Complete Sports Photography Guide

Last Updated on April 6, 2021

Whether you are shooting a high school football game or a professional soccer match, it is important to capture the moment in a way that entertains and informs. The beauty of the action as well as the intensity of it all comes alive with great sports pictures.

This article will cover some key points for shooting sports photography. These include how to pick a good spot to shoot from, what type of lens you should use, and camera settings you should set before shooting.

It will also provide some tips to help you shoot photos that will show off the action without distracting from the event.

How To Shoot Sports Photography

sports photographer on field with camera

This article can be read as a quick guide to sports photography, or you can refer back to it when deciding on what type of shots you want to create for your next game. You might also find these tips useful later if you are shooting an event on the road or during travel.

First things first: finding a good spot to shoot from. In order to take great sports pictures, you’ll want to find a spot where the action will not be obstructed too much by fans, equipment, bleachers, or any other obstructions.

A good spot is one that is far enough away from the players or spectators so they will not be in your way and yet close enough so you will have a good shot of the action. Try setting up in an area where you can see the players without them being able to see you. You’ll also want to be able to see the entire playing field so you can get shots of the whole game or action.

You might also consider shooting from an area that allows you to capture the stands or audience as well. Keep in mind that your lens will usually have a longer zoom range than you might think, so don’t always assume that you have to shoot from a distance. You may be surprised at how close you can get with a little practice and by using some zoom features on your camera.

In addition, try to find a spot that has a nice background. This might be the stands, the field itself, or maybe even just some simple scenery like trees or hills in the distance. Nice backgrounds can really add to your sports photos and help to enhance them.

If you don’t have a good spot picked out before the game starts, keep looking around for one until you do. You may have to adjust on the fly and shoot from an undesirable spot or position if you don’t scout out your spot ahead of time.

What Type Of Lens Should You Use For Sports Photography

A telephoto lens is often a good choice for sports photography. A telephoto lens allows you to capture the details of the action without being too obtrusive. You might want to use a wide-angle lens if you are trying to get close-ups of spectators or right in there with the athletes themselves. Also, consider using a fast lens (one with a high aperture number, like f/2.8) for fast action and good low light shooting capabilities.

If you are planning on shooting sports action in the rain, be sure to bring along a waterproof case or bag for your camera and lenses. Most cameras have a rubber cover that can help keep your equipment dry , but it never hurts to have some extra protection.

Sports Photography Setting Tips

Also be aware that you may need to use a higher ISO setting for shooting in low light or at night. This can help with reducing blur and allow you shoot faster shutter speeds while still getting proper exposure.

Shutter speed and aperture settings can also play a big role in sports photography. Shutter speeds are typically set for freeze motion action at about 1/250, while a fast lens with a high aperture number like f/2.8 can get you much faster shutter speeds of 1/1000 or even faster.

Some action may be too fast to freeze using a fast shutter speed, but that can be overcome by using a tripod and having your camera on a timer. You can also get faster than normal shutter speeds using High Speed Continuous shooting mode with most DSLR cameras. This feature allows you to continuously shoot at higher frames per second.

Sports Photography Lighting

When shooting sports, look for natural light and don’t use flash unless absolutely necessary or if you are shooting in darker settings like night games or indoor events. Flash tends to distract from the action, and it is much more difficult to use than natural light.

Remember that flash will overexpose your picture slightly since there isn’t a way to reduce the exposure on cameras equipped with it. Therefore, even if you are using manual settings for your camera you may find that you need to play around with exposure compensation or other adjustments to get the proper exposure.

Sports Photography Tips and Tricks

  • Don’t forget the all-important un-obtrusive background. Try to shoot with a wide aperture and avoid cropping in, as this will tend to get you a better shot and keep you from having to zoom your lens in too far.
  • Try different angles and points of view while shooting sports. Try getting up high or down low, or try shooting from the side. Try getting shots from right behind the goal posts or in front of them if you can get close enough. You never know which of these shots will turn out to be a great one for your collection.
  • A good way to get close-ups of players with a telephoto lens is to shoot from the side and zoom in as much as possible. If you have a long focal length lens (like a 300mm or 400mm), try shooting at f/2.8, which will give you more depth of field and allow you to get closer without losing focus on the subject.
  • When shooting sports, try to anticipate the action. Anticipate plays before they happen and get ready to shoot. Learn what you can about the sport before you shoot and know how a play is supposed to work. This can help you be ready when the moment comes.
  • Experiment with different shutter speeds, different distances from the field of play, and various points of view. Try getting in close for great details or using a telephoto lens for more of a sense of the full action on the field.

How much does a sports photographer make?

If you’ve ever seen an action sports event, then you know that the adrenaline is surging and the money is pouring in. An action sports photographer can make big bucks by capturing a few seconds of that live action on film.

An experienced sports photographer can earn up to six figures annually, but earning money requires experience and notoriety in the field.

Remember that like any profession, a career in photography requires hard work and dedication.

What skills are needed to be a sports photographer?

Sports photographers need to be in great physical condition as they are often running around on the sidelines or in the bleachers, shooting game after game. Sports photographers must also be very physically coordinated and usually have a background in sports activities themselves.

What colleges and universities offer degrees in sports photography?

Many colleges and universities offer degrees in photography, but there aren’t many that specialize specifically in sports photography.

How much should I charge for sports photography?

Photographers should consider what they can actually capture, what equipment they have on hand, how much time they have for the shoot, and what expenses are involved. If you’re shooting a game on a high school field without a tripod, you won’t be making the best return on your investment.

However, if you’re at the Super Bowl, you’ll have to charge much more for the shoot. And if it’s a big action sports event like surfing or snowboarding, then you can set your rates accordingly.


Sports photography is one of the most exciting ways to make money in the world. It’s a real talent that most people don’t possess, and it can be lucrative for anyone who has the drive to do it. However, if you’re not experienced and well versed in sports and action sports, then you may want to consider another career option.

The selection process for getting to photograph action sports events is very competitive, and you’ll have to show a lot more dedication than many other photographers. But with practice and a strong work ethic you can definitely do it.