Top tips for sports photography

Canter by Daniela Bowker

Chances are, there’s some sport that you’re interested in, dear reader. Even if football, rugby and the like isn’t for you, there’s always table tennis, trampolining or tiddlywinks. Even if you’re not much of a sports fan, sports photography can be a lot of fun and can seriously challenge your skills, giving you a chance to improve. We’ve put together a little handful of sporty tips, tricks and techniques to give you the edge.

Technique – Panning

Canter by Daniela Bowker

Panning is a technique that is mostly found in motorsport photography. It involves tracking your subject as it whizzes past you at speed. The desired effect is to keep your subject in focus but allow the background to blur, getting across that sense of fast movement. Essentially, the key is to keep your subject in the same position in the frame for the entire duration of the shot. This keeps your subject sharp. It’s not easy, but it’s worth mastering, as it looks fantastic. You can almost hear the car going “VROOOOOM!”. Maybe.

Technique – Manual Focusing

Ugrás / Jump by Peti_205

You’ll mostly see this technique being used in motorcross, snowboarding and biking – basically anything with a ramp for those braver (and crazier) than you or I to fling themselves off. You’ll see most photographers manually focus on a ramp or a bump in the track. Then they can get their framing and composition right, and just wait for the shot to come to them. It’s a tried an tested technique which can yield brilliant results. So give it a go!

Tip – Become A Clairvoyant

Played On, by Jim Campbell

Don’t worry, you won’t need to buy any dream catchers or crystal balls – I’m talking about learning to predict where the action will be. It helps, of course, if you’re familiar with the sport you’re shooting. If you can work out where the action is going to be, you can get yourself into position before it even happens. Then you wait. the last thing you want is to be fumbling around, missing great moments. Get there first, get there early.

Tip – Don’t Just Go Where The Ball Is

Aggie Women's Tennis - 51 by StuSeeger

Often, it can be a good idea to check out what’s happening around the action, there are some great photos to be had when you nab a shot of a furious footy manager on the sidelines, an ecstatic crowd reaction following a goal, or the jubliant player celebrations. Sometimes, the story isn’t just where the ball is.

Tip – Pay Attention To Faces

Photo by Gareth Dutton

Admittedly, this isn’t much use in motorsport, because you can’t see their faces, but when shooting anything else (alright fine, not fencing either) a good photo (OK, nor Formula One) can be turned into a great photo when you capture an expression in there too. Anxiety, joy, despair – there’s nothing like sport for making grown men cry.