How to take action sports photography

Action sports shots have told of victories and losses, and captivated people across the world in a single photo. Good action sports gets a photographer’s adrenalin going as it moves so fast – ice hockey, soccer, surfing, even dog sports – and sometimes you have to move just as fast to get great action shots.

Action photographers dream of getting that ultimate action sports photo that makes them famous – that one shot that tells the whole story. If you want to get into sports photography there a few things you need to know.


What do you need for action sport photography?

A good quality digital SLR will become your best friend and an assortment of lenses – often it is difficult to get close to the action on a sports field and you will need a good telephoto zoom lens. It is important to have the equipment you need to capture sports action as it happens. Once the moment has passed it is lost. Sports action moves quickly so you need your senses about you. Set up in the best position to get good sports photos from a variety of angles.

Most sports are photographed from the sidelines, basketball for example, and may only need an 85 mm or 135 mm lens, but if they are playing at the far end of the court you will need a 200 mm to 300 mm telescopic lens. For a soccer match you will probably need a 300 mm to 400 mm lens. In fact this lens is the most commonly used as it is often difficult to get close to the action in sports event. Be sure to fill the frame up well when use a telephoto lens. Avoid having subjects in the far distance of your shot.

A rule of thumb to remember is that each 100 mm of lens length is equivalent to 10 yards (or 9 meters). When the action gets closer to you the lens will get too long so have a spare camera ready with a shorter lens so you can go on capturing the action at the local soccer match.

Also, look at your lens – the faster it is for sports photography the faster the shutter speed you can use. This is important the longer your lens gets. You need speed to freeze the action on the sports ground to get good action shots. If you are seriously into action photography it is well worth investing in the better quality, fast telescopic lenses.

All the action in the mud as they race to win

All the action in the mud as they race to win

Location, Location

You need to find a good position at sporting events – it is often that you are limited in moving around and need to shoot your sports shots from one position. Make sure you position yourself to get the best range of camera angles with a clear field of view for the duration of the event.

Capture the Moment

Sports photography is about timing; reacting instantly. You need to be in the right place as the action happens. It is often good to photograph the sports you are already passionate about as you understand the way the game or sport’s action unfolds; e.g., surfing and the unpredictability of the sea or sports action photos of dogs flying through the air competing in the team sport flyball.

A moment in time captured on the football field

A moment in time captured on the football field

Good sports action photographers usually have an absolute passion for what they do but it is not hard for someone to learn how to take action shots – just practice, practice, practice so you get used to shooting moving targets.

Flyball action captured forever

Flyball action captured forever

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