Sports Photography is one of the hardest disciplines to master as the subjects move rapidly, you need to be able to predict where they are going and you need good equipment. I’ll be giving you some sports photography tips over the next couple of weeks to help you get started.
Know the Sport / Anticipate the action
It’s very important to have a good understanding of the sport you are photographing, as you will be better able to follow the action and able to predict where the subjects will be next.
For sports with a goal or a net, such as Ice Hockey, Handball, Football or Basketball, you know that most of the action will take place around the goals and, the players will, most of the time, be heading towards one of the goals. If you position yourself with a clear view of the goal (or the net), you should be able to photograph shots on goals as well as shots of the goalkeeper defending their goal, sometimes in spectacular fashion!
For cycling or car races, competitors follow a predetermined course so you know where they will be during the race. You should also have an idea about how fast they will be travelling and, if you study the course, factor in the speed at which they’re travelling and the type of photo you’re after, be able to position yourself in a good spot.
Place yourself in a good position
Positioning is one of the most important elements of sports photography.
Look at where the sun is
If you are photographing outside, think about where the sun is in relation to you and to your subject and, if possible, place yourself with the sun behind you. If the subject is moving towards you, they should be in the sun, ensuring their face should be better lit.
Here are two photos taken from the same spot – the photo on the left was taken from the left side of the road and the one on the right was taken on the right side. Note how the face of the cyclist on the left is in shadow. The photo on the right is more evenly lit and the background is also better.
|Sun in front of the photographer||Sun to the side of the photographer|
Think about where you want to place yourself on the course / field
Consider the type of photo you wish to take and the gear you have available to you when you position yourself on the course or the field.
When photographing races
Races typically take place on a course. When you find a position you like, check the background for any distractions. Note the difference that moving a couple of metres did to the background of the cycling photos above.
Consider the speed at which the competitors will be moving. For fast sports, such as cycling, motorbike and car racing, photographing them on a corner might improve your chances of getting a good shot as they generally slow down to take the corner and corners can make for interesting photos especially in the case of cycling and motor racing where the riders often lean into the corner. If you are photographing a running race, speed isn’t as much of a consideration and you shouldn’t have any difficulty photographing the athletes on a straight.
When photographing other sports
For sports that are played indoors or on a playing field, think about where you can get the best shot. Think about the equipment you have and the style of photos you’d like to take.
For example if you are photographing a football game and you don’t have a zoom lens, you’ll need to get as close to the field as possible to make sure the players appear large enough in the photo.
Continuing with the football example, if you want to photograph the goalkeeper making a save, you could put yourself behind the net as this would get you close to the action however you’ll only see the goalie from the back and the net might detract from the photo. Consider photographing the goalkeeper on an angle from the side to better capture the action.
Compare the two Ice Hockey photos below – note the difference positioning makes to the photo.
Be aware of your surroundings
Look out for distractions in the background
Once you are in position to photograph, check the background for distractions or ways to improve the photo. Distracting elements include posts that appear to come out of someone’s head, a bright car or empty stands in a stadium.
Take a look at the examples below. The buildings and trees in the example on the left help illustrate the height of the skateboarder’s jump while the tree in the photo to the right doesn’t improve the photo.
Get out of the way of the competitors
Never forget that you are there to photograph a sporting event and not to participate. While you should strive to take the best photo, never get in the way of the competitors or the organisers, as that’s the best way to not get invited to the next event!
Never enter the field of play or the course without the organisers’ permission and always be aware of where the competitors are as you might find yourself in the way even if you are not on the field.
For example, if you are photographing a cycling race and you place yourself on the footpath on the inside of a corner, be very aware of where the cyclist is and be ready to quickly move out of the way as cyclists tend to lean into a corner and place themselves as close to the apex of the corner to get a faster line.
Look to include key elements in the shot
The competitor is, without doubt, the most important element in the photo however if you photograph them in isolation you run the risk of not telling the whole story. Try to include other elements of the sport in the photo.
Here are a couple examples to illustrate what I’m talking about.
There are a couple of skiing photos. While the photo on the left is pretty good, the photo on the right is better as you can see the skier brushing the gate.
|Good Photo||Better Photo|
In this Ice Hockey example, both photos show a shot on goal however the photo on the right provides more context as the puck is in the frame making it very clear that it is a shot on goal.
|Good Photo||Better Photo|
Expect the unexpected / Be ready for anything
Sporting events are full of unexpected moments. While you need a little luck to be in the right spot at the right time to capture these moments, it’s also very important to always be vigilant and be ready to shoot.
Here are a couple of examples where I was at the right spot at the right time and was able to take advantage of it.
I was moving to my next shooting position around the Formula 1 track when the Force India car braked too late and ended in the kitty litter. Fortunately I had my camera out and I was able to photograph the car leaving the trap.
This photo was taken during last year’s Tour de France. While I was fortunate enough to be in the perfect position to see Brice Feillu, from the Bretagne-Seche Environnement team, empty a bottle of water on his head to cool down, I was also ready with my camera and captured this great shot.
Next week’s blog
Ok that’s it for this week’s blog. I'll continue with this topic in a few weeks and will cover the gear you need, camera settings and a few other tips.
Have a great week!