advice if they notice something off- and if not, it doesn’t matter.

    If you’re looking for advice, do it prior to shooting the game. Preferabbly not to the people you see setting up during practice; I mean a day or so before. There are plenty of online places to find such wizardry as tips and tutorials- just take a look.

  3. @cindy As far as getting the background blurred to you want to have it on the lowest number as far as aperture (more light), as close as you can be, and zoomed in as much as possible. This should blur the background. I like to think I can take a fantastic photo with a mobile phone. I’ve scene beautiful wedding photographs taken with mobile phones. It simply can’t be printed very large due to the low resolution of the image. Photography is three things, light, moment, and composition. For a still object any camera can adequately photograph this. That being said, unfortunately when we talk about the moment in sports photography I think you are going to struggle with the canon SX130IS. For sports photography the speed at which dslr’s focus as well as the significantly less shutter lag are quite crucial to capturing good photographs. Not saying it can’t be done, but you have to get really good at predicting motion if you are going to succeed with that camera in sports photography. Though some sports will be much easier than others such as baseball which is more static. Photographing a pitcher or batter should be relatively easy because they stay in one place for the most part.

  4. Yes; you can take great photos of surfing without a tripod..Actually you probably will miss a lot of shots using tripod…Trick is to shoot as many photos as possible and be a close to subject as possible.Also be easier learning on a Digital camera where you can review your shots to see what works and don’t work right away on the beach;then keep tweaking settings till you get it right..Now; a tripod is great if you using super telephoto lens and you can’t not get close to subject..Even before that;id try a monopole..

  5. @cindy There are a couple ways to get the effect of blurring the background. One is to play on the depth of field by adjusting your aperture. The other way is to keep your subject static while the rest of the photograph is in motion (like a child spinning on a merry go round while you are also on the merry go round). The directions to “hold the shutter half way, move, and click”, are to lock your focus on a subject using Auto Focus. Typically these instructions assume you are using spot auto focus and that’s why you would place your subject in the center to get the right focus then move the viewfinder to frame the shot just the way you want it.

  6. I just do not understand how to keep my subject clear and blur things around it. I understand the words, “hold the shutter half way, move, and click,” but I don’t what that actually means. Am I in AF or Manual? Move? Move what? Move the camera with my hands in a circle? Zoom in or out (hard to do when holding down shutter)? Am I using Center weight? I’ve tried everything on my Canon SX130IS, and there is no way I can get this done. It’s my favorite tool, and I cannot for the life of me figure it out. Please help before I pull my final hair out of my head.

  7. I guess every photographer has his own way of shooting things.. I just prefer using the tripod for the stability and the accuracy provided by it.
    Thank you!

  8. I think it can be done without a tripod too. I have seen some great photos(of surfers) quite interesting and I ve been told that the photographer wasn’t using a tripod..

  9. I’ve just moved to Florida and started taking up surf photography. However, my pictures aren’t coming out the right way because I’m not entirely positive on what settings the camera should be on. I use 800 film from Kodak and normally have my aperture set to f8, but I think the shutter speed is my problem. I normally have it set to 1/500th. What would be some basic settings for doing surf photography?

  10. Noah, I can see why Skip says not to ask other photographers. Though I do agree with you that it doesn’t hurt to ask others.

    I think the point is, that when someone is busy it’s best to let them do their thing and not bother them. It’s better to wait until they have some free time.

  11. I honestly could not agree less with the point about not talking to other photographers. I do sports photography for a local website and when I was starting out, I had no clue what I was doing. It was the fact that I went up and asked someone for help that I became more skilled. I got tips on where my camera should be to get the best possible photos. Also, I am now in contact with multiple photographers in the area. The best thing you can do it ask, worst comes to worst, they blow you off. But, chances are you will get good advice and make some good connections.

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