Freeze the moment – sports photography in action

If you are new to action photography, want to gain some experience and maybe planning to build a portfolio, what can you do to take better action shots? 

Having an understanding of the elements that make-up an action shot, knowing how and when to manipulate them, will ultimately elevate your skills and capabilities to successfully capture one.

What would a true sports photographer take into consideration for making an action shot?

A sports photographer will get the shot they want as they see it, of the action they need to report on, every time. Their ability to combine the correct exposure, composition, focus, and amount of blur in the background derives from their knowledge and understanding of the elements covered.


Get familiar with your gear

First rule of photography is to know your gear like the back of your hand. At all times you will have to be on top of your game and knowing the tools you possess and would be using is an essential pre-requisite. It isn’t any different in sports photography either. Your camera, whether you own an entry-level or top of the line DLSR, has the ability to take amazing action shots.

You need to take your camera out of the Auto mode so that you get the results that you want when you push the button. First you will need to tweak the way your camera focuses, by allowing continuous focus tracking, then adjust the focus point on your camera to be focusing on the right spot. Second, set your camera to take multiple frames per second, having more options to choose from after the shoot is always better. Controlling the shutter speed and aperture so that you can blur the background or freeze action, allowing you to get the shot you foresee. And final consideration should be given to your ISO, so that it’s optimized to yield the best quality of image possible.

Lens Choice

The 18-55mm kit lens will not do. You need something with a longer focal length like the 70-300mm or anything beyond the 200mm+ range will do just fine. The longer focal range you have the better, as you get really close to action. Inherently, telephoto lenses have tendency to render blurry backgrounds, that comes in handy with action photography. You should aim at keeping the interest on your subject reducing distractions in your frame and telephoto lenses can help you achieve that.

Understand your subject

Before you can be a good sports photographer you have to be a fan of the game. Understanding the sport is the first step. Now if you don't understand the sport you are likely to be aiming in a direction that would never yield a significant capture. Your ability to read the play and anticipate the moves will ensure more unique and winning results.

Get the cream shots


ensure Great action comes from knowing the game and anticipating the moves. Let's say you are covering a soccer game. Five minutes into the game you realize that the home side striker has a tendency to make a long incisive run in to the opponent's box. You prep yourself for the next opportunity. As soon as the striker makes his next move you pan with him and make an off-center composition leaving considerable amount of negative space in the frame. Personally, i prefer the shot where the athlete has some space to travel to, making sure he/she is the main focus of the composition.

Shoot something unique

With all the action happening in front of you, you may argue that there are literally not enough time to look around. However, at time images that are off-topic can really become as they say the catch of the match. A WAG blowing a kick to a goal scorer on the pitch, a fiendly hug to an opponent player after a tackle or a section of the crowd cheering for the home side are all but off topic compositions but nevertheless interesting.

Freeze the action


This is my favorite part – freezing the action. Freezing the action means when you use a significantly fast shutter speed to stop things in mid-flight. A cyclist making a 360 ° roll while jumping over a dune, a steeplechaser jumping over an obstacle, a horse in equestrian in mid-flight over an obstacle or even a soccer striker netting the ball are dramatic moments that can only be captured when you freeze the moment. In other words you have to use a fast shutter speed and fire a number of exposure in quick succession.

And then blur the background


Blurring the background is a requirement that comes from the need to isolate a subject from the background. Normally you would want to show the background because at the end of the day that’s more attractive. But sometimes blurring can create dynamic images by suppressing anything that does not add to the image and highlighting only which is important.

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