Action Photography Tips for Sporting Events

Whether you’re looking to catch the perfect moment when the puck hits the crossbar, or the high diver goes for the most daring leap, capturing the “perfect” shot in sports photography requires preparation, timing, and a bit of luck. Here are some tips for improving your action shots.

tennis photography

Arrive Early and Cover the Entire Event

Scout it Out

Do your work on the front end, and your final photo results will improve dramatically. Arrive to the venue early in order to best gauge the light and angles (and how they’ll adjust in the next few hours), and find prime shooting locations.

volleyball photography

Behind the Scenes

Arriving early also allows you to capture the behind-the-scenes work that goes into a sporting event. Capture the look of pride on the Zamboni operator’s face when they smooth the ice one last time, or the excitement of the grounds crew raking the baseball diamond.

Atmosphere and Emotion

You can also take shots of the entire atmosphere leading up to the game. Capture faces painted in team logo colors, the happiness of kids attending what might be their first game, and other shots that showcase the role fans play in sports.

celebratory sports photography

Use the Right Equipment and Techniques

Shutter Speed and Lenses

Shooting sports requires fast reflexes and an understanding of how to capture moving subjects. You’ll want to experiment with various camera settings, knowing you’ll want at least a 1/250 shutter speed in order to get in-focus images. Multiple lenses are also ideal, as you’ll need longer lenses for capturing facial expressions, and wider lenses for an entire field. Both are crucial for showcasing the human emotion of sports and the energy of a crowd.

athlete photography


When you are shooting sports actions you want to be sure you keep taking shots even after the play is over. If the home run hitter crosses home plate, you want to not only capture them at that moment, but also the high-fives and genuine smiles they’ll show off in the dugout.

photography athletes emotions

You should also play with various techniques. One is pre-focusing, where you focus in on an area where you know the action will take place. For example, focus on first base when a ground-ball pitcher is batting as it is likely the first base person will receive some action.


Another technique is panning, where you shoot with a slower shutter speed while following the subject at a matching speed. This puts the subject (cyclists, sprinter, or hockey player) in clear focus while giving everything else a bit of motion blur.

panning in sports photography

Panning takes practice so you’ll want to experiment under different light conditions.

About the Author
Cosmin Iftodeis a photographer at Dreamstime.

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