Capturing the adrenaline, excitement and anticipation of the world’s various sporting events on camera, is a unique buzz that many sports photographers are lucky to experience.
A successful career in the sports event photography niche will deliver heaps of amazing experiences quite unlike anything else. Although it can take a lot of hard work and determination, if you have a passion for sports and a love of photography, this is a niche you should certainly consider.
We’ve been speaking to some of the best UK sports photographers in the field, to hear all about their careers and to see what words of wisdom they had for sports photography beginners. Find out what they had to say in their individual interviews.
Unlike some other photography niches, sports photography tends to remain as one photography type, rather than having specific areas within it. That being said, there are three key elements to sports photography that every photographer in the niche should aim to portray in their images – action, emotion and graphical.
This is what you’ll likely see in the majority of sports photography. Action photography focuses on the shots, the saves, the tackles and the winning result of the sport. Capturing quality action photography requires you to have a good understanding of the game in question and what to expect as it progresses.
These images put the focus on the smaller details of a sporting event which can build on your story by adding additional elements to it. From the faces of players when the focus is elsewhere to a unique moment when all the players and their kit are aligned – any shot that will add a unique twist to your story can be classed as graphical sports photography.
Effectively telling the story of a great sporting moment requires much more than the action alone. By capturing moments of joy, frustration, celebration, anger and relief across the players or athletes’ faces, your photography will deliver a sporting story that shows the emotions felt throughout the event.
The earlier photography methods weren’t quite cut out to capture the actions shots that make up the majority of sports photography today. Exposure times were rather lengthy, which meant that the subjects had to remain still for quite some time in order to capture an in-focus image. It wasn’t until the 1930s that shutter speed increased, allowing for shorter exposure times which enabled photographers to capture this popular action shots from sports.
As with most things, photography technology has certainly improved since its early days, and this has allowed many more individuals to pursue a career in sports photography. The cameras and equipment of today can easily capture a quality image of even the fastest of actions. This can be seen in some of the memorable sports photography taken today, including the iconic Usain Bolt image captured by Cameron Spencer.
There have been concerns about the future of photojournalism and its counterparts, including sports photography, what with the likes of social media now playing a part in reporting on worldwide events. Yet on the other hand, sports photography is currently one of the most demanding and sought after niches to get involved in, so what does all of this mean for the future of this photography area?
Even if the demand for photojournalistic sports photography does lessen, the need for quality sports photographers for branding and advertising projects is certainly set to increase. With competition within the market increasing, it’s never been more important for brands within the sports industry to set themselves apart from the competition. High-quality, unique and inspirational sports photography is a surefire way to achieve this, so we’re expecting this nice to continue to grow with the modern times.
The best cameras for sports photography, to be able to capture high-quality sports photography images with, are any good DSLR cameras that have a quick autofocus and burst rates of at least 8 fps or more.
The Canon EOS 7D II DSLR and the Nikon D500 DX-Format DSLR are firm favourites with professional sports photographers, each of which offers up to 10 fps and fantastic autofocus.
Shots from different perspectives are essential to a quality sports photography portfolio. Invest in a small footprint tripod that will allow you change your angles whilst providing that much-needed support to capture crystal clear images.
Interchangeable lenses play an important role in capturing a variety of different sports photography shots. When you’re on the sidelines, you’ll want a couple a lenses that will allow you to reach close up or further away as and when you need to. The best lenses for sports photography to begin with, are ones that range from 70-300mm. You can then look to expand your collection as you go.
You might find yourself needing to be in two places at once when it comes to shooting those all-important scenes in sports photography, which is where remote cameras can come in handy. Make use of these devices with remote shutter release devices, to capture images in more than one place at once, or when you might struggle to remain in the same place as the camera itself, such as when you want to photography up high or from a hard to reach nook.
Other than a quality photography kit and a love of sports, there are a number of skills and traits to pay close attention to when pursuing a career in sports photography or when looking for how to improve your sports photography:
Knowing how to pre-plan and organise ahead of your shoots – it’s all in the details
Being able to spot unique opportunities and angles as well as the more obvious scenes
Creating a story of the game in your mind and know how to capture it
Being on the ball, every second of every minute of the game – otherwise, you run the risk of missing out on an incredible photography opportunity
Knowing the focus of each of your images – whether it’s the player, the ball or the background noise, for example
Patience – don’t be tempted to check every image as soon as you’ve taken it and keep calm as you wait for upcoming opportunities that may suddenly present themselves
There’s so much more to sports photography than good photography skills and a love of sports. If you’re looking for how to get into sports photography, begin by developing your skills and bringing them together with your passion for the game, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a successful sports photographer.