Get your free photography lesson plan
Get Lesson Plan
Sports Photography

12 Sports Photography Tips for Beginners

August 10, 2023 by

Imagine yourself standing on the sidelines of a thrilling sports event, camera in hand, eagerly anticipating that perfect shot.

The excitement in the air is palpable as athletes push their limits, capturing moments of athleticism, passion, and triumph.

As a beginner in sports photography, you may be wondering how to capture these action-packed moments with precision and artistry.

Fear not, for in this article, we will embark on a journey through 12 invaluable sports photography tips.

From mastering shutter speed to anticipating the decisive moment, these tips will equip you with the skills and techniques to capture the essence of sports in breathtaking images.

Get ready to freeze time, convey the spirit of competition, and immortalize athletic prowess through the lens of your camera.

Let’s dive into the world of sports photography and unlock the secrets to capturing unforgettable moments on the field, court, or track.

We’ll be covering the following topics (click on a bullet point to jump to that section):

Learn sports photography From Credible Creators
Ben Lumley
star rating
Keyword Match: 14%
Matching Content:
See More
Table of Contents

12 Sports Photography Tips

We have curated the following sports photography tips for beginners to help you get started.

1. Camera Choice

The first Sports photography equipment to consider is the camera.

Use a camera that allows you to choose the lens you need for the sport you want to photograph.

An interchangeable lens camera like a DSLR or a Mirrorless is the best option.

Choose a camera with a great ISO range, fast shutter speed, long burst speed, good buffer capacity, and a dual memory card slot.

Additionally, the camera should have a powerful autofocusing system, with advanced subject tracking.

2. Lens Choice

The lens you choose becomes an integral part of your sports photography equipment.

Most sports photos are shot from the sideline which depending on the sport can be anything between a few feet to more than 50 meters from where the action is.

Let’s say that you are covering soccer and the action is on the other side of the field. You will require a minimum of 400mm lens to be able to shoot anything of interest.

zoom lens on camera
lens choice

On the other hand, if the action is on your side of the half then even a 100mm lens will suffice depending on where the ball is on your half. Ideally, a sporting lens is a minimum of 200mm.

A great lens is the 200mm to 400mm f/4.

3. Pick a Wide-Angle Lens

I did recommend a telephoto lens as your primary lens but do also pack a secondary lens too. That secondary lens should be on your second camera.

I recommend using a wide-angle lens as your second lens.

A wide-angle lens can give you some interesting shots like action near the goal mount, a feel of the stadium or the crowd building up outside, or the post-match celebrations better than a telephoto lens will.

4. Know Your Sport

There is no way you could ever be a great sports photographer if you don’t know the sport you are trying to photograph. Let’s say that you are trying to become a cricket photographer.

Though it seems like baseball, cricket is nothing like baseball and soon you will find yourself regretting your decision. 

Therefore, before moving on to more exotic sports or sports you have very little understanding of it is recommended that you start with the sport that you understand.

5. Anticipate

Anticipation comes from knowledge and preparation. It comes from knowing the sport inside out.

Coming from somebody who loves cricket and grew up idolizing some of the best cricket photographers of all time, you must know the sports inside out.

cricket sports photography
anticipate the image

When your knowledge of the sport is great you can anticipate things those newbie sports photographers will find impossible. You will anticipate where the action will be and set up your camera to capture that.

In sports photography, it is sometimes about pre-empting rather than reacting.

6. Be Aware of What’s Happening Around You

The small viewfinder of your camera and compounded effect of the long telephoto lens means your field of view is very narrow. You can only see a tiny bit of the vast space in front of you.

And that means you are not aware of impending danger. 

tunnel vision

Let’s say that you are capturing motorsports and positioned yourself at a recommended safe distance from the racking track.

While panning a car you did not notice that another car coming from behind had veered off the track and is now coming towards you. 

Moments like this could mean the difference between life and death.

So, it is imperative that you sit in a space that also has a few other people who are not photographing the event and you can guess an impending danger from their reactions even though your eyes are fixated through the viewfinder. 

7. If New, Start Small

The best place to begin honing your skills would be the school sporting events. If you have a kid at school and he or she is part of a school team that is great.

You can always attend the games and shoot and hone your skills in the process.

8. Shoot in Aperture Priority Mode

Aperture priority mode gets you the best option for capturing the maximum number of good shots. Don’t use manual mode for shooting sports.

Neither should you use full Auto mode.

Always use the aperture priority because it lets you control the depth of field while the camera decides on the shutter speed.

Set your camera on Auto ISO because sometimes the ambient light gets too low and you don’t want your camera to use too slow a shutter speed. 

9. Use a Fast Shutter Speed

Always use the fastest shutter speed that you can shoot at. This will give you the option to get as many frames as possible in a single burst.

swimming photo fast shutter speed

Semi-professional cameras can shoot at the highest shutter speed of 1/4000 sec. Which is more than enough in most cases.

10. Use Measured Bursts of Continuous Shots

The buffer of your camera is a limited number — considering that you are not using one of the best professional cameras, to begin with. And that means if you press down the shutter release button in Continuous High mode your buffer is going to get filled up very quickly.

Instead, try to do a measured release of short bursts. Shoot and then wait for a few seconds allowing the buffer to clear by writing the images to the memory card, then shoot again.

This way even with a semi-pro camera you can get a decent number of frames. 

11. Use Auto ISO Mode

Use the Auto ISO mode along with the Aperture priority mode. In Auto ISO mode, the camera will automatically select an appropriate ISO number in case the shutter speed gets too slow.

This system prevents the use of too slow a shutter speed and in the process gets a blurry image.

12. Don’t Use the Flash

Whatever you do never use the flash, built-in, or otherwise. The last thing you would want is to blind an athlete using a flash.

In any case, it is impossible to get any effect out of using a flash at a sporting event. The action is too far away and the flash is too tiny.

What F-Stop to Use for Sports Photography?

Any aperture that gives the best combination of focus and sharpness is the aperture to go for sports photography.

If your lens can open up to f/2.8 it is not always a necessity that you shoot wide open.

The reason is, with a wide-open aperture your depth of field is going to be very shallow. Even if the hands move slightly, or the camera’s autofocusing system reacts a fraction of a second slower to the movement of the player, your focus can be off.

Shooting with a slower aperture (higher f-number) ensures you have a larger depth of field and these issues are overcome.

sports photography cycling

What is Sports Photography?

Sports photography is a genre of photography that deals with the capturing of photographs of any sport. Any sporting event is a source for sports photos and a photographer who clicks those photos is referred to as a sports photographer.

Sports photography is all about capturing the thrill of a sporting event. The action, the planning, the individual brilliance on the field, the collective effort, and the result.

Everything is a part of sports photography.

Let’s also not forget the crowd, the delirium that surrounds a sporting venue both inside and outside. It is the job of the sports photographer to capture all of it.

What Makes a Good Sports Photographer?

A good eye for detail, an exceptionally fast pair of hands, excellent hand-to-eye coordination, a deep knowledge of the sport being photographed and intuition are necessary traits to become a good sports photographer.

sports photography example

What Settings Should You Use for Sports Photography?

An important consideration is what settings should you be using for sports photography.

Above and beyond anything, sports photographers shoot at aperture priority, with Auto ISO and usually in JPEG mode. 

The reason being sports photographers are often working on a very tight schedule. They have to turn in their photos within a few minutes if not seconds of capturing them. 

With today’s social media-based content consumption, a majority of all news and updates are consumed online.

That means photographers who turn in their photos the quickest can get their publication to be the first to publish an important photo of a sporting moment. 

Photographers don’t get the time to edit those photos like photographers from other genres do and that is why shooting in RAW makes no sense.

Most semi-professional cameras will slow down when continuously shooting in large fine RAW frames. Unless you are using something like the Canon EOS 1Dx Mark III or the Nikon D5 you will find it difficult to shoot in RAW  and at the same time shoot a large number of frames.

Please note a larger number of frames allows you to choose the best shot.

When shooting in RAW you won’t have too many shots to choose from unless you are using cameras in the same category as named above.

How to Photograph Sports

sports photography tips

Mastering sports photography takes practice and patience. Here are 5 steps to get started photographing sports.


  • Telephoto Lens
  • Tripod or Monopod
  • Extra Batteries and Memory Cards
  • Camera Bag
  • Lens Cleaning Kit
  • Editing Software


  1. Choose the Right Equipment: Select a camera with a fast burst rate and good autofocus performance to capture fast-paced action. A DSLR or mirrorless camera paired with a telephoto lens (e.g., 70-200mm or 300mm) will provide the reach and versatility needed to capture sports subjects from a distance.
  2. Understand the Sport: Familiarize yourself with the sport you're photographing. Study the rules, key moments, and player positions to anticipate action and capture impactful shots. This knowledge will help you anticipate the right moments and position yourself strategically.
  3. Use a Fast Shutter Speed: Set your camera to a fast shutter speed to freeze the action and avoid motion blur. Start with a minimum of 1/1000th of a second, adjusting it based on the speed of the subject and lighting conditions. High shutter speeds help capture sharp and decisive moments in sports photography.
  4. Select an Appropriate Aperture: Choose the right aperture setting to control the depth of field. A wider aperture (lower f-number) like f/2.8 or f/4 will create a shallow depth of field, isolating the subject and blurring the background. This can emphasize the athlete and add a sense of focus and drama to the image.
  5. Optimize Autofocus Settings: Configure your camera's autofocus settings for sports photography. Use continuous autofocus (AI Servo for Canon or AF-C for Nikon) to track moving subjects. Set your camera to its highest focus point selection mode, enabling you to maintain focus on the subject as it moves across the frame.

Final Remarks

Sports photography isn’t rocket science. It is just about knowing your sport and knowing how to get the best out of your camera.

To be successful as a sports photographer, you have to practice a lot, and then after each game analyze the shots you have taken and compare them with professional shots taken by pro sports photographers. It is a learning process and you will only get better with time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What shutter setting for sports photography?

In sports photography, it is recommended to use a fast shutter speed to freeze the action and capture sharp, crisp images. Typically, a shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second or faster is ideal for capturing fast-moving subjects and ensuring they appear sharp and in focus.

What is a good ISO for taking pictures of sports?

When photographing sports, it is often necessary to use a higher ISO setting to ensure faster shutter speeds and maintain proper exposure. The specific ISO value will depend on the available light conditions, but it is common to use ISO settings in the range of 800-1600 or even higher in low-light situations to achieve the desired results without introducing excessive noise into the images.

What are the big three in sports photography?

The “big three” in sports photography refer to three key factors: Shutter speed, Aperture, and ISO. Shutter speed is crucial for freezing action, aperture determines the depth of field and focusing capabilities, and ISO controls the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor to light. Balancing these three elements effectively is essential for capturing dynamic and impactful sports photographs.