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Score! How to Shoot Better Sports Photography

June 29, 2015 10:21 am

It’s summer and everyone is spending all their free time outside enjoying the sunshine. If you’re someone who attends outdoor sports games for the fun of it or because you have a family member on the team, it’s time to polish your photography skills so you can capture amazing action shots like the World Cup image featured above by The Atlantic.

Right zoom lens

It’s not a good idea to be on the field during play, so there’s going to be some distance between you and your subject matter. Compensate for this with a good zoom lens. If your camera came with a kit lens set that included a standard and zoom lens, the zoom may not have the extra features that help capture action sport shots. When you want a crisp shot with a larger zoom lens, choose one that features Image Stabilization because it can be difficult to hold a larger zoom lens steady during shooting. If you know the perfect spot for photographing action on the field, consider setting up a tripod for blur-free images.


When the sport you’re shooting takes place outside during the day, use a low ISO. The brighter it is, the lower you need to set your ISO. For a full sun day, start at 100, if it’s cloudy, try 200 and remember to adjust to the changing light if storm clouds roll in. You make think a night game requires a higher ISO, but if it takes place under bright stadium lights, you can use similar settings to full daylight shots.

High shutter speed

For the fast action of sports, set a high shutter speed to avoid taking blurred images. A fast shutter speed is especially important when shooting outside because you have to compensate for the brightness of daylight or stadium lights. Remember that you need to find balance to avoid under or overexposure, so experiment until you find the right speed. If the light changes with clouds rolling in, you’ll need to adjust your shutter speed to compensate. Shutter speeds for outdoor sports photography can range from 1/1500 to 1/5000 and you’re going to have to experiment to find the right setting.

Be on your game

While your friends or family members are busy playing their game, you need to on your photography game and ready to snap the perfect shot. Try following the ball or players with your zoom lens during the action and keep your finger poised on the shutter, ready to press. You can also take some shots of players waiting for the ball to come to them and capture their looks of concentration, readiness and determination. When you have the right zoom lens, you should be able to remain in one spot for most of the game, unless you need to adjust your angle. Keep one eye on the field and the other looking through the lens so you can gauge timing and prepare to snap a photo. Remember to put your camera down periodically to just relax, enjoy the game, and cheer on your favorite players.

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