PHOTOGRAPHY IN SPORTS: How To Capture Perfect Action Shots Every Time You Snap

Disclaimer: “This post has been generously sponsored and was not written by me, which means I might finally afford that gold-plated Leica I’ve been eyeing.”

We all know the feeling of standing with your camera raised and pointed, and the slow sink of disappointment as you realize you either missed your shot, or captured a blurred image that’s just an unsatisfying token of what could have been. Wondering how you can avoid this? There are plenty of tips and tricks that’ll bring sharp action to your snaps and give you an edge when it comes to capturing those vibrant, exciting moments.

Sports presents a whole bunch of challenges, but when you’re armed with the right tactics, you can enter a whole new world of beautiful shots that will amaze anyone who looks at them. So, where do we start?

Tip 1) Use A Fast Shutter Speed

This is probably one of the most game-changing tips you’ll find: your shutter speed is ultra-important when it comes to nailing those amazing shots. You’ve got to capture the fast-moving bodies, after all – and you can only do that if your camera is operating quickly enough. So, what counts as a fast shutter speed?

You want at least 1/500th of a second to capture movement properly. Drop below this and you’re likely to find that you get blurred and disappointing images overall. With the right shutter speed, you can lock in some utterly amazing shots of athletes in their best, most spectacular moments.

Tip 2) Let Your Camera Do Some Work

This tip needs to be used with some caution, but it can take a lot of the legwork out and help make the shots better – make use of your camera’s auto-focus and the burst mode (assuming you have it). Burst lets you take multiple images in a brief period, making it much more likely that you’ll capture a fantastic shot.

After all, by the time you’ve seen the perfect shot and responded to it by pushing the button, you’re super likely to have missed it, even if you’ve got an incredible reaction time! So, the solution? Burst.

It will grab a good selection of several photos across a few seconds, and that massively boosts your chances of getting a few decent shots. With auto-focus working hard in the background to maximize the shot accuracy, this is a great approach!

That said, don’t get lazy. Fully automatic mode? “Sports” mode? Not your friends here! Sometimes, they’ll get you a good shot or two, but honestly, you need human input here to get reliably good images.

Tip 4) Don’t Get Lost in The Players

If you’re lucky enough to be photographing at the big matches… well, especially in the early days, it’s super easy to get starstruck. Let’s say you’re at a basketball game and you’re trying to gather some magazine-worthy images to take home, or even just some good mementos of the day. Where are you pointing your camera most of the time?

Not just at the top players! When you’re around the real pros, you might find yourself wondering about Grant Hill net worth or just how tall LeBron James really is… but you need to keep your head in the game (pun intended) and focus on getting shots of all the players and the audience too. Capturing some good shots of the viewers as the action ramps up or tense moments unfold can elevate the atmosphere you manage to capture after a match!

And basketball isn’t an easy sport to photograph well – sure, you’ve got that nice big ball to use as a focal point, but the lighting? Not your friend here. You can sometimes combat that with flash, but if not, make sure you’ve got a wide aperture and a high ISO. Hopefully, this will do the trick, at least some of the time! 

If you’re photographing other sports, you might find you don’t need this, so make use of natural light if it’s available. For indoor sports, though, do what you can to give yourself extra light and make sure your pictures are beautifully clear.

Tip 5) Go Big

Before you hit the court, pitch, field, rink, or whatever else – grab your big memory card. Why? Because you want to take a ton of pictures. Yes, some photographers opt for just one or two perfect shots, and that’s fine if you’re capturing a landscape and you can spend half an hour just lining up the snap… but not so good when the player has already streaked across the pitch or the puck’s in the opposite net.

That’s why we’d recommend taking as many snaps as possible here. You can always go through and cut the excess later! Taken 100, 500, or even 1000 pictures (or more)? That’s fine – delete with abandon and save only the very best. You won’t be sorry, even if you do have to put a bit of time into skimming through the shots at home later. Better that than not getting enough!

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