Photographing Sports & Action

Remember when you were 11 years old and the team won the championship game? If you said no, it might be because nobody was there to shoot pictures for you. Sporting events are the perfect place to capture the action as well as the emotions of family, friends and spectators. The human drama of athletic competition, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat all make for great photographic moments.

Here are a few great tips on capturing the action, as well as the drama.

horizontal rule

three racing car pictures


Use the Scene Modes.

sport mode iconSports mode is good for taking pictures of people in motion.
Read more on how to use Sports Mode.

Many cameras now include a continuous or burst mode that snaps a number of pictures in succession. You can snap off six shots with one press of the button, then pick out the best one later.

Use the image stabilization feature on your camera to correct for an unsteady hand. This is especially helpful when using the zoom lens. Use a tripod if handy or rest the camera against a steady object like a wall or railing.

horizontal rule

boy warming up with bat


boy warming up throwing a baseball


Stretch out. Take a few practice swings.

Shoot the warm-ups Not only can you get great candid shots, you'll be able to get closer to the field, become more familiar with the team and get a chance to practice capturing the action.

horizontal rule

skiiers racing down hill


Take lots of pictures. Action is one of the hardest things to capture because the timing is so critical. Even the pros take dozens of shots to get one perfect picture.

Follow the action. Pan with your camera and press the shutter button while still moving the camera. Your subject will be sharp, but the background will blur, indicating speed.

Pre-focus. Aim the camera at a spot where the action is likely to occur and press the shutter down until the focus locks. Keep looking through the viewfinder and be ready to shoot when the moment presents itself. The key is to anticipate the action and get ahead of the ball. Don't follow the ball, or you'll be too late. Sometimes a person's reaction to the action makes for a great shot too.

Pre-focusing takes practice, especially if your camera has a long shutter lag (the time between when you press the button and when the camera takes the picture). But it usually gives better results.

horizontal rule

mem playing sports


Get in the game.

Get up and move around to get a different point of view and capture the action all over the field.

Shoot along the length of the sideline, across the field into the team bench areas, from behind the crowd, into the crowd. Try different angles, low angles from the ground, higher angles from the bleachers. Shoot wide shots and closeups.

Be imaginative with the surroundings. Take pictures of hands and feet, the equipment, the scoreboard and the field before and after the game. Catch the interaction between the teams and the winning team rejoicing. Get a group shot of the entire team if you can.

Go to the pros. Get inspiration by flipping through a sports magazine to check out how they do things, then try it on the field. Practice makes perfect.

horizontal rule

images from high school football game


Tell the story.

Don't worry about trying to take a bunch of great pictures. Worry about taking a bunch of pictures that tell a great story—one with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Get the action on the field, but don't forget about the coaches, umps, spectators, concession stand workers and the stray dog in the outfield. They're all part of the experience. Start seeing the game from other points of view.

You want the people that see your pictures to say, "Wow, I wish I'd been there," instead of "Wow, look at those smiling kids in bright blue uniforms."