How to Take Great Sports Photos

Written by Backdrop Express Photography Team on . Posted in Photography Tips

A portrait of a hispanic basketball player It doesn’t matter if you are trying to take a sports photo of your child playing little league baseball, capture your favorite basketball player in action or are interested in becoming a professional sports photographer; the techniques to getting great, clear quality photos are all the same.

There are some things you must know before snapping those amazing action shots. By knowing these 5 simple tips you will be able to capture a good action photo with professional quality composition. Read on to get started with your sports photography venture.

1. Equipment

A high quality, digital camera will help you capture a breathtaking sports photo. Set the camera to a high ISO, such as 800, 1600 or 3200. An ISO of 400 will also work, but should only be used on a bright, clear day.

Select a lens that will give you enough zoom capability to capture all of the action no matter where you are positioned on the sidelines. A good rule to follow is that every 10 yards in distance equals approximately 100mm in lens focal length.

Faster shutter speeds help freeze the action and reduce the appearance of camera shake from being magnified when zoomed all the way in. A lens with an F Stop of 5.6 will be a good selection for daytime shots.

soccer player kicking ball

2. Position

It will be near impossible to capture a quality sports photo if you are high up in the bleachers with 100 other spectators’ heads in your line of sight. You need to get close to the action. Ask the coach if you can sit on the sidelines with the team, or if possible, get a press pass which will allow you on to the sidelines.

You should be aware of the backgrounds too. Ideally you want to position yourself with spectators in the background. The last thing you want in the background is an image of a random fence or unpleasing building.

Get a different point of view by sitting on the ground shooting up toward the action.

If you are looking for a more posed sports picture, we highly recommend using a floor drop. A center court floor drop can perfectly enhance the theme of a basketball photo and draw in the sport along with other props like a basketball, uniform, and subject stance. A grass field floor drop can suit a handful of different sports, and a baseball field floor drop is the perfect addition to a baseball player’s portraits. A green screen can also be a great background to use, if you are looking to digitally add in something like an extravagant background like a huge stadium with hundreds of spectators.

football player on a grass field floor drop

3. Knowledge

Know the sport you want to photograph. This will help you anticipate where most of the action will be so you can position yourself advantageously. For example, if you know a field goal attempt is the next strategy in a football game, you will be able to anticipate this and move to where you can get the best shot of either the kicker or the blockers.

4. Rule of Thirds

As with just about any photograph, you want to keep the rule of thirds in mind. Visually divide the viewfinder into three sections. Keep the subject in one or two of the sections, but do not center him solely in the middle one. If you capture a soccer player on the left side of the photo it will appear as if he is running across the image (as long as he is looking to the right).

basketball player

5. Zoom

Some of the best sports photos are those that only present one or two athletes. This will help eliminate a large background because of the change in depth of field will blur the background. Focus on capturing the athlete’s facial expressions. This type of action photo shows the true passion behind the sport.

Other Tips

Shoot your sports picture vertically. This will follow the natural composure of the human body and is more visually appealing to the eye.

Avoid using a flash. This can not only blind the athletes, but if you are too far away it won’t reach what you are shooting. Now take these tips with you the next time you head out to the game. They will help you capture an amazing and crisp sports photo.

Have you taken athlete photos in the studio? What was your experience like?

-Backdrop Express Photography Team

Interested in reading more about studio portraits? Check out 5 Indoor Portrait Photography Tips!

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