Photographer Frank Myrland has put together some of the most important sports photography tips, in his article over at Digital Photography School.
No matter what type of sports you’re into, there’s always going to be a lot of movement. Following these tips and practicing a lot will soon take your sports photography on a whole new level.
Freezing the action
If you want to freeze the action in a photo, you’ll need to use to choose a fast shutter speed. But, how fast does it need to be? Well, that depends on the sport. 1/250th of a second should be enough to freeze kids playing soccer, but you’ll need to go a lot faster if you want to capture a baseball in mid-flight. Experiment and find what shutter speed you need to use in order to produce sharp images.
On the other hand, you can also experiment with slowing down the shutter speed and panning your camera throughout the picture to create a sense of speed and movement. It takes a bit of practice to get right, but if you match the speed of your subject, you can hold them in focus while the directional blur emphasizes the sense of movement.
Whenever possible, you will want to use a wide aperture, such as f/3.5 or lower. This will create a narrow depth-of-field, and helps the players to stand out, as the background distractions will be blurred.
Pick your spots
When you first arrive at the field, arena, gym or track, consider all of your potential angles and options. Your options will be different depending on whether you have a short or a long zoom lens.
For many sports, you won’t be able to cover every angle. Getting up close with a wide-angle lens means you won’t be able to capture plays on the other side of the field. While using a long zoom means you may struggle to capture play right in front of you.
Find the “sweet spots” – the places on the field of play which are the perfect distance away for your camera and lens combination. You’re going to get your best images when the play is in these areas. Rather than trying to get an incredible picture when play is far away on the other side of the field, be patient and prepare so that you make the most out of every opportunity when play is in your sweet spots.
Risks sometimes pay off
If you have trouble following the play, it definitely is an option to play it safe by taking a wider shot and then cropping in closer afterward. But by taking a high risk, high reward approach to composition will result in some magnificent images!
Another reason to use zoom: To capture expressions!
The most memorable sports shots show faces full of emotion – whether that is the joy of the game, the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.
Timing is everything
There seems to be a furious competition between manufacturers to see who can make a camera that takes the most images per second.
Burst mode is an incredibly useful tool for sports photography, but all too often it can be a crutch. Just because you can take 10 pictures in one second doesn’t mean you should.
Having the ability to take pictures in bursts should be secondary to anticipating the action. Understanding of the game and having a sense for what is going to happen next is more important than burst mode in every case. If you return from every event with thousands of pictures, all taken a fraction of a second apart, it’s going to be a strenuous job of sorting and finding the keepers.
Hitting your focus
Having the perfect settings, composition and timing won’t count for anything if you miss your focus.
With the possibility for spectators, colourful advertisements, and other players in the background of your images, your camera’s focus might wander and lock onto the wrong target.
For sports photography especially, you might want to consider using back button focus. With this method, your focus is controlled by a button on the back of your camera, which you can reach with your thumb. The shutter button doesn’t influence the focus at all.
Bonus tips and tricks
If you are photographing a car race or a long jump event, it can be a real challenge to track your subject in action. A fast moving car or runner isn’t an easy target for a lot of cameras.
One surefire way to hit your focus even under these tricky conditions is to prefocus. When using this technique, you pick a spot somewhere ahead on the track to carefully set your focus. Then, when your subject comes through, you simply snap the picture and voila!
Source: Digital Photography School