Tips for Using a Digital Camera for Action or Sports Photos

Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)

Fast action is one of the toughest things to shoot - there are a number of issues which could make all of your shots unusable, from bad lighting to bad timing to blurry photos. Here are some tips for shooting fast action.

Face your subjects: If you have the ability to move around at your event, try to shoot from a spot where you can see your subjects face-on. If you’re at a youth soccer game, for example, you’d want to shoot from the opposing team’s side of the field. Since your child’s team is trying to score in that direction, you’ll get the photos of their faces, rather than their backs.

Avoid backlighting: If you have the option of choosing where to shoot from, find a spot that puts the sun behind you - this way your subjects won’t be masked in shadow.

Backlighting

Use a high ISO: Many photographers are afraid of the noise caused by high ISO, but sports shooters should be far more concerned about another low-light problem: blur. While additional noise detracts from photos, blur in action photos makes them completely unusable, so go with a high ISO and the resulting fast shutter speed to cut down on motion blur.

Noisy image vs. low-ISO blurry image

Start shooting before the action starts: Oftentimes with fast action, you don’t know precisely when an event will happen, and by the time it does and you click the shutter button, it may be too late. Instead of waiting for the action to happen, keep your finger on the shutter and utilize the continuous shooting mode on your camera to take a short series of shots whenever you think something may happen (for example, when someone is about to take a shot, or when two players are about to collide). By firing a burst of shots, you’ll have the entire sequence covered whether something happens or not, and you also have the advantage of picking out the best shot from the series afterward.

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