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.