25 Top Tips For Sports Photographers (2018 Beginners Guide)


How To Improve Your sports Photography with ah360 Photography

Whether you are a professional or an amateur Sports Photographer, you have likely arrived at this post because you crave being as close to the action as possible, yet for you, quality can’t take a back seat to your front seat.  So, in this post, I am going to provide 25 important tips for ensuring you can capture your next sporting event at the highest level and, if you have a photography business, help you deliver clients action photography they can tell their friends about.

1. Respect Will Take You Far.

As a photographer, whether a beginner or a pro, the fact that your presence at a sporting event is a privilege does not change. So, always respect all the people involved in the sport: the athletes, the staff and the coaches. This is how you’ll create relationships that may serve you in the future, create a good rapport with the players and ensure you are not barred from covering the events.

2. Do you understand the sport?

Before even working on your photography skills, understanding the game is the first thing you should do as a sports photography enthusiast. Why? Because understanding the sport and its rules will put you at a better position of knowing what to expect in the field, which equipment to use, how to plan your shooting positions, know what actions to anticipate from the players and the images to look out for. This is the great leverage that will see you perfect your craft in no time.

3. Map Your Shooting Positions

It is advisable to arrive at the scene of the game about an hour before the game. This period before the game should be used to plan your shooting positions as the sport progresses. Here are so few pointers to consider:

(a) Always ensure that when shooting you are in a position where your subject is facing you.

(b) Make sure when shooting the sun is behind your back so as to guarantee your subject is well lighted.

(c) Knowing the game means you can anticipate the course of action in the field and position yourself correctly to capture the best shots possible.

4. No “Chimping.”

Chimping is a common term used in the photography world to refer to the habit of always checking every photo on the camera display immediately after you take it. Why is chimping so bad and counterintuitive?

(a) You could lose the opportunity to capture some great shots while your eyes are glued to your camera trying to analyze the image you just captured.

(b) Chimping means getting your eye off the game, and this could lead to a player crashing into you, getting hit by a ball or being involved in other incidents on the field.

-For beginners, we recommend no chimping at all, but as you progress into becoming a pro sports photographer, you could learn the perfect time for chimping during games.

5. Use of On-Camera Flash Is Prohibited.

This is a known rule in photography which most beginners are not aware of. The use of on-camera flash is prohibited because the flash can distract athletes during the game and may lead to incidents, or even missed opportunities.

When it comes to kids’ sports events, this rule may not be highly enforced, but it is important first to consult the authorities responsible. Regardless of the situation, teaching yourself always to have the camera flash turned off at any sporting event is training yourself to work at the grand stage of sports photography.

6. It’s Not About the Action on The Field Only.

Sports photography is not only about the action on the field but everything to do with the game. From the setup to the fans, to the mood of the game, to the pre-game rituals and the post-game events. So, don’t capture images of the action of the sport only. It’s imperative also to get some amazing shits off the field.

ah360 Sports Photography
South Florida Sports Photography

7. Implement the mantra: Focus, Face, Action, Equipment.

With every shot, you anticipate capturing always have the following in mind.

(a) Focus- your image should always be in sharp focus. Avoid blurred images.
(b) Face- try to capture the athlete’s facial expression.
(c) Action- your image must contain some action, either an act of athleticism or a display of emotions.
(d) Equipment- your image should contain at least one of the equipment’s used in the game such as a ball or a bat.

8. Always be proactive, not reactive.

Being proactive means anticipating an action before it happens. This means that when the action happens, you will be ready to capture it as it happens. The only way to master the art of being proactive in sports photography is by understanding the game and learning its rhythm so as to know the telltale signs of the actions about to happen.

9. Take different, creative shot.

Yes, there are some common standard shots when it comes to sports photography. But you don’t always have to imitate them. Try something new. Be creative about the shot you want to capture. Try shooting from a different perspective. Step out of the average and capture unique shots. This may be how you establish your niche in the sea of mass sports photographers.

10. The lower the angle, the better the shot.

Shooting from a low angle such as your knees or lower if possible allows you to capture more aggressive and dramatic shots. The lower angle also allows you to capture faces under the helmets and hats easily. Shots captured from low angles tend to have a clearer background as opposed to having the background of the grass or other athletes.

11. Telephoto Zoom Lens: Very Important.

A telephoto zoom lens is the most flexible lens available; it is suitable for use by both beginners and pro in sports photography. A telephoto zoom lens allows you to comfortably capture action that is farther away as well as isolate your subject. For a beginner, a 55-200mm f/4-5.6 telephoto zoom will be good for practice and won’t dent your pocket as much.

12. Wide-Angle Lens: Important Too.

When the action is happening right in front of you, the wide-angle lens is the best option. This will allow you to capture images that display the action as being very close to the audience. Such dramatic and interesting shots are what could make you an outstanding sports photographer.

13. Where to Put All Your Equipment.

As you may have already figured it out that as a sports photographer, you have a lot of equipment that you’ll constantly need to have with you while covering sporting events. So, where do you put them all for easy access? Your best options are either a fanny pack or a belt system while you are on the sidelines and a bag for all the equipment. Whichever option you choose to go with, ensure that it can hold at least two of your lenses or cameras and a flash disk.

14. Aperture priority mode is perfect for beginners.

The typical DSLR camera has 5 shooting modes: program automatic, automatic, manual, shutter priority and aperture priority. Aperture refers to the f/stop number, which is what determines how much light the camera’s sensor takes in. The secret is to allow as much light as possible into the sensor. This is achieved by setting a very large aperture, meaning, our f/stop number has to be very small such as f2.8 or f/4.


15. Use Continuous Autofocus Mode.

This is the simplest way to capture images of a subject whose distance from the camera keeps changing. All you have to do is set your camera on continuous autofocus mode, and it will automatically adjust the focus of the subject as their distance from the camera keeps changing.

16. When to Use Fast Shutter Speed.

Fast-paced action sports photography requires a fast shutter speed. Your camera shutter speed is dictated by the pace at which your subject is moving. Using a fast shutter speed to capture fast action sports photography makes it possible to freeze the action when it happens. By fast shutter speed, we mean between 1/500s and 1/2000s.

17. When to use slow shutter speed.

The belief is that, because sports are fast-paced, fast shutter speed is always most suitable. This may be true to a large extent, but the slow shutter speed can surprise you with some terrific shots. A slow shutter speed will mostly deliver an image where the subject is in sharp focus, but the background is blurry. Such images can be very artistic when captured creatively.

18. Be Ready to Use High-ISO

Using a high ISO comes in Handy when you need to capture some images, but the lighting isn’t sufficient enough. This especially tends to happen to games played in the evening and during extra-time. So, if you’re shooting in the evenings, your ISO should be between the 800-1200 mark for perfect shots.

19. Understand the Relationship Between Shutter Speed, Aperture And ISO.

As you may have figured out by now, the most important aspects of settings on your camera are the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. These three elements are what determine the look and feel of your images. So always ensure they are well balanced and agree with each other depending on the conditions you are capturing shots in.

20. Sell A Story Not Just Images.

As you take your shots, you should always ask yourself what you want your images to communicate. Do your picture have a story? Perhaps endurance, performance, or even a story about impeccable moves? Capturing images of single athletes participating in the sport is good, but capturing images that display activities or emotions among the players is even better. The stories you tell as a sports photographer will ultimately set you apart from the rest.

21. Take as Many Frames as You Can.

Why? Because the more shots you take, the higher the number of possible “keepers” you will have. You can never be sure of the exact moment you will get the perfect shot. So, when it comes to action sports photography, whenever you get your subject in the frame take as many shots as you can. Set your camera in burst mode and you will be able to capture as many photos per second as you can.

22. Carry Out an Analysis of Your Images.

Make a habit of analyzing the images you’ve captured after every sporting event covered. Go through your images separating the “keepers” from the trash. As you do these separations look into the mistakes that you made with the not so good images and note them down. Pick out the attributes of the good images. This information will help you know the areas you have achieved perfection and those that need to be worked on.


23. The Final Touch: Postprocessing.

A little bit of tight copping. A bit of adjustment to the lighting of the image. And a little bit of touch ups on your images is all you need to give you images that polished professional look. The main aim during post-processing of shots is to deliver the best possible version of the image captured.

24. Invest in And Upgrade Your Gear.

It is no lie that sports photography requires some of the best camera equipment to get incredible shots. So, even when you are a beginner find the best DSLR camera within your budget to start you off. And as you progress, take care of your gear and make plans to upgrade it.

25. Practice Makes Perfect.

The art of practice is key to mastering any skill, and sports photography is no exception. So, whenever you get an opportunity to shoot at any sports event, challenge yourself to do better, improve on your mistakes and previous criticisms. That is how you train yourself to become a better sports photographer.

Unleash Your Sports Photography Skills

After reading all these sports photography tips, the hope is that you will have some sense of direction as a beginner. But the truth is, you are likely to face a good number of failures. You will also probably, most likely, suck at your first couple of attempts at action sports photography, and that is all okay!  We all have to start somewhere, and every single one of us did, so don’t sweat it. 

It doesn’t matter how bad of a sports photographer you may think you are. It’s about where you can end up and knowing that you can get there with the right work ethic and the patience to learn a skill and an art form like Sports Photography.

_If you are located in the South Florida area and require professional Sports Photography, please contact AH360 Photography.

Let's Chat

Whether you just want great photos, or need to grow a business, we have the people and the tools to help, and we don't charge for advice!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *