Tips On How To Photograph Sports Events


Sports are one of the most exciting and accessible events to photograph. In any town or city there are organized sports going on all around. This type of photography can be a real test for achieving perfect composition against changing conditions. In sports photography you are never guaranteed perfect shooting conditions. In this blog we discuss 5 tips for photographing sports events to help as a guide. We will go in depth to uncover what it takes to photograph sports and how you can improve your skills!

Indoor vs Outdoor Sports Photography

One thing to remember when shooting sports events is being prepared to endure any and all conditions. This is especially prevalent when it comes to the weather and lighting conditions. Some sports are played outdoors and some are indoors, which creates very different shooting conditions. For indoor sports photography you may have to boost your ISO to compensate for the poor lighting. Never use flash when shooting any type of sports, so that you do not distract the athletes and get yourself removed. When shooting in outdoor conditions, always be prepared for change in weather! Take a look at the forecast to see how the day is supposed to turn out. If there is even a chance of rain always bring a cover for your gear. You can find a wide range of rain covers for any camera body on Amazon which still allow you to operate the camera.


Camera Gear For Sports Photography

As we discussed, sports photography can bring many different unforeseen challenges to overcome. First it is important to pack for the weather, bring rain gear or extra padding in cold temperatures. Depending on the length of the event you are shooting, it is a great idea to bring backups of batteries, memory cards, and lenses. Speaking of lenses, you may be wondering which lenses are best to bring. It all depends on what sport you are photographing but typically, it’s great to have a wide angle lens paired with a telephoto lens. You want to bring lenses that will get you into the action without having to constantly switch. A couple suggestions include the AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR from Nikon and the EF 28-300 f/3.5-5.6L IS USM from Canon. Both of these zoom lenses range from wide angle to telephoto creating diversity in their ability. They also include image stabilization to create a sharper photo and stabilize the image due to shaky hands.


Camera Settings For Shooting Sports

When shooting sports there is a lot of action going on at once and a lot to follow. This is why it is always important to shoot sports at high shutter speeds. By using a higher shutter speed you are allowing the camera to stop the action in the frame and get a clear photo of your subject rather than having motion blur. Most professional sports photographers tend to shoot at a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second. This is a great base to start at, you can try to adjust this up or down depending on the sport but make sure you are capturing a clear photograph. To make it easier on yourself, try using the Shutter Priority function on your camera.  This will allow you to set a shutter speed while the camera uses the internal light meter to establish the aperture and ISO.

When it comes to focusing, you should always be using Autofocus. It takes up way too much unnecessary time to try using manual focus. Another great asset in your camera settings is continuous focus. This allows the camera to keep adjusting the focus point as long as your finger is on the shutter button. When shooting a subject that is always moving it is important to always be adjusting. Using multiple focus points also allows for a wider area to be in focus. This can be super useful for team sports such as soccer, football and basketball. Make sure you are using these settings in areas with a lot of contrast so the camera can pick up the focus point easily.


Key Things To Capture At Sports Events

All photography is about telling a story no matter which aspect you pursue. Sports photography is no exception to this rule. In sports photography it is important to capture everything from the pregame feeling, intensity of high pressure moments, and the sea of spectators cheering! This is really why having a zoom telephoto lens is important in sports photography. You want to be able to get in close and personal on your subject to really capture an emotion and not disrupt the play. Remember to shift your position whenever you can find free time. Just like any other type of photography it is important to shoot from different angles so that you are not reproducing the same shot over and over again. Try getting a shot of the entire stadium or field, get a shot of all the fans, the coaches, referees, and most importantly, the players!


Editing Sports Events Photos

Editing photographs is all about finding your personal style to create an image that is your own. This does not mean there are no guidelines to editing photos and getting started. One thing that can create a compelling composition is adding a lot of contrast to an image. You can achieve this by darkening the blacks and shadows of an image, creating an angsty look to intensify the action. You always want to make sure you are keeping your photo well exposed as to not lose any details. Try using different colour schemes, presets, even black and white, as this can change the mood of a photograph with a single button.


Exporting Photos For Web

When exporting images it is best to optimize them for web use. Most people will want to use these images for online social media usage. Whatever editing program you use there should always be a destination for your photos. In this case it is best to create a separate folder for web, for example: HockeyGame_Web. For web use it is best to export your photos at 100 quality JPEG and reduce the PPI (pixels per inch) or DPI (dots per inch) to 72. Most social media networks will automatically compress anything higher than 72 ppi. The colour space for your images should be set to sRGB for web as to not lose brightness in your colour profile. Make sure to check the maximum perimeters for uploading a folder to any social media. For example, Instagram only allows images with dimensions of 1080 X 1080. If you would like to sharpen image for web it is best to set this at low because, again, most social media networks will compress large files. For more tips on how to export for web, check out our blog post on Exporting Lightroom Photos for Facebook.


Exporting Photos For Print

On the special request for print use you can optimize your export for print. Again it is important to organize your photos into folders and create one for print, for example HockeyGame_Print. Exporting for print has very similar settings as exporting for Web with a few minor adjustments. Keep your image quality at 100, file type at JPEG, and the colour space should still be set to sRGB, unless the printer specifies otherwise. A big adjustment is to ensure you save your image resolution at 300 ppi. By doing this, your image will not lose quality when stretched to fit the canvas of your print. The sharpening option you select will depend on what type of printing paper you plan to use. You can sharpen image for print, then select either glossy or matte paper; it all depends on your personal preference.


Sports photography can be an amazing way to develop new skills that are transferable to many aspects of creativity. You must be able to think on your toes if something goes wrong. Not only do you have to move your own body but you must adjust the camera to work for you. You will need to find new and creative angles to alter the perception of the photograph and the subject, adjust your settings to fit the sports event you are shooting, and more! For more tips on digital photography and photo editing check out our other photography blogs!