Tips from the Sports Photography Pros to Help You Get the Money Shots

Tips from the Sports Photography Pros to Help You Get the Money Shots

The pros know that sports photography is a fast paced and intense profession. You have to be quick. Really quick! Catching the moment is one-third intuition, a third skill, and the rest is pure luck. Accept it now! Sometimes the most amazing shot you capture will just be pure luck.

sports photography action

Capture the emotion and the intensity of the players. These shots sell.

There are things you can do to increase the odds of success. If you’re like me and you want to earn part of your income from sports photography then there are some tips and tricks you need to learn. Sports photography is a lot more than just pointing the camera at an athlete and holding down the shutter button.

Camera grip is key

The sheer speed of sports photography requires a specialized grip. You have to be able to zoom in and out quickly as well as switch from landscape to portrait (horizontal to vertical) orientation. If you are strong enough to handhold your lens then this technique is for you.

sports photography black and white

For a magazine a shot in black and white can create a lot of drama.

Loosen up the tripod collar on the lens so it slides easily. Hold the lens by placing the base of the collar in the palm of your hand and grip the zoom ring with your fingers. As you rotate your camera from portrait to landscape your camera will automatically change focal lengths. It’s quick and convenient and it’s also pretty easy to maneuver. You can then adjust the orientation of your camera back to portrait or landscape by releasing your grip on the zoom ring. It takes practice to perfect this method but once you’ve got it the process becomes very quick.

The same basic premise can be used if you shoot with a monopod. Instead of using your hand as the base for monopod ring you’re going to handhold the zoom ring and turn from portrait to landscape in the same way.

sports photography

In this case, the image is about the struggle and expressions on the kid’s faces. The scene tells a story about struggle.

Money shots

I quickly learned that certain types of shot sell while other shots are nice but they don’t sell. The images that generally fall into one of the following three categories:

sports photography action hockey

At tournaments, these types of shots sell to parents.

1) The Celebration

Images of athletes celebrating are so popular because they show the height of emotion and sacrifice. The recent shot of the World Series winning Chicago Cubs is a fantastic example.

While this isn't an epic celebration parents love this type of shot.

While this isn’t an epic celebration parents love this type of shot.

2) The profile shot

In this instance, you capture an image of an athlete in action. The shot shows the shape of their body as they compete and there is little to distract from the perfection of their form.

sports photography girl running

The water droplets are my favorite part of this shot even though most people won’t notice them.

3) The unusual occurrence shot

These are the unique moments in sports that only happen once. You won’t catch these types of shots very often but when you do it’s a fantastic adrenaline rush.

sports photography expressions

In this case, the facial expression and position of the girl’s arms and the ball make for a unique shot.

I’m not saying that other shots won’t sell but the likely hood is far less. Sometimes the image falls into a category of its own. If you try to capture the majority of your images from these three categories then you are well on your way to earning an income from sports photography.

Don’t give up

Sports photography is an incredibly tough world to try and break into. You have to work so hard to get noticed. It’s also incredibly challenging and very physical. Be prepared for the ride of your life. You will have to push your camera and your body to their limits to keep up with these talented and very physical athletes.

So use every trick or tip you can find to rise above the rest and take those memorable shots. Leave any of your tips below and also share your favorite images.

Capturing goalies is a real challenge. Usually, there's a lot of traffic in front of them.

Capturing goalies is a real challenge. Usually, there’s a lot of traffic in front of them.

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Erin Fitzgibbon

Erin Fitzgibbon is a freelance photographer, writer, and teacher, from Ontario, Canada. She specialises in portrait, sport, and fine art photography. In her free time, she escapes to the backcountry or the beach with her family.