6 Tips for Sports Photography

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Attending a professional sports game is thrilling. There’s nothing like rooting on the home team along with good drinks, tasty snacks, and being in a crowd of hundreds cheering on your favorite team. And one of my favorite parts is being able to photograph the entire event.

Here are a few things I do to make sure I come home with some great sports photography shots: 

First things first, when attending a professional sporting event, make sure to check the rules: Is professional camera equipment allowed? How will you carry it? Are backpacks allowed? 

Research the venue or ask people you know who have been to games before. Ive been to several arenas where they are very strict on backpacks or professional cameras are totally not allowed. If that is the case, then a good old mobile photography will have to do. However, if they are only strict about backpacks, I just have my camera around my neck and a little sling bag to carry one extra lens and additional accessories I may need. Keep it light and minimal to prevent any problems.

Camera Equipment

If there are no lens restrictions, I recommend bringing at least a 200mm lens.  My 70-200mm is usually on my camera the entire time. Especially when you’re up in the stands, a 200mm will bring you in nice and tight into the action. I also love a good wide-angle. The wide-angle shots are great for some context and give your viewer a sense of where you are and how big the event is. The 16-35mm wide-angle is usually in my sling bag and brought out only a few times.

Go Early and Get a Feel for the Environment 

If possible, I like to go at least 30 minutes to an hour before the start of a game. That way I have time to wander the venue and check things out. Sometimes if you go that early, you can even go to different sections than your tickets and check out the vantage point from different spots. There can also be some possible backdrops for photos you may have never noticed. Taking your time is key to photography.

When I went to the CitiOpen in Rock Creek Park, Washington DC, I didn’t anticipate being able to watch players practice prior to their actual match. Otherwise, I would have not have been able to get such close-up shots of Rafael Nadal which was very exciting to capture.

It’s also fun to get some images of sports fans getting ready for the game.

Get to Know the Sport First

Who are the key players? Who are the stars of the team? There are some repetitive actions that occur at every sporting event, get to know the goal of each play. Understand their movements so you’re not guessing while the game is going on.

I think some of the best shots are when you can see the emotions of the players as they are playing them. The best thing about sports is that they are always moving around, so even if you have to stay in one spot, chances are that at some point of the game, you’ll be able to photograph players as they are facing your direction.

Know Your Camera Settings

I like to keep my camera on aperture priority. You’ll only have to set your aperture and allow the camera to do the rest. It will help you in capturing great action shots but I do recommend keeping an eye out and making sure that your shutter speed is at least 1/125th of a second to freeze motion. Even for baseball, which is a relatively slow-moving sport, I like to keep my camera on burst mode. There’s so much that can happen in a split second, you want to be ready for it. And if your camera has it, face recognition is super helpful as well.


Focus on Details

Sometimes it may be hard to move around once the game is going on. And if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I hate coming home with a memory card full of the same shots, so that’s where the 70-200mm comes in handy. Unless you’re on the field, I’d have to say that the more zoom, the better. While still focusing on the plays, you can focus on some details as well.

During the Citiopen, I really enjoyed focusing on shadows and the bright yellow of the tennis ball.

Last but not least, look for the story

Even if you didn’t capture the game-winning touchdown, there are still stories to be told throughout the entire game. Whether is the display of determination, consistency, or just pure luck, there’s always a pretty cool story to tell your friends after the game. Keep shooting and keep looking for those angles.

Attending a professional sporting event can be a lot of fun, but even better when you bring home some great pics. I hope these tips help you capture some images you are really proud of. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below. I’ll try my best to help.

Happy Snapping!