Sports Photography Tips

Most of the time, good quality shots are rare. Why? Because not everyone has the time to be at the event on a regular basis to capture the unique action shot that will stand out from the rest. Adding further hardship to capturing good sports shots is the position you are able to get at the event. Lets face it, no one likes a 7ft basketballer bouncing up and down in jubilation on our camera bag while we are distracted with other things. Being too far away is also a problem, there’s only so much a lens can do if you want true quality.

If you manage to get close at a big game or indeed be fortunate enough to get a press pass, remember that the other photographers have also worked hard to get there as well. Show some consideration and you’ll get some in return. If you are forced to remain in the stands, get as close to the action as possible. It will make a difference believe me!

You will take better quality sports photos if you familiarise yourself with the sport first. It’s important to know when that special moment is about to occur or when it is most likely to occur. Find out what the fans like to see most. Is it first off the block in swimming? Is it shooting a goal while still off the ground in basketball? Always position yourself accordingly. Try to figure out what will be behind the player when you take your shots – this always improves the outcome!

There’s much more emphasis on timing with sports or indeed any kind of action photography. Your response and preparation for that crucial moment is paramount. Yes, the right place is important, so is the timing but execution is equally important. Sure, there are unpredictable moments but you’ll become better at preempting them with practice.

Someone said that if you see the action, you missed the action – I’ll bet it was a photographer who said it! You need everything ready to go at the time of play. This includes a rough idea of distance, lighting issues and more important, your own personal preparation for taking the shot. Almost a split second before it actually takes place.

In sports photography it is more often the photographer not the camera that is important. Remember that! You will need to have good equipment, don’t misunderstand me. However, the really good shots are not luck coming your way. You should strongly consider a 85mm lens, a 135mm lens and perhaps a 200-300mm lens for end of court or field shots. With soccer, baseball, surfing, cricket and rugby a 300-400mm is definitely needed.

Cutting Through The Red Tape


As stock photographers, it’s rare that we can get our pictures without first having to get permission from someone. Security is getting tighter and tighter in many sectors, and it’s sometimes understandable that because of past abuses — or the increase in population — it’s necessary to screen who takes pictures of what. You’ll encounter officials in many forms: gate keepers, receptionists, policemen, bureaucrats, teachers, secretaries, security guards. You’ll even encounter unofficial officials: janitors, ticket takers, bystanders, relatives of officials, etc. But no matter who presents her/himself as an ‘official’ (barrier) to your picture-taking, handle them with care and allot an amount of time that you sense will appease their “need” to detain you.

One of the easiest officials-eliminators is the “I need your help” statement. In the case of the football gate attendant, you say, “Could you help me? I need to get a picture of the kick-off (you look at your watch) for _______ (your assignment or name of publication) — could you tell me the quickest way to the 50-yard line?”

If an official wants to know something about you — why you’re here, what the pictures will be used for [incidentally – here’s the answer for that one: “I represent the John Doe Stock Photo Agency — and I’m John Doe — these pictures go into my on-line gallery of over 3,000 stock photos — they’re used in magazines, books, posters, calendars, textbooks, you name it! “-(smile)] — explain everything to the official, the same as you would to the corporation executive you might be planning to photograph. Often, secretaries will know more about the schedule, commitments, etc. of the boss, than he or she does. Also, it’s wise to cultivate officials who could have access to information helpful to your picture-taking assignment.

When you encounter an official who isn’t cooperative — try offering to give him/her a copy of the picture you’re going to take. But don’t take his/her name on a piece of paper. Such papers either get lost or add to your office work. Instead, offer him your business card and say, “Here’s my address. Write or e-mail me in about two weeks – the picture will be processed by then.” Experience predicts you’ll never hear from him/her.


Should you carry a press card? For large, important events, written permission from headquarters is your best introduction to onsite officials (headquarters usually issues its own press cards, letters of introduction, tags, stickers, etc.). But for the 999 other events you’ll attend, officials don’t ask for a press card — if you’re carrying two or more cameras (around your neck), that’s official enough for them. If you don’t have extra cameras, buy a couple professional-looking (inoperative) ones at a flea market. They’ll be your passport to most any public event you want to photograph.

So if in the past you’ve found “officials” to be resistant — try the “handle-with-care” method. However, there’s an exception: If an official demands: “Wait over there; fill out this form; stand in line; I’ll put you on ‘hold’; I have to check with my boss first;” — then take a different approach: try a different official. In the case of the football gate attendant — if he were uncooperative — walk away, find another gate. In the case of an uncooperative receptionist — wait ’til she goes on coffee break, or lunch. The replacement might be more cooperative ( or you might figure out a better approach). If you carry a cell phone, get the name and number of the CEO. Generally you can get instant permission if your assignment is for a publication that has widespread influence in his/her trade area.

Organize Digital Photos

Archive Originals

Right after downloading your photos, it’s a good idea to burn them to CD or DVD. This prevents you from accidentally overwriting an original image. You can always go back to your disk to retrieve it. To save space you can keep adding new images until the disk is full. Be sure to label the CD with the year and note the contents whenever you add new pictures.

Delete Unnecessary Photos

After you’ve archived the original images to disk, review your downloaded images and purge unwanted shots. Delete badly exposed images, duplicates, out-of-focus shots, etc. If some are a little over or under exposed you can generally adjust them with your photo software, so unless you have a better version of an image, you may want to keep some of the so-so shots and fix them.

Name Your Images

Create a new subfolder to My Pictures whenever you download new photos. Don’t just dump them all into My Pictures. There are several methods for naming and structuring your folders. I like to organize my folders chronologically and put all photos for a particular year into subfolders under that particular year. Other people like to group their pictures by topic, such as Vacations, School, Sports, Baby, Wedding, Family, etc.

Tag Images

To help you find photos of specific subjects, you can use your photo album software to tag images with keywords. They can have a variety of attributes such as date, place, occasion, and person. For instance, you could label a picture of your daughter Kathy at her 10th birthday party at the zoo using the keywords Kathy, 10, birthday, zoo and then be able to search for all images with these tags, no matter where they are on your hard drive. This is a huge timesaver in helping you find favorite pictures. Initially it can be quite time-consuming to tag photos, but most software will let you batch label a group of photos with the same keywords. This greatly speeds the process.

Shooting the Perfect Headshot

The best headshots are usually produced with a simple neutral color backgrounds, beige to off-white are best for models with fair complexions. Dark backgrounds or various shades of red are frowned upon are reds have a tendency to ‘bleed’ and dark backgrounds appear to make the model look pale, even jaundice looking. Portraits are usually vertical rectangles but not always, if the image of the face is complimented by the background, or used for ‘artistic’ effects, then landscape images are acceptable.

D’ shot? That killer portrait than makes you appear to be a queen? Here are a virtual cornucopia of variables and myriad of stages that going to making the perfect head shot. Let’s take a look at some of shall we?

Location, location, location! Are you a nature buff or a studio connoisseur? True, most ‘headshots’ are performed in studios with appropriate backdrops. Not all photographers are the same when it comes to the ‘portrait’ shot. Sometime it will require taking a model into a grass laden field or wooded areas; then taking a wide selection of angles with veritable lenses; from full body to portrait . But never shooting between the hours of 11 and 2 in strong sunlight.

Experiment, experiment, experiment. Try shooting some shots with foreground objects such as models hiding behind strands of wheat, hugging a tree or other objects. Shoot below trees were the sunlight just trickles through the branches, leaving you with natural lighting, highlights and shades. Try Black and white images for the antique look.

What about the camera? There are two different format; digital and film.

In my opinion;

· a good brand of film

· a professional camera with appropriate settings

· proper lighting

· excellent film processing

can put most digital cameras to shame. Or so it used to be, with the onslaught of new technology, and more high tech gadgetry, film is slowly losing the battle.

But lets try to stay focused here…

So we talked about cameras, digital or traditional. Highlights, mid-tones and shadows. The makeup type of camera, f-stop settings, film or digital, and backdrops, you name it, it all plays a part in the perfect headshot