Sports photography or action photography, one of the popular of photography types, might seem a bit intimidating for a beginner in photography. All the amateurs who have bought themselves an expensive camera, and been getting familiar with the specs, should have patience while learning the tricks of the trade called sports photography because it’s not possible for them to master all the skills overnight.
In this article, I am giving you some tips to learn the basics of sports photography. This is not just for the utter beginners, though. If you are already in the groove, these tips could improve your skills. Also, these tips will encompass major aspects of the camera such as camera settings, lens settings, zoom, focus, etc. so it would help you take some better sports photographs.
4 Essential Sports Photography Tips for Beginners
1. Setting the lens
Select a wide-angle zoom lens. Since you’d probably be shooting from the stadium, you’d need to take wide shots. Problem with sports photography is that you can’t blur the background and focus only on a player. The whole setting needs to be captured and for that, you’d need a DSLR camera with a focal length of 10-12mm. If it’s a full-frame camera, then the focal length should be 16-17mm.
When shopping for a suitable lens, you need to know your options. Some of the available choices are Nikon AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6G Telephoto Zoom Lens, Olympus 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6, Pentax 50-200mm f/4-5.6 ED Weather Resistant, Sony DT 55-200mm f/4-5.6, Sigma’s 10-20mm f/3.5, etc.
The lens selection depends heavily on what kind of sport you are shooting. Sports like snowboarding or flow boarding contain many dramatic moments so an ultra-wide angle lens could be useful. If you are shooting an indoor sport, then a 2.8 lens is enough.
2. The shutter speed
When shooting photos of sports, you need to use a fast shutter speed to freeze the action. Budding photographers often don’t understand the importance of fast shutter speed for sports photography. Sports photography is one type of action photography; on a playground, players move very quickly, which is why a camera with low shutter speed won’t be able to capture the action.
How to avoid blur due to the shutter speed and to capture the action in sports photography?
The optimal setting is the shutter speed being 1/500 and the camera being put into the shutter priority mode. Once the game starts, you need to take few snaps quickly and check their quality. If the photos are blurred, switch to a faster shutter speed. To make sure the photos taken are of superior quality, try maintaining a parity between the aperture and the shutter speed. For example: If you are using f4 aperture, then a shutter speed of 1/500 is okay. For f2 aperture, the shutter speed should be 1/1000.
3. Optimal ISO
If the shutter speed is all about motion, then ISO is all about lighting. It’s recommended to keep the ISO high because if ISO is high, then the camera will be more sensitive to light. The problem is that when you increase the shutter speed of your camera, you need to increase the ISO, too, otherwise you won’t get the perfect shot. There could be noise factors which you need to edit out later.
When shooting a sport like cricket, baseball or football at night, the ISO has to be set higher because we see differently at night than the cameras that we use. The maximum aperture of the human eye is f0.5-f1.0 whereas a camera’s aperture is f2.4-f2.8. This indicates the playground at night looks brighter to our naked eyes than to the camera lens. To compensate, high ISO may be needed.
Nevertheless, the ISO setting depends on which camera the photographer is using. Normally, sports photographers who set their shutter speed at 1/1000, use ISO of 1600. Using Nikon D810 or Canon Powershot will result in lesser noise factors.
4. Shoot in burst mode
Capturing the action is not just about shooting with fast shutter speed. You have to take several shots in quick succession. This is called burst mode. It ensures capture of each moment and quality of the photographs. Once you activate the burst mode (or continuous shooting mode) in your camera, simply press and hold down the shutter release button to take several shots in a short period of time. However, the number of shots in one second (or, frames per second or fps) depends on the model of the camera. For example, entry level DSLRs like Canon 1000D takes only 1.5 shots per second while a semi-pro camera like the canon 7D mark II offers 10fps. Also, this fps depends on the type of card you use. Burst mode together with [fast] autofocus get you good sports photographs.
Following the aforesaid sports photography tips won’t do any magic and turn you into a pro sports photographer overnight. However, for starters, these tips are essential. By following them and practicing continuously, you can make sure you are heading on the right track.