Sports photography refers to the genre of photography that covers all types of sports.
We have all at one time or another been captivated by sports images. It may be the Olympics, Tour de France, World Series Cricket, Athletics, Horse Racing, Tennis, Motorsport or Golf. We have all been captured in the moment of human drama. We all like a good action photo and, in particular, if your kids play sports, you want to remember them in their toils. Sport is about capturing action and emotion, whether that be the intense thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.
Quality sports shots are somewhat difficult to come by. Most people have limited access to events to photograph them. The further away you are from the event, the harder it becomes to capture the event in a pleasing manner. Sports are an event where crowd control is important, not only for the crowd’s safety, but for the players also. There is nothing more frightening than to be on the side-lines of a football game, focused on a play in the field, when out of the blue a monster rugby player ploughs into your legs or a foul ball comes crashing towards your R220 000 lens!
Location, Location, Location!
You can only photograph things you can see. The closer you are to someone, the better you can see them. Sports and action are no different. You have to get as close to what you are shooting as you can. Typically, for a photographer with a press or media pass, you can get to the pit lanes, side-lines or other similar locations. You generally will not be permitted on the playing field. Depending on the sport, you most likely will be limited to designated locations. For most people, the situation is even worse. You probably don’t have press access and are stuck in the stands for your shots. Get as close as possible. Even if you make it to the side-lines, you will be jostling for space with many other photographers, both still and video who have worked hard to get there and have the same job to do that you have.
Be Familiar With The Sport and Action You Capturing
You also have to be familiar with the sport to be able to capture the moment. This means knowing where to position yourself for the best action. This is critical because of angular momentum. Not only does it matter with the subject, but the background. Look at what is going to be behind your subject. While we will try to minimize the impact that a background has, it will still be unavoidable. So, you need to position yourself where the background is the most pleasing.
Don’t Miss The Face
No matter what action you are going to shoot, you need to predict where you can be to capture the face of the subject. Capturing the expression on the face of the subject will add much more drama to the photo.
The Decisive Moment
Sports and Action photography is all about timing. It’s about reacting. It is about being in the right place at the right time and it is about execution. These are all qualities of the athlete and those of the photographer as well. Each sport has predictable and unpredictable moments. By “Knowing your Sport”, you will learn about these moments for individual sports. For instance, in basketball, you will have opportunities to photograph layups, jump shots, free throws, etc. Understanding the timing of these predictable actions allows you to capture the peak moment, when the action is most dramatic.
By knowing these moments, you can anticipate the action. This helps in two ways, one it helps you with focus, and secondly it helps you snap the shutter at the right time. The saying goes “If you see the action you missed it.” This basically means if you wait for the soccer player to head the ball then press the shutter release, the ball most likely will be sailing out of the frame. You have to push the button before the action so that the mirror has time to flip out of the way and the shutter open and close. There is a delay between the image hitting your optical nerve and the shutter closing. You have to, through experience, learn what that time is and adjust for it. Shoot in continuous high mode and use back button focusing for a better success rate at achieving keeper images.
Give The Subject Space To Move
For fast-moving subjects, the best composition is usually to allow some space on the side of the photo where they are traveling towards
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All images are © Craig Fouché Photography unless otherwise noted.