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Freezing Time: The Art of Sports Photography

From the roar of the crowd to the exhilaration of the athletes, sports possess a unique energy that captivates fans around the world. In the midst of this dynamic atmosphere, sports photographers have the extraordinary task of freezing these fleeting moments and immortalizing them through the lens of their cameras. Welcome to a world where split-second timing, technical precision and an acute understanding of the game converge to create breathtaking visual narratives – the art of sports photography.

Courtesy of Christian Wiediger

We are going to dive into the world of sports photography. We’ll be exploring techniques, challenges and tips that will help you succeed with sports photography. As someone who has shot a fair bit of sports photography when I shot my first game, I was so overwhelmed. I didn’t know where to be, what settings to use, how often to shoot and it all confused me. With this article you’ll be able to start one step ahead and know how to get your best shots.

Whether you're interested in capturing the defining moments of your favourite sport, seeking to improve your sports photography skills, or simply looking to appreciate the incredible artistry behind iconic sports images, fasten your seatbelt, adjust your focus and get ready to embark on a thrilling visual journey through the lens of sports photography.

The Camera

Inarguably, the most important object for sports photography is having a camera. That being said, if you already have a camera and you’re just getting started, don’t stress too much about having the newest and the best camera. What I learnt very quickly is that the lens makes all the difference.

When I started, I was using an 18mm - 55mm lens, which worked well for beginner level photography and I still use it because it continues to do the trick. However, my favourite lens I have used is the Canon EF 70mm - 200mm f/4L USM. When I tell you this lens changed my life, I am not exaggerating.

Courtesy of Dollar Gill

This lens has an amazing zoom that is super sharp as well. You can buy the lens with or without image stabilisation, though it is recommended to use image stabilisation (especially if you don’t want to carry around a tripod). Really when talking about this lens, the perks just continue. The only thing you can consider a negative is the price, but, if you want amazing pictures you’ll benefit from a great lens and great lenses are expensive. My advice for this one is to simply bite the bullet and save up.

To understand the cameras’ name, you need to know the following:

EF: Electronic Focus

70mm - 200mm: is the focal length which affects your zoom capability

F4:F4 is the maximum aperture of a lens ( the smaller the f number the bigger the maximum aperture)

L: Luxury series (speaks to the optical performance of the lens)

USM: Ultra-Sonic motor ( basically the cameras motor operates silently)

With all that being said, even if you know what this all means, just keep in mind it is a really good camera lens. If you don’t want to buy a lens and maybe you don’t have or want to buy a camera, you can try using your phone! Though the phone camera will not be of great quality, it’s a good way to get started with shooting. Keep in mind what kind of phone you are using when you are taking pictures on your phone.

The Editing

The editing for a lot of people is the fun part. It’s where you can use your creativity and play with many different features. Nowadays, there are a lot of ways that you can edit your photos and many different platforms you can use to achieve your desired look. Maybe you hate editing; the good news for you is there are ways to make this process a heck of a lot easier and quicker.

Something I recently learnt that will make your editing process so much easier, especially when you are making small and quick edits to a photo, is to shoot in raw and edit in photoshop. This will open its own editing file and have settings you can play with. You can also copy and paste the editing that you do which will make the process much quicker.

Courtesy of Nejc Soklic

A way to quickly edit content and get it out is to use presets! A lot of photographers will spend time editing one specific photo from a shoot then make those edits a preset and that will allow them to quickly edit the rest from that shoot. This is particularly helpful for when you’re shooting things like practice or walk-in photos in the same area and you can just create a preset that you can re-use every time you’re editing those photos. You can even extend this tip to specific arenas/spaces and use that preset whenever you’re shooting in that space!

The Platform

Many people use Adobe services and there is a reason for that, the services are good. Yes an Adobe subscription is pretty expensive, but it comes with some great tools that if you are shooting sports photography professionally, will come in handy. With an Adobe subscription (depending on which you pay for), you will be able to have access to many different platforms like Lightroom, Photoshop, Adobe Express, Premiere Pro, Premiere Rush and many more. These will all come in handy when diving into the world of photography.

If you aren’t professional yet or maybe it just isn’t in your budget to pay for Adobe, there are some free services that are comparable to Adobe that you can use (some of the features) for free!

  • PicMokey

  • VSCO

  • Krita

  • Even your IPhone settings

The Tips

The further you dive into sports photography the more you will learn! In an industry that is always changing, you will always have something new to learn and new techniques to try out. Here are some basic tips that have helped me when starting out with sports photography!

Courtesy of Gentrit Sylejmani

  • Know the sport!

    • I wasn't always shooting sports that I was super familiar with, but if you have a good understanding of the sport, it will be much easier for you to know when to take pictures and where to take pictures to get the most impactful and visually appealing shots.

  • Find unique angles

    • When you’re shooting an event, a lot of photographers will be shooting from the same space which will cause everyone to get the same pictures. To set yourself apart from the crowd and make sure you get unique shots, think of unique angles.

  • Get familiar with your camera

    • The better that you know your camera, the quicker you’ll be able to manoeuvre it the way you want to and it will make it much easier for you to get the shots that you want.

  • Set your continuous shooting mode

    • When you set your camera to a burst mode or a continuous shooting mode, it will make it much easier for you to capture the best moments and get great pictures compared to if you are shooting in a single frame setting.

  • Use auto white balance

    • Depending on your camera, your auto white balance is a super simple way to help the tones of your pictures as it will automatically adjust to the space and to the lighting.

  • Don’t only shoot pictures of the players

    • When you are shooting pictures, always make sure to get photos of the athletes. However, remember to think creatively and capture the action and emotions of other people in the arena. Turn the lens towards the coaches, officials, fans and other employees. The story goes beyond the players.

Courtesy of Connor Coyne

In conclusion, venturing into the world of sports photography offers a thrilling and rewarding experience. It requires a combination of technical skills, knowledge of the sport and creative vision to capture those captivating moments that unfold on the field, court or track.

As you progress, continue to expand your knowledge, stay up to date with the latest techniques and equipment and always seek to capture the emotions and stories beyond just the athletes on the field. From the coaches' intensity to the reactions of fans, each element contributes to the narrative of the game.

So, pack your camera, embrace the challenges and embark on a journey of freezing time, capturing the essence of sports through the art of photography. Whether you're shooting for personal enjoyment or aspiring to become a professional sports photographer, this exhilarating field will continuously provide opportunities for growth, creativity, and the chance to preserve remarkable moments for generations to come.

Edited By: Kaya Crawford

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