Sports Event Photography Tips

Sports events are full of passion, excitement and emotion. There are photography opportunities everywhere; you just need to look in the right places.

Sports events provide rich pickings for photographers - with so much passion and excitement going on there are plenty of opportunities to find photos that are packed full of emotion, character, and atmosphere.

However, that's not to say that sports photography is easy. With such fast-paced action, good photos come and go in an instant, and subjects move around rapidly, making it difficult to keep up. This means that you have to really be on the ball, taking in your surroundings and looking for potential shots before they arise.

To give yourself the best chance of getting some great photos, you need to be prepared, so that you can stay ahead of the game and come away with some photos to be proud of.

Learn the Rules

If you are photographing a sport that you are unfamiliar with, take some time to learn at least the basics of the rules. By doing so you'll have a better chance of predicting where the players will move next. This helps you to stay ahead of the game and plan your shots a bit further in advance, especially in fast-moving sports.

Ice hockey players fighting for the puck

Learning the rules will allow you to plan your shooting positions in advance and get ahead of the action. Image by Scott Ableman.

Get Up Close and Personal

The best sports photos get right up close to the player or players, showing the determination on their face, the sweat on their brow and the mud on their clothes.

Arrive at the sporting venue early to find yourself a good spot close to the action. Use a long lens so that you can zoom right in on your subject.

Surfer riding a wave

Zoom right in on the action to capture the concentration and effort required. Image by casch52.

Before the event starts, take some test shots of people such as officials or groundskeepers, to help you get an idea of how your shots will turn out.

Shoot in Bursts

Timing an individual shot is next to impossible when you have such fast-moving action, so shoot in bursts of three or four photos at a time. Start shooting just before the anticipated 'crucial' moment and keep your finger on the shutter button until the moment has passed.

Pole vaulter

Sports events tend to be fast-paced, so use your camera in burst mode to capture the action. Image by Stephen Desroches.

While on the subject of equipment setup, it's worth bearing in mind that sports events can last a very long time, so using a tripod or monopod can save your arms some serious aching!

Photograph the Crowd

A large part of the atmosphere at sporting events is down to the crowd. Take a few moments during the event to turn around 180 degrees and get a few photos of the supporters in the stands.

Football fans with painted bodies cheering

From elation to despair, sports crowds exhibit a range of emotions which make for great photographs. Image by Jason St Peter.

A perfect time for a crowd shot is just after a goal has been scored - you will either capture the elation of the scoring team's supporters, or the disappointment of the opposing team's fans. Either way you will get a great photo, packed full of raw emotion.

Get There Early, Leave Late

You can get some fantastic sports event photos at times when there isn't even any on-pitch action taking place.

Baseball player warming up

By arriving early, this photographer has caught the players warming up. Image by Paul Sapiano.

Before the match try to capture the sense of anticipation - look for team members warming up, officials setting out equipment and groundskeepers giving the pitch a final check over.

After the game see if you can find a way to photograph the joy of the winning side or the sorrow of the losing team - discarded team flags or a solitary remaining supporter in an empty stadium are perfect subjects.