8 Tips On How to Photograph Sports - Digital Photography School

8 Tips On How to Photograph Sports

A Guest Post by Pamela Aurino.

1) Camera Settings – Burst mode, Focal Points & Aperture Priority

sports-photography.JPGWhen shooting any sports, make sure your camera is set to burst/continuous mode to keep up with movements of the players. This will save you having to press the button manually for every shot. Have your camera’s focus mode to AI servo mode which is made to shoot continuous movement & for panning.

Also ensuring all your focal points are active will make sure you have optimum chance of focusing on the player with the ball. When shooting sports it is ok to have the camera in Aperture Priority mode as we’re dealing with a really fast game and you need to be on the ball with exposure rather than having to always toggle the shutter speed manually.

2) Camera Settings – Shoot in JPG!

I personally shoot in jpg as opposed to RAW. When you’re taking so many continuous shots you’re going to want a maximum buffer speed. You’ll find when shooting soccer / netball tournaments, the parents buying the shots aren’t going to be too fussed on quality of the image as long as you captured something at the right time. A sporting tournament can get quite messy when you’re coming out and back off the field to download CF cards and you’re having to wait for the raw files to download.

3) Lens settings – 2.8 Is Almost An Essential!

You’re going to need a fast telephoto zoom lens when photographing sports. I shoot with a Canon 70-200 f/4 IS USM and I love it! Although indoor sports photography like bowling may require a 2.8 lens as you get another full stop of light in.

4) Lens settings – Image Stabiliser & Focus Mode

An absolute MUST when photographing sports photography is to have IS on your lens. You want to set your lens to Image Stabiliser Mode 2. Mode 1 is only made for still subjects & portraiture and won’t perform as well as the panning mode 2 in sporting situations.

Have your focusing distance range set to 3m to Infinity mode instead of 1.2m to Infinity. This will make sure you have the fastest focusing possible.

5) Note The Time of Day

sports-photography-tips.JPGSoccer games usually run in the morning so if you’re aiming to sell prints after the game of the individual players be sure to spread out the range of players shot. There are certain players who like to step back more than others but it’s your responsibility as the photographer to record everyone and to maximise your profits.

Take note of where the sun is and make sure the sun is to your back when shooting. This will ensure you have your shutter speed on it’s maximum without having to worry about exposing for the faces of the players if you were shooting into the sun. I am willing to sacrifice a little squinting and panda eyes from the players to ensure I get the right exposure. After all if you don’t nail that exposure no one is going to care about panda eyes because there won’t be a shot.

Concentrate on shooting one team for the first half as they will be in the right position with the sun illuminating their fronts/faces. Then when half time is over aim to shoot all the players on the other team as they would have switched sides on the field.

6) No Eyes! No Shot!

When photographing sports, the key rule is to include the eyes of the subject and you can never fail. If you’re shooting the back of a player, STOP! ..Wait for them to turn around (or turn to another player on the field) ..and shoot when you have their eyes in the shot. The best shots in soccer are the headers and knee shots, as their eye level will typically be above parallel to the ground which is what we want. Whatever you do, don’t forget to photograph the goal keeper! He/she doesn’t have much interaction with the entire game, but the anticipation shots in between can still make great shots.

7) Include The Ball!

The eyes and the ball are two of the most important compositional elements in a shot. Then to add to the shot is the expression in the players face.

Although it can be difficult to capture, parents of the players are more likely to buy a picture that includes the game ball in it.

8) Wear an Official Photographer Vest!

Make sure you wear a big yellow/orange vest to indicate to people you are the official sports photographer. A photographer in Wollongong, NSW taped a sign on his back saying ‘Request A Shot!’ and at least that indicates to them that they are welcome to pull you aside. If you are more open to people nagging you, (yes it will be a little annoying having to be pulled aside with parents saying ‘look out for my son, number 12!’) the more sales you will make from prints.

See more of Pamela’s work at http://www.elaphotography.com.au.

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  • Joe

    Stacy – thanks for the comments on my pictures. I usually do not shoot Friday night football, only Saturday night (NCAA Div II) but the lights on our field is still poor. And I never use a flash for any college sports, only very high ISO.

    http://tinyurl.com/27lv272

    Joe

  • Donna

    I have found this all very interesting and useful. I tend to use a mix of the above as I am still trying to get good sharp pictures, and I dont appear to have found what works best… but I suppose the environment and subject can influence matters.

    BUT what advice does anyone have about taking equine/horse pictures eg show jumping or eventing? As I said above, I have tried various settings, but seem to have too many pictures that are just not as sharp as I would like.

    Any help on my horsey photography would be great

    D

  • Donna

    I have found this all very interesting and useful. I tend to use a mix of the above as I am still trying to get good sharp pictures, and I dont appear to have found what works best… but I suppose the environment and subject can influence matters.

    BUT what advice does anyone have about taking equine/horse pictures eg show jumping or eventing? As I said above, I have tried various settings, but seem to have too many pictures that are just not as sharp as I would like.

    Any help on my horsey photography would be great

    D

  • Rhalene

    I did some shooting at a high school football game under the lights with a 70-200 Tamron lens on my Nikon D90 and my photos came out very grainy. I had the ISO set high at around 2500 1/750. Had my camera on a tripod because my hand is not steady enough to hold camera with that lens. Can anyone give me an idea as to why they might have come out so grainy. I do know that a very high ISO will cause graininess so how should the settings be to avoid this situation.

    It was my first try under nightime lights shooting a football game. Have had alot of luck with Baseball though and gotten some really great shots.

  • Rhalene

    By the way I forgot to mention that the lens is a fast lens f2.8

  • Joe

    I really need to see some samples of your pictures along with the EXIF data. I’m not a Nikon person but what mode were you shooting in. You can have a fast 2.8 lens and your camera setting could be at 5.6. Also I shoot raw and use some noise removal to help clean up the picture. Can you post some pictures.

  • http://www.visual-meme.com Steve

    Rhalene, I’ve never shot with a D90, so I can’t speak to how noisy it is. But a couple things to consider:

    1) Noise is going to be most prominent in the dark parts of the photo. So if you’re underexposing at all or just simply have a lot of dark background in the photo, you’re probably going to see some noise.

    2) I typically shoot at ISO’s above 1600, going as high as 6400 on my Canon 7D. The results are definitely noisy, but what I do is correct for this in post using Lightroom’s noise reduction which is stellar. Your camera may have a setting to help reduce high ISO noise, but I don’t know Nikon. If you do use that setting it may affect your shooting speed though. But I’m guessing at 2500 you’ll get a good bit of noise unless you adjust in post.

    3) You shouldn’t need a tripod. If you’re shooting fast action sports your shutter speeds are going to be high enough to take hand shake out of the equation. If the weight of the lens is a problem for you I would suggest going with a monopod instead. Much easier to move around quickly but will take the weight of the lens off your hands.

    Night time football under lights is easily one of the worst lighting situations I’ve had the displeasure of dealing with :). Particularly irritating is that you’ll get a lot of fall off in the light levels near the edges of the field.

  • http://www.lensmankc.com amit jung kc

    all these are very useful for me. Thank You all :))

  • http://www.declutteryourhomeblog.net/ Naveen

    Sorry, but that’s not very good sport photography advice.

    I wish DPS would not let anybody that doesn’t know much about the subject write a how-to

    Everything has been mentioned above, so I won’t reiterate declutter

  • http://sportsphotographysuccess.com Scott Wells

    I love my f2.8 80-200mm for almost all sports. I only find it too small when shooting on a large soccer field, although if I’m patient and willing to walk, I can still capture all the shots I need. Ideas on how to frame and capture great sports photos can be found at http://sportsphotographysuccess.com.

  • http://www.wildheartsphoto.com MistyKeane

    I would just like to say as a beginner photographer this has been the MOST helpful site I have been to! I have been reading everyone’s suggestions and I keep trying all of them to see which one fits my style. I greatly appreciate all the advise and suggestions that are on this site! I really enjoy taking photos at rodeo and it has been very challenging for me, I just got my lens 70-200 f 2.8 and took it out for the first time yesterday and had a lot of fun learning how to use it. I try to keep everyone’s suggestions in mind and it has been very helpful to me! So THANK YOU!!!
    Misty

  • Joe

    Helpful discussion even if many disagree with the original post.

    I am still learning to use my Canon T2i I purchased (in February) with the 35-55mm and 75-250mm lens bundle. I find that I prefer the latter… I will be shooting my son’s high school (spring) football game Friday night. The game starts at 7pm with warm-ups the hour before. Right now in north central Florida it is getting dark just after 8pm. The field has large lights, but previous attempts with point and shoots have always come out dark/under exposed. Other than the suggestions I have read through already from previous posters, what advice is there for the transitioning light (from full bright sunlight at 5:30 to the artificially lit field after the sun goes down). I realize that adjusting the ISO as it gets darker is key, just looking for any more suggestions as this is my first chance to capture in-game images since I purchased my camera, and it’s a long wait until the season starts in theFall.

    Thanks in advance for any and all help!

  • Trachelle Extine

    HI…i have a canon 7D……i have read all these comments but none are exactly answering my needs…….i shoot friday night football…..my lens is a 70-300…. i also have a 55-250…..and my ISO goes alot higher than stated above……what is the exact settings i should use and the best lens of the two i should use to take these football pictures……..ANYONE PLEASE….THAT OWNS OR SPECIFICALLY KNOWS ABOUT THE CANON 7D….I had a Canon rebel for 4 years….i have had this new camera for 3 months……and i am no where near getting it all figured out……..HELP !!!! Thank you so much……Trachelle

  • Steve

    Trachelle, I have a 7D. What I’d suggest is to shoot in shutter priority mode (Tv) and set the minimum speed to at least 640. Ideally more if you can handle it but if it’s anything like the friday night games I’ve shot it’s going to be spotty lighting at best.

    My advice is to get to the game early and play around with the settings. Try shooting a few shots and checking the histogram (info button when viewing a photo). If it’s all stacked up to the left, you’re underexposing, and if it’s all stacked to the right it’s overexposing. You should be able to get a rough sense of the exposure level just from looking at the photos, but better to check the histogram to be sure as the brightness of the display is adjustable.

    So start off shooting at say ISO1600 and 1/640. See how it does. If you’re consistently getting underexposed shots then try bumping the ISO up a bit. Keep trying that until you either get a good exposure or you hit ISO 6400. While the 7D can go above that the pictures look horrible.

    If you find yourself at 6400 and you’re still getting underexposed shots then at that point you have no choice but to lower the shutter speed. You’ll get more blur but it’s either that or get nothing.

    I do have bad news for you. If I’m guessing correctly, both of those lenses you mentioned have variable apertures and when zoomed in you’ll be shooting at F/5.6. Out of curiosity I went and looked at some night game photos that I shot to see what my settings were (on a 7D). I was shooting at ISO 6400, F/2.8 and 1/800 shutter speed.

    The problem you’re going to have is that at F/5.6 you lose 2 stops of light compared to my lens. So to gain a stop of light you have to cut the shutter speed in half. Here you’re dealing with two stops of light which means halving it again. So the best shutter speed you could manage in similar lighting is 1/200. You cannot get action shots at 1/200.

  • jamesev

    I think with respect to settings of focal points and aperture there’s a combination thing going on.

    If you, as suggested are outdoors at f8 then all active focal points will be fine as if the focal points pick up the non active player the DoF will still capture the active player.

    I tend to shoot towards the lower end of the aperture scale (f4-f2.8). with this you get a smaller DoF therefore allowing the camera to pick up the active focus points can easily lead to the camera picking up goals or none active players in the background as the focus points, rendering the active player out of focus, with the focus at some point in the background which doesn’t lend it self for appealing sports shots (myself and my peers refer to this onomatopoeically as “oof shots”).
    for this reason I use 21pt dynamic area focusing.
    I guess if you are shooting in Shutter Priority mode where the change in light (if say a cloud comes over) your aperture could change from f11-f2.8 its more difficult to decide what focusing mode to be on.

  • JAH

    i HAVE A 60D and have only been taking sports photos for several months. I am still struggling with getting all of the picture ie ball and player in focus. I use a Canon 70 to 200 f2.8. can you give me any tips on shooting basketball both adult and children

  • gmillwater

    Helpful article for the newbie and novice! I personally (using Nikon equipment) use manual exposure mode (1/500-1/1000 @ max aperture) and allow my Auto ISO to ramp-up as needed. With most lighting conditions I use spot metering to ensure perfect exposure of my subject and meter off their face. If things happen to fast however, highlights and lowlights can cause a problem if your not “spot” on so Matrix may work better in those situations. And obviously, I use continuous tracking with my focus tracking/lock-on mode set to normal (1 sec. lock-on/re-acquire). As far as VR, I use Mode I since Mode II is more suited to shooting from a moving vehicle (panning mode is automatically selected on all the Nikkor VRII lenses). Hope this helps all the Nikonians out there.

  • Guest

    my name is josh and im dumb and don’t fully understand what your talking about. help me.

Some older comments

  • jamesev

    May 30, 2013 07:29 pm

    I think with respect to settings of focal points and aperture there's a combination thing going on.

    If you, as suggested are outdoors at f8 then all active focal points will be fine as if the focal points pick up the non active player the DoF will still capture the active player.

    I tend to shoot towards the lower end of the aperture scale (f4-f2.8). with this you get a smaller DoF therefore allowing the camera to pick up the active focus points can easily lead to the camera picking up goals or none active players in the background as the focus points, rendering the active player out of focus, with the focus at some point in the background which doesn't lend it self for appealing sports shots (myself and my peers refer to this onomatopoeically as "oof shots").
    for this reason I use 21pt dynamic area focusing.
    I guess if you are shooting in Shutter Priority mode where the change in light (if say a cloud comes over) your aperture could change from f11-f2.8 its more difficult to decide what focusing mode to be on.

  • Steve

    September 9, 2012 12:34 am

    Trachelle, I have a 7D. What I'd suggest is to shoot in shutter priority mode (Tv) and set the minimum speed to at least 640. Ideally more if you can handle it but if it's anything like the friday night games I've shot it's going to be spotty lighting at best.

    My advice is to get to the game early and play around with the settings. Try shooting a few shots and checking the histogram (info button when viewing a photo). If it's all stacked up to the left, you're underexposing, and if it's all stacked to the right it's overexposing. You should be able to get a rough sense of the exposure level just from looking at the photos, but better to check the histogram to be sure as the brightness of the display is adjustable.

    So start off shooting at say ISO1600 and 1/640. See how it does. If you're consistently getting underexposed shots then try bumping the ISO up a bit. Keep trying that until you either get a good exposure or you hit ISO 6400. While the 7D can go above that the pictures look horrible.

    If you find yourself at 6400 and you're still getting underexposed shots then at that point you have no choice but to lower the shutter speed. You'll get more blur but it's either that or get nothing.

    I do have bad news for you. If I'm guessing correctly, both of those lenses you mentioned have variable apertures and when zoomed in you'll be shooting at F/5.6. Out of curiosity I went and looked at some night game photos that I shot to see what my settings were (on a 7D). I was shooting at ISO 6400, F/2.8 and 1/800 shutter speed.

    The problem you're going to have is that at F/5.6 you lose 2 stops of light compared to my lens. So to gain a stop of light you have to cut the shutter speed in half. Here you're dealing with two stops of light which means halving it again. So the best shutter speed you could manage in similar lighting is 1/200. You cannot get action shots at 1/200.

  • Trachelle Extine

    September 8, 2012 02:36 pm

    HI...i have a canon 7D......i have read all these comments but none are exactly answering my needs.......i shoot friday night football.....my lens is a 70-300.... i also have a 55-250.....and my ISO goes alot higher than stated above......what is the exact settings i should use and the best lens of the two i should use to take these football pictures........ANYONE PLEASE....THAT OWNS OR SPECIFICALLY KNOWS ABOUT THE CANON 7D....I had a Canon rebel for 4 years....i have had this new camera for 3 months......and i am no where near getting it all figured out........HELP !!!! Thank you so much......Trachelle

  • Joe

    May 24, 2012 04:30 am

    Helpful discussion even if many disagree with the original post.

    I am still learning to use my Canon T2i I purchased (in February) with the 35-55mm and 75-250mm lens bundle. I find that I prefer the latter... I will be shooting my son's high school (spring) football game Friday night. The game starts at 7pm with warm-ups the hour before. Right now in north central Florida it is getting dark just after 8pm. The field has large lights, but previous attempts with point and shoots have always come out dark/under exposed. Other than the suggestions I have read through already from previous posters, what advice is there for the transitioning light (from full bright sunlight at 5:30 to the artificially lit field after the sun goes down). I realize that adjusting the ISO as it gets darker is key, just looking for any more suggestions as this is my first chance to capture in-game images since I purchased my camera, and it's a long wait until the season starts in theFall.

    Thanks in advance for any and all help!

  • MistyKeane

    February 25, 2012 09:17 am

    I would just like to say as a beginner photographer this has been the MOST helpful site I have been to! I have been reading everyone's suggestions and I keep trying all of them to see which one fits my style. I greatly appreciate all the advise and suggestions that are on this site! I really enjoy taking photos at rodeo and it has been very challenging for me, I just got my lens 70-200 f 2.8 and took it out for the first time yesterday and had a lot of fun learning how to use it. I try to keep everyone's suggestions in mind and it has been very helpful to me! So THANK YOU!!!
    Misty

  • Scott Wells

    February 21, 2012 03:25 pm

    I love my f2.8 80-200mm for almost all sports. I only find it too small when shooting on a large soccer field, although if I'm patient and willing to walk, I can still capture all the shots I need. Ideas on how to frame and capture great sports photos can be found at http://sportsphotographysuccess.com.

  • Naveen

    April 11, 2011 12:04 am

    Sorry, but that’s not very good sport photography advice.

    I wish DPS would not let anybody that doesn’t know much about the subject write a how-to

    Everything has been mentioned above, so I won’t reiterate declutter

  • amit jung kc

    March 14, 2011 07:06 pm

    all these are very useful for me. Thank You all :))

  • Steve

    October 28, 2010 06:30 am

    Rhalene, I've never shot with a D90, so I can't speak to how noisy it is. But a couple things to consider:

    1) Noise is going to be most prominent in the dark parts of the photo. So if you're underexposing at all or just simply have a lot of dark background in the photo, you're probably going to see some noise.

    2) I typically shoot at ISO's above 1600, going as high as 6400 on my Canon 7D. The results are definitely noisy, but what I do is correct for this in post using Lightroom's noise reduction which is stellar. Your camera may have a setting to help reduce high ISO noise, but I don't know Nikon. If you do use that setting it may affect your shooting speed though. But I'm guessing at 2500 you'll get a good bit of noise unless you adjust in post.

    3) You shouldn't need a tripod. If you're shooting fast action sports your shutter speeds are going to be high enough to take hand shake out of the equation. If the weight of the lens is a problem for you I would suggest going with a monopod instead. Much easier to move around quickly but will take the weight of the lens off your hands.

    Night time football under lights is easily one of the worst lighting situations I've had the displeasure of dealing with :). Particularly irritating is that you'll get a lot of fall off in the light levels near the edges of the field.

  • Joe

    October 28, 2010 06:11 am

    I really need to see some samples of your pictures along with the EXIF data. I'm not a Nikon person but what mode were you shooting in. You can have a fast 2.8 lens and your camera setting could be at 5.6. Also I shoot raw and use some noise removal to help clean up the picture. Can you post some pictures.

  • Rhalene

    October 27, 2010 03:14 pm

    By the way I forgot to mention that the lens is a fast lens f2.8

  • Rhalene

    October 27, 2010 03:13 pm

    I did some shooting at a high school football game under the lights with a 70-200 Tamron lens on my Nikon D90 and my photos came out very grainy. I had the ISO set high at around 2500 1/750. Had my camera on a tripod because my hand is not steady enough to hold camera with that lens. Can anyone give me an idea as to why they might have come out so grainy. I do know that a very high ISO will cause graininess so how should the settings be to avoid this situation.

    It was my first try under nightime lights shooting a football game. Have had alot of luck with Baseball though and gotten some really great shots.

  • Donna

    September 10, 2010 08:24 pm

    I have found this all very interesting and useful. I tend to use a mix of the above as I am still trying to get good sharp pictures, and I dont appear to have found what works best... but I suppose the environment and subject can influence matters.

    BUT what advice does anyone have about taking equine/horse pictures eg show jumping or eventing? As I said above, I have tried various settings, but seem to have too many pictures that are just not as sharp as I would like.

    Any help on my horsey photography would be great

    D

  • Donna

    September 10, 2010 08:23 pm

    I have found this all very interesting and useful. I tend to use a mix of the above as I am still trying to get good sharp pictures, and I dont appear to have found what works best... but I suppose the environment and subject can influence matters.

    BUT what advice does anyone have about taking equine/horse pictures eg show jumping or eventing? As I said above, I have tried various settings, but seem to have too many pictures that are just not as sharp as I would like.

    Any help on my horsey photography would be great

    D

  • Joe

    August 24, 2010 07:47 am

    Stacy - thanks for the comments on my pictures. I usually do not shoot Friday night football, only Saturday night (NCAA Div II) but the lights on our field is still poor. And I never use a flash for any college sports, only very high ISO.

    http://tinyurl.com/27lv272

    Joe

  • Stacy Knox

    August 24, 2010 06:37 am

    Awww shucks!!! Well, if I find IT where I can make payments... I'm going to have to go for it!! Darn it! I'm trying to keep this HOBBY from becoming an expensive addiction but I'm not feeling very good about that right now! : ) Thanks again for your advice even if it does cost me more money! I did seriously laugh out loud when I read that last line though.

    Stacy

    P.S. My apologies to everyone else for having monopolized the blog!

  • Steve

    August 24, 2010 06:24 am

    That's a really tough call. For shooting sports I'd go with the f/2.8 without IS over the f/4 with IS. Having said that, the IS is hugely helpful in a lot of other situations. However, you might be able to use a tripod or monopod to help make up the difference depending on the situation.

    Incidentally my failure to make a solid conclusion on that compromise is why I shelled out the money for the 2.8 with IS :).

  • Stacy Knox

    August 24, 2010 06:22 am

    Joe:
    I just noticed the url to your pictures... Wow! Great pictures! What lens do you use? Or do I want to know?
    And... no flash? even for the Friday night games?

  • Stacy Knox

    August 24, 2010 06:04 am

    Steve and Joe:

    THANKS!! I actually know these games really well and have been photographing them since the kids were in grade school. I'm great at anticipating and getting the shot I want, I just haven't had the camera or knowledge of how to work the camera to get the quality of photos I'm looking for. I have used a Canon S5 IS and gotten decent pictures... and have practiced the take 2000 and hope for 20 method for years. Steve, if I get 10 all year that look like yours, I'll consider it a very successful year!

    I think I've decided to buy a lens because I am not confident even with your advice that I'll be able to get what I want out of these pictures. I'm going to try really hard first... and this week is the season opener for both of them, so wish me luck!

    As for the lens, I've found a 70-200 f/2.8 L with no IS and a 70 - 200 f/4L IS for close to the same price (and where I can make payments! Woohoo!). I know you said for sports the IS isn't that important but for general purpose... because if I spend that much on a lens, I want to be able to use it all the time.... would you go with the wider aperture or the IS?

    Thanks again for your patience and advice!!

    Stacy

  • Al

    August 23, 2010 08:32 am

    I shoot sports quite a bit and changed the focus points to the center; I found that multiple focus points would lead to focus on things in the background, when shooting a player in action.

    If you use multiple focus points, how would you guard against that?

  • Joe

    August 21, 2010 07:42 am

    Stacy - one more thing...

    If you do not have a faster lens by football game time, start shooting prior to the game (warmups, etc), then shoot anything and everything while you have some sunlight left. Forget the flash. Be sure and increase your ISO as the sun does down.

  • Steve

    August 21, 2010 07:14 am

    Hi Stacy! I've got a couple suggestions that might help.

    First of all, take a LOT of photos. I'm not saying just waste space, but rather whenever there's action be pretty liberal on the shutter button. When I shoot a three hour sporting event I'll typically take anywhere between 1500-2000 photos. When you're shooting fast action you're going to get a lot of blurry lousy photos, but if you take many, a few of them will turn out decently.

    It's going to be hard to get good shots in poor lighting with the kit lens. It's just not fast enough. While the Canon L glass is out of your price range, you might want to consider a 50MM prime lens. You can get the basic Canon 50MM f/1.8 lens for just under $100. It's not going to be ideal for what you're shooting but it will perform much better in bad lighting that the kit lens. I've never tried to shoot sports with the 50mm so I don't know for sure how well it works but I'm pretty sure it'll do better than the kit lens.

    If you want to rent a lens, that's definitely a good option. The Canon 70-200L would do well for what you're talking about (I use this to shoot football myself). Example:

    http://is.gd/esuQ3

    Don't waste the money on the IS version because if you're shooting sports it isn't going to matter. If you go the rental route, I'd suggest practicing with what you have a lot first and get used to how the game flows and where the good shots are. Then once you've mastered that, you can take the plunge and rent the high end glass.

    Ideally you want to be shooting up around 1/1000 speed, but I'm doubting you can make that happen in the lighting conditions you describe. But basically your priority needs to be getting as fast a shutter speed as possible. So turn up the ISO as high as you can get decent photos with to maximize shutter speed.

    I would highly recommend experimenting a lot the first time you go out. It's always hard to tell how photos look on the camera so try different ISO and speed settings, then you can see what's best when you unload them from the camera. Find a decent exposure setting by letting the camera guess for you, then flip to manual and dial in those settings. Then play with it a bit and see if you can eek out a little faster shutter speed.

    That's what comes to mind at the moment. Hope that helps. But short version is experiment a lot, and be okay with the fact that many of them won't turn out. You're learning, that's okay.

  • Stacy Knox

    August 21, 2010 05:56 am

    P.S. I have learned about aperture so shutter speed, IS, and some other terms I didn't have a clue about before, so my summer lessons weren't in vain!

  • Stacy Knox

    August 21, 2010 05:56 am

    P.S. I have learned about aperture so shutter speed, IS, and some other terms I didn't have a clue about before, so my summer lessons weren't in vain!

  • Stacy Knox

    August 21, 2010 05:36 am

    Can someone please help me? I am not a professional photographer. I only want to take great pictures of my kids these last couple of years they are in sports. I have a daughter in college volleyball (always indoor) and a son in highschool football that plays on Friday nights (usually poor lighting.) I have researched so many sites and pages and what I'm really trying to find out is what settings are going to work best with what I have. I have a Canon t2i with the 18-55 kit lens. I have a 430 EX2 flash. I can't really afford a fancy lens but have considered renting one. Any suggestions would greatly be appreciated. I've signed up for online info, but I just can't seem to find anything that's simplified enough. Games start next weekend and I've spent all summer learning lots of stuff, but have found nothing specific. PLEASE HELP!! I used a Canon S5 IS last year and got a few good (enough) pictures, but just would like something worth hanging on their wall or making a slideshow with!
    Thank you!!

  • Joe

    August 21, 2010 02:24 am

    Volleyball is one of the hardest sports to shoot and usually has the worst lighting. Many times I will pre-focus on a certain players and wait for the action to come to them. Always shoot with both eyes open.

    I like to shoot at floor level near the net.

    http://tinyurl.com/27lv272

  • Jeni-dawn

    August 21, 2010 02:08 am

    Any suggestions on shooting indoor volleyball? I agree with someone's post near the top...this article should be named "Photographing soccer" instead of "Photographing Sports". I'm not part of the soccer world.

  • Becki

    August 21, 2010 12:18 am

    I am a bonafide SOCCER MOM....card carrying member and all. :0) I shoot my kiddos playing soccer, several local clubs, 3v3 tourneys, regular tourneys, competitive soccer, recreation soccer, little kiddos through adults scoring goals and sitting on the sidelines, morning, noon and late day. While I do not necessarily do things the way the author does, I do not fault her. There are 10 ways to skin a cat, guys! What works for me, may not work for you and vice versa. She gave us her perspective....which, btw, sheis entitled to! Acting like she's less than qualified seems a bit harsh to me. I like that this is a place for us to share what we know, what works for us and learn from others. Can't we just all get along?!? Be positive, share your tricks and secrets and move on if you don't agree. Criticizing her won't make you a better photog....just makes you a big fat arse.

    To the guy who got injured twice shooting soccer....UNLUCKY!!

    SEE YOU ON THE PITCH!!

  • Charles Robbins

    August 20, 2010 03:37 pm

    I shoot motorcycles . I picked up my first DSLR a year and a half ago . I started out shooting in sports mode and then move to try AV and TV . I now shoot in Manual full time. I get one pass of the bikes to get the shot , not like field sports where the players are on the field for a long period of time. I shoot with a Canon 50D with a 70-200 F/4 non IS. I change the shutter speed very little , I try to stay around 1/800 . At that speed the wheels and background have a little blur. I keep the ISO under 200, AL SERVO , CENTER FOCUS , JPEG LG. , HS CONT.shooting . I start out the series of shots at 200 mm and zoom out as the rider approaches . I may get 5 to 10 shots of that bike , after throwing out the first three ( focus usually ) and the last two ( to close ) I end up with several sweet shots. The problem with shooting this way is the correct exposure at the start is not the correct exposure at the finish . When shooting on AV or TV or sports mode the camera gets it right most of the time , not good enough . Now in the manual mode I set the shot up so that the rider starts out a little under exposed and finishes a little over exposed . No more blown out shots , the shots in the middle are perfect and the ones on ether end can be easily touched up in post . I am still trying different set-ups but for this situation , this is what works for me

  • Michael Brown

    August 20, 2010 01:06 pm

    I disagree regarding shooting in burst mode. If you want to catch the precise peak moment of action, you must plan ahead, know the sport well, and anticipate the peak moment for a single shot. If you use the burst mode, 9 times out of ten, the perfect shot will end up in between a couple of frames.

    I spent 9 years as a motor sports photojournalist, only shot single frame, and almost always got the peak action - also won several awards for my work, so I do know what I speak about.

  • Lyra

    August 20, 2010 12:29 pm

    @Ron Palmer - Oddly enough, I was at the Wetaskiwin Air Show with my own Sigma 150-500! Strange similarities!

    I am inclined to agree with Jim Poor, in all honesty.

  • Zack Jones

    August 18, 2010 05:22 am

    @Brian: Here's a couple tips for you:

    1 - Contact the school and ask for the athletic director. Explain what you'd like to do and you may get sideline access. It helps if you have sample work to show.

    2 - See if there's a booster club or anything associated with the school and if so see if you can shoot for them.

    I got started using method #2 and after I had proven myself as (1) a capable photographer and (2) not someone that would get in the way of the coaches during the game I was given a season pass to all sports at the school and was permitted to shoot all sports. Unfortunately I moved away and no longer shoot for the school but it was great fun while it lasted.

  • Tyler

    August 17, 2010 11:19 pm

    I shoot sports and have done so indoors and outdoors. Most people here seem to have the same idea too.

    Typically I shoot with my 70-200 f2.8L IS lens.

    High shutter speeds mean no need for IS (or VR).

    I like to keep my focus mode to AI Servo (not sure what Nikon's version is called) but it focuses on a moving object without me having to refocus all the time. My focus points are typically Center Point Expanded.

    Trying to keep shutter speed 1/1000 or greater. I, like others, am usual on manual or Tv (Shutter Priority).

    I also shoot in RAW as I like to ensure I have all my data available. Even in Raw with high-end CF cards I don't miss shots nor fill up the buffer if I am on high-continuous mode.

  • Killian

    August 17, 2010 03:35 am

    I found myself nodding pretty much through every response, so I won't be redundant.

    Instead, I will offer what might seem obvious, but can get lost in the moment occasionally: be safe!

    In shooting soccer, I have had two actual injuries from getting hit: once by an airborne 15 yr old boy who had been fouled in the back (his cleat landed on my knee and tore a tendon, as I couldn't scramble back fast enough), and once as I carefully watched the game in front of me to avoid a repeat, I got hit from behind by a ball from a different game, resulting in a concussion.

    Now, I will own all of the eyerolls and "DUHs" coming my way, but really? Sometimes we get caught up in going for the shot, or even just watching the action.

    Cheers!

  • Rick

    August 15, 2010 03:07 pm

    My non-IS 70-200mm L f/4 does just fine freezing motion in outdoor sports. I also recommend shooting with your back to the sun. It minimizes the harsh shadows and maximizes shutter speed if you're using aperture priority mode.

  • Andy MIlls

    August 15, 2010 06:15 am

    I think you need to be careful using f/2.8 - yes it does make the subject "pop", but I don't think you always want to separate the subject from the event and everything that is going on around them, otherwise you lose context.

  • Javier

    August 14, 2010 10:31 am

    Sorry, but that's not very good sport photography advice.

    I wish DPS would not let anybody that doesn't know much about the subject write a how-to

    Everything has been mentioned above, so I won't reiterate

  • Brian

    August 14, 2010 04:07 am

    I'm interested in doing more american football photography, but am unsure as to the rules regarding taking pictures at school events. Does anyone have any guidance on this? Do I need the school's or player's permission before taking the photos? Also, can anyone recommend focal length for football?

  • Joe

    August 14, 2010 04:01 am

    The purpose of shooting at 2.8 in broad daylight is to get a clean background and make your subject standout. With that said, each sports and each level of sports will offer a different set of background variables. There is no camera/lens setting that will cover everything.

    The only way you will know whats works best if your situation is practice, practice, and more practice.

    Joe
    http://tinyurl.com/27lv272

  • cheska

    August 14, 2010 03:52 am

    Thanks for this post. Very Interesting. I'm not really a photographer but I found this article really interesting because of the detailed tips given. Will make sure to share your blog with photographer friends. I'm sure they will this very interesting as well.

  • Jason Collin Photography

    August 14, 2010 03:31 am

    As Steve said above in comments, knowing the game is key. Anticipation will let you get that play at shortstop, but if everyone is falling back in anticipation of a sacrifice fly, lack of knowledge of the game and its current situation will yield less than ideal shots.

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/sports/

    Also, for sure in broad daylight I would not recommend shooting at f/2.8 at all, as to my knowledge no 70-200mm lens is its sharpest at that aperture and most of all you will not get all the action in focus. I use around f/7.1 for baseball and soccer, light permitting.

  • Naz

    August 14, 2010 01:43 am

    There is an incamera setting thAT you can change to minimize the autofocus from switching targets when tracking- Can't remember right now, but on the Canon 7D, in the custom functions settings, you can make a change that tells the autofocus to practically ignore targets other than the one yuou begin the autofocus on (note, the autofocus will quickly jump from one target to another [ the closest subject], aqnd then snap back to the original POI). Wish I had the link but there is a fella who works for Canon who explained the different custom functions- I had set my camera up after viewing the video, the way he suggested, and it seemed to help improve tracking- The setting on the Canon 7D is under C.Fn 111 -3 (AI servo tracking method)- You can set 0: Main Focus Priority (Which will focus on nearest subject- not good if you are wantign to keep focus on certain subject)
    1: Continuous AF track priority (Any subjecs which are closer will be ignored)

    As well, when using the 19 point AF auto selection, and AF point expansion, The Main Focus point doesn't have to be the one which maintains the focus, all the focus points will work to keep the main subject in focus whil;e ignoring any closer subjects which may wander into frame (there might be a slight jump in focus interest, but camera will quickly go right back to the maqin subjecvt that you originally began the focus on)

  • Steve

    August 14, 2010 12:46 am

    Seeing some other comments here, just a quick point on aperture. There are good reasons to shoot at F/8 and there are good reasons to shoot at F/2.8. Make the choice for the right reasons.

    I tend to shoot at F/2.8 because I want to, as best as possible, isolate a player from what's around them. Even if the background is cluttered if you have a shallow enough depth of field, that player can pop out.

    If you go to F/8 you don't get that same effect, however it increases the chances that the action you want to capture is going to be in focus. Think of a player kicking a ball towards you as a good example. If you want the player and the ball to both be in focus, you have a fraction of a second to make that shot if you're wide open. But if you're shooting at F/8, the greater depth of field will give you more of a chance to get that shot.

    I think probably of any of the advice here, the F-stop is the most flexible consideration. Just make a conscious choice about what you're going for and then frame the shots to match. I personally think of sports photography as portraiture at high speed so I like shots that isolate individuals from what's around them. I want to see their faces, the focus they have, etc.

  • Jeff W

    August 13, 2010 11:58 pm

    I shoot a lot of sports, both inside and out, and the two are vastly different. I agree with most of this one, but disagree on a couple of points:

    1) I prefer center mode focus -- I find I have a better chance of capturing the player I want instead of someone else in a pack. I also prefer manual exposure: Find the exposure that works, and stick with that setting until the light changes. On aperture-priority, the camera will often guess wrong on exposure because of shadows or a dark or light jersey. An exception would be a day where the sun is going in and out of clouds frequently, or where part of the field is in heavy shadow.

    2) It's a personal preference, but I always shoot RAW. It makes it much easier to adjust the white balance if needed (critical when shooting in the evening through nightfall under lights, as light changes as it shifts from sun to artificial lights, and indoors, where some types of vapor lights are constantly shifting in color).

    3) Yes, and faster for indoor sports. For outdoor sports, a couple of posters suggested apertures of f/8 or f/16, but I strongly disagree -- backgrounds can be distracting, especially with youth sports, so leave your aperture wide open (or, with an f/1.8 lens, at f/2.8 or faster) to blur the backgrounds and make the players stand out.

    4) NO! Forget IS -- for sports action, turn it off if you have it. As others have noted, IS does nothing for you at shutter speeds of 1/500 and higher (which is where you need to be for sports). IS is designed to reduce the effect of camera movement, not the movement of people you're shooting.

    The points on including faces and the ball are good. Not that you can't get a good shot without, but it certainly increases your sales chances.

  • Jim Poor

    August 13, 2010 10:33 pm

    @ Zack, Thanks! Birds and dogs are more fun than humans any day. Each offers a different set of challenges for sure. Imagine a black dog running 30MPH jumping over a hurdle in a dark building where it takes 85mm f/1.4 just to get to 1/250!

    I shoot Nikon, but not because of any bias. I just fell into a Nikon camera first and have been there ever since. There were a few years where Canon was ahead in some areas, but for the moment I think Nikon has the advantage for low-light work.

    Pamela, We'll have to agree to disagree on RAW/JPG. There is no more time in PS for a Raw file than for a JPG and there is soooooo much more flexibility with a raw file that goes beyond fixing mistakes made in camera. Thanks for the note on my dog sport photos. You should come out to a show sometime. I'm sure you'll find dogs are far faster and less predictable than humans. It's a unique challenge!

  • Zack Jones

    August 13, 2010 10:20 pm

    @Jim -- Your work is fantastic! Not that it really matters but are you a Nikon or Canon man? Being a nature photographer I especially liked your face on Egret shot.

    Pamela, thanks for taking the time to post the article. I agree with some bits but disagree with alot of it based upon my experience shooting sports with the equipment I used.

    1 - I used single focus point because that's what worked best on my Rebel XT and 40D. Perhaps your camera works better using all focsing points. What Canon body do you shoot with?

    2 - I always shot RAW and still do. When shooting high school football in dark stadiums I had to crank the ISO up as high as I could to keep the shutter speeds up. Using RAW allowed me to deal with the noise better than I could using JPGs. If you're just shooting for the fun of it then by all means shoot JPG. In fact shoot small JPG since odds are you won't be printing above 4x6 anyways.

    3 - Agree with this one. I always shot wide open to keep shutter speeds up and to blur the background.

    4 - My primary sports lens 200 2.8L doesn't have IS. If it did I wold have turned it off because of using high shutter speeds IS wouldn't help. Mininum focus distance I left at the shortest distance possible because you never know when a shot may present itself within the 3 meter minimum focus distance you've selected.

    5 - Agree - get the best shots possible to maximize sales.

    6 - I disagree with this one. There's plenty of great shots taken where you can't see the eyes of the player.

    7 - Agree - it's hard as hell to get the ball in the shot all of the time though but don't delete an image just because the ball isn't in it.

    8 - Good idea.

  • frank t

    August 13, 2010 10:16 pm

    Having shot a wide range of sports, I cannot help but chime in.

    RAW. Yep. Sorry, always will shoot that way (big cards are a must). Use PhotoMechanics for FAST first edit of images - loads faster than any other programs (which is why it is used by many photojournalists on deadlines).

    Usual Rule of Thumb for use of IS/VR: if shutter speed is faster than 1/focal length, you don't need the IS/VR turned on. I know many photographers that turn it off just to save battery.

    f/2.8 is a must if you shoot indoors - many youth sports don't allow you to use a flash as it will distract the kids.

    Bokeh (the cool blurring in the background) is a very helpful way to separate your subject from the background.

    Eyes - yep. But, when editing my shots, if I cannot see eyes, I want to make sure a jersey number is readable. I've sold a number of shots where the player on defense w/ their back to me is the one who bought the image.

    Great article - obviously, there are a lot of things to keep in mind, and photographers cannot always agree!

  • Matic Klansek

    August 13, 2010 05:32 pm

    I would say that first two tips are:
    1. know sport that you're shooting
    2. predict what will happen before it happens. If you're chasing action, than you're too late.

  • Lyle

    August 13, 2010 01:24 pm

    Nice article Pamela. This is good solid photography for someone starting out in sports photography. There are also a lot of good follow-up comments, although some might be better suited for SportsShooter.com.

    As far as your point number 8, working with parents and fans takes another set of skills.

    Since I really enjoy shooting sports, I decided it was time to shift my energy. I had the gear and knowledge to capture those moments that a league, tournament or, more importantly, mom & dad would cherish for a lifetime. The question was: how to go about it? The way I approached it was from a business & marketing perspective.

    There were many way’s I approached this aspect of the puzzle. Local ads, custom 4x6 cards handed out at the events, endorsements & exclusive contracts from local leagues, etc. I didn’t have the yellow vests but I did have yellow t-shirts & polo’s that I and my team wore at all events. We even did on-site viewing & ordering at tournaments.

    For those that are not already doing this as a business my advice is to develop a plan of action (business plan), set goals, and differentiate yourself from those that take the pictures from the outskirts (in the stands, behind the fence, etc). Besides technique, gaining access and working with officials and coaches is the key!

    I could take up a ton of space here writing about the business side of this. As it turns out, I’m in the process of writing a series of articles on this very topic that will be posted at http://blog.leelovephotography.com/ in the coming weeks.

    Providing a service to the community and youth leagues is a great way to enjoy sports photography! Keep following sites & blogs such as this and continue to learn!

  • Steve

    August 13, 2010 11:50 am

    Most of the points that I would make have been made and I don't need to reiterate (e.g. no need for IS due to the high shutter speed that I use for outdoor sports).

    A couple of suggestions: First, "know the game." Use that knowledge to anticipate your shots.

    For instance, anytime a soccer ball goes up in the air, it's going to come down and more than likely there will be a player or two waiting for it. I'll be waiting for it too, ready to shoot off a series of images. Don't be an average spectator - if you're their to take pictures, get to where the action is and the angles are better (end of the field near the goals - anywhere where the players and the action are coming toward you).

    Use a monopod to help steady your shots, but also to give yourself plenty of flexibility.

    Finally - and I will repeat this one - as suggested above, get low.

  • Steve

    August 13, 2010 10:24 am

    A quick follow-up to Ron's comments. Quoting for truth:

    ... but to really get the shot you need to know the game

    This is, by far, the most important thing if you want good shots. One of the things I shoot is american football games. If you know the strategy of the game then it helps you to be in the right place for the right shot. For example, if a team is behind and it's late in the game you can expect them to throw the ball a lot. So if you position yourself down field to plan on shooting receivers you'll get the shot.

    Example

  • Ron Palmer

    August 13, 2010 10:12 am

    I agree with you Jim, if your looking to make money quality will always outshine quantity. And RAW will always outweight JPEG any day of the week. But there is nothing better in photography than the photographer they see the shot and take the shot the camera only captures it, so you have to keep practicing.

    I just finished shooting the Wetaskiwin Airshow. Using a Sigma 150-500 (5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM) lens all shot in raw. Show time was approximately 2.5 hours and I got 2000 shots of which 1500 or so are quality, only once did I run into buffer issues, and this is with a Canon XTI. not exactly a fast camera. Oh and the OS not turned on at all and no tripod all freehand. ISO was 400 and shutter speeds varied from 1500-2500 in Aperture Priority. In all I took almost 20 GB of pictures which may sound like a lot but when shooting fast action I use a small burst of 3 or 4 shots to get timing. For example when planes are passing each other. or in a football match when the ball is in the air going for the goal sometimes the picture before the goal is better than the ball going in, other wise I follow the action

    http://www.demotix.com/news/406430/wetaskiwin-air-show-wows-crowds

    The picture with the Canadian Flag Parachute and American Flag was a highlight photo.

    The biggest thing is to get to know your camera, practice and find the sweet spot for each lens. As Jim said usually F8 or better most telephoto lenses perform best between F8 and f11.

    I don't know if the author was trying to introduce sports photography to the general masses if so then these are 8 good tips to start out with. But to really get the shot you need to know the game and where to be and how your camera performs, and follow the action but if there are kids involved forget all of the above - JUST BE READY because just when you put the camera down something will happen.

    One thing I taught my son 7 when he gets out his point and shoot is to follow the action and take what he thinks will be a good picture. out of about 50 or 60 shots at the airshow he got probably 30 that were good, considering the point and shoot is older only 3MP. What he catches is what he sees, but he loves to practice. That is the most important thing.

    So go out find a baseball game or a soccer match, or as we get closer a football game or practice, and practice, soon enough you will be scoring the money shots.

  • Pamela Aurino

    August 13, 2010 09:19 am

    Thanks for the feedback guys! Hope you found something useful in this article.

    I still stand by shooting in jpg, as one mentioned raw allowing forgiveness if overexposure etc. If in the situation (like I have worked in before) you're dunking memory cards shooting thousands of photos a day (say a netball game) it's either a no or yes to the image. In this situation, and not always, I guess it's a matter of opinion I don't want to rely on wasting time in photoshop.

    Thanks again for the feeback!

    p.s. Jim nice dog shots :p

  • Jim Poor

    August 13, 2010 08:55 am

    As a professional sports photographer, I take issue with several points in this article. I suppose much of it could be chalked up to style and preference though.

    1. I shoot either manual with auto ISO or SHUTTER priority. With sports, stopping the action is a big part of success.

    2. While I do see a lot of oohs and aahhhs over mediocre photos, I hope those are never mine. Shoot Raw for the quality, use camera with a fast enough buffer and a memory card big enough that you don't have to do a lot of card switching. I use 2 32GB cards set to overflow so I have 64GB to work with before a card change. Also, even with a slow buffer, a bit of shutter management goes a long way over "spray and pray."

    3. For outdoor sports, unless you have night games or REALLY heavy cloud cover, you can (and, IMO should) be a f/8 or even f/16. Indoors, which is where I spend a large portion of my time, requires more like f/2 unless you happen to be in a really bright venue.

    4. Minimum shutter speed for sports is commonly recommended to be at least 1/1000. At this shutter speed, IS is worthless and some believe, even detrimental to image quality. Indoors, You take as much as you can get, but outdoors, there is really no reason not to be shooting f/8 @1/1000 unless you're going for a specific look or creamy bokeh.

    5. One's responsibility as a photographer is really up to the individual. There is no obligation to cover everyone and if there are players that never / rarely buy and players that buy often and buy a lot on the field. Profits are maximized by concentrating on those who buy.

    6. I almost completely agree with this one. I've seen some pretty cool shots from behind though.

    7. Yep.

    8. Vest, uniform, badge, yep.

  • HaslamPhoto

    August 13, 2010 08:44 am

    I would like to add some additional tips:
    1. Get low. Sit on the ground if possible. Go for something besides eye level.
    2. Clean background. A messy background can ruin a great shot.
    3. Don't sit in the middle of the field. Pick a side and get both teams, but do move around some to mix it up for your images and your own interest.
    4. As the local sports photog for my paper says, "go tight or wide and nothing in the middle".
    5. Learn to keep both eyes open.

    Shoot RAW, no need to fill a buffer up with 20 shots, and it is easy to work with Lightroom and Photomechanic. VR (IS) is not needed due to shutterspeeds needed to freeze action. I don't limit my focus as I want to capture faces of the players on the sidelines. Also the action can come close to you, don't miss it because of your own set limitation.

  • Matt Mathai

    August 13, 2010 08:14 am

    Nice article. Just a couple of things I disagree with. I shoot a lot of sports (pro soccer mostly, and mostly at night) and to freeze the motion I'm usually shooting at 1/1250 sec shutter speed, and usually at f/4. My camera lets me get away with that because of its low light handling, but at anything shorter than 1/500 second, image stabilization (VR in the Nikon world) is not just useless, it becomes a hindrance. For my application, it was an expensive feature I could do without.

    I shoot RAW because I love the forgiveness when I screw up something, but there's no question that the files are larger and it takes more time to ingest them all. I have two 32GB cards in my camera and have only run out of room once.

  • Steve

    August 13, 2010 07:57 am

    The only recommendation here that I wouldn't agree with is the need for IS. If you're shooting sports you're shooting fast action. So you're talking shutter speeds of 500 or better at least. If you're shooting on a cropped sensor with a 200mm, anything faster than 300 should eliminate hand shake. At 300 you're going to get a good bit of blur in your sports shots. I always turn off IS because it's just a waste of batteries in these situations.

    If you're shooting in broad daylight you can get away with slower glass, but you're always going to get better shots with the higher end 2.8 lenses. I often shoot indoor sports and I'm usually shooting at 2.8 with around 400 shutter speed and 1600 ISO. I still get some blurring in shots, but until I get a camera that can rattle off low noise shots at 3200 or 6400 ISO, I live with it :) Sooooon...

    Shooting JPEG definitely buys you some speed and space improvements, but personally I prefer to still shoot raw. You just need to plan for it and bring the extra cards and bigger cards you need. Taking a minute to swap out cards isn't going to ruin your shooting, as there's tons of solid moments throughout any sporting event. I typically bring two 16GB cards and an 8GB card to a 3 hours sporting event and never come close to having a space issue. When I get home I just copy over only the ones that are salvageable to reduce space wastage.

    The vest idea is an interesting one I hadn't thought of. Granted I largely shoot for fun or as a journalist where I'm not permitted to sell my photos. So I largely give my photos to people for free if they want them. Typically I just go up to a member of the team afterwards and hand out a couple of my cards. Even though I give it away like that it has turned into requests by people to come shoot their games as paid gigs.

  • Bigfoot

    August 13, 2010 07:16 am

    I'm sorry, I never like it when posts are criticised, the writer goes out on a limb to teach other people something, but I have to disagree with some points above. The most photography I do is sports, and I either use manual mode or shutter priority mode, since I want to freeze the movement and therefore want a fast shutter speed. If you use aperture priority you can get into the situation that the shutter speed becomes too slow and you get motion blur. If that is what you are aiming for, that's OK of course (but even then I would want to choose my shutter speed), but for me, most of the time that is not what I want. I never go slower than 1/500 with my shutter speed. Therefore, IS is not necessary either (unless you're using a huge zoom). Finally, I always shoot in RAW, never had any problems with buffering, but it allows me to correct the exposure should I have to under expose (indoor sports or cloudy outdoor).

  • Ryan

    August 13, 2010 07:04 am

    I like seeing other people's ideas on all sorts of photography, although I have to say I don't really agree with much in this post. That's not to say it's wrong, but it definitely wouldn't work for me.

    I always use a single focus point because I don't trust the camera to focus on the right player. Particularly when you are using a long lens, if there's anyone in the field of view that's closer, chances are the camera will pick the wrong person. And if there's a group of players clustered together but you're shooting at 2.8, you don't have much room for error so if (and when!) the camera misses your target, you wind up with another throw away. If you choose a single focus point, then you can tell the camera where to focus by aiming it properly. :)

    IS is generally not useful for sports photography because you are going to be using shutter speeds that will stop the motion, which is 1/500 on the slow end. Even for lower-light, indoor sports, the main concern is going to be getting your shutter speed faster. When I'm shooting basketball games, indoors, I use either 1/1000 or 1/800 -- and at f2.8 that still means I have to crank the ISO up to 2500-4000 to get a well-exposed shot. It also means that IS is useless, since at those speeds there is no movement due to hand shake.

    As previous commenters have mentioned, this also makes raw mode far more important, although I know some great spors photographers who shoot only jpg. I would rather shoot raw and just delete the bad shots afterwards.

    Also, even for soccer, I think it is more important to get yourself set up in a place where you're going to have a good angle on the action than to force the sun to be at your back. Don't put yourself at the mercy of the sun. Find the best location on the sidelines to capture the action, and use your abilities with the camera to deal with the lighting.

    Actually, I disagree about the eyes, too. Sure, if you can get the player's eyes in the shot and still have the shot, then great! But you will not always have that luxury, and you can still get a fine image of a player scoring a big goal when you catch the back of their jersey. "No eyes/no shot" is just too restrictive.

    One last point, for indoor sports, go full manual and set your exposure settings before the game. The light will be more or less static so you won't have to worry about it. But AV mode will cause inconsistent results just by virtue of the teams' jerseys being different colors -- focus on the home team (light jersey) and you'll underexpose your shot. Focus on the away team (dark jersey) and you'll overexpose. Far better to expose properly in advance and just keep it that way. For outdoor sports, this doesn't apply because the light will vary continuously, so you might as well let the camera help you out.

  • Grant D. Taylor

    August 13, 2010 07:03 am

    Thanks a lot for this article. Just was asked by a friend to photograph middle school football when it starts up and have been reading up a lot on sports photography. This information is wonderfully compiled. Thanks for a great post! Can't wait to try it now.

  • Joe

    August 13, 2010 06:44 am

    Maybe this article should be titled "Shooting soccer in the morning". If I was shooting daytime sports, IS would not be needed as my ss would be very high. Same goes for most night games too. Late afternoon/evening/night sports generally require a high ISO and would also require shooting RAW.

    I found out many years ago the best method for shooting great sports is practice, practice, and more practice.

    Football starts in one week and I'm ready to go.

  • Jim

    August 13, 2010 06:25 am

    I looked all over my camera and did not see anything labeled AI Servo and no where could I find IS or Stabilizer Mode 2 on my lenses. I'll bet one or two other people reading this may have the same issue.

  • Anonymous

    August 13, 2010 06:17 am

    "I personally shoot in jpg as opposed to RAW. When you’re taking so many continuous shots you’re going to want a maximum buffer speed."

    The opposite of this is that if you are shooting at a high ISO (such as indoors or late at night which is quite common) you will want to shoot RAW for best post processing results. Quality does not affect shooting speed, only how long you can keep the shutter button pressed until the buffer fills. If you're holding it down so long that you're filling a modern camera's buffer (10-15+ shots) you'd probably be better off with a video camera. Practice quick short bursts, anticipate the action and reduce the clutter of shots you have to process. Aim for 3-4 shots per moment. A quick CF card will ensure that you can catch the next moment just as easily.

  • karen@fidelisartprints.com

    August 13, 2010 06:16 am

    Thank you for this technical post. I was just reading a post in the Forum from Jim Bryant about sports photography, and the challenges of charging for this service. Maybe he should send some of his clients over to this post to give them and education about how hard it is to get great shots. Thanks for sharing! Karen

  • Jiblet

    August 13, 2010 06:15 am

    You use panning mode for sports? Why is full IS so bad? None of the shots above show any panning so what am I missing?

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