Sports And Fast-Action Photography


Photographing athletes in action is one of the most challenging tasks in photography. The fact that the subject(s) is moving and is usually some distance away from the camera requires the use of a fast shutter speed along with a long zoom lens – a combination that typically doesn’t produce a proper exposure.

There are several things you can do to ensure that you get decent action photos however:

  • If you can afford one, you can buy one of the “fast” long zoom lenses on the market that are made specifically for sports photography. But be prepared… the good ones are very expensive, often costing several times the cost of your camera.
  • If you can get close enough to the action (for example right behind the end zone, home plate, or the basketball goal), you can use a powerful external flash to “freeze” the action and capture an image that isn’t blurred.
  • If your camera supports shooting in the “RAW” format, you can use a faster shutter speed that freezes the action and then adjust for the under-exposure later during the post-processing phase.
  • If possible, use a tripod to steady the camera so that the only motion involved in the photographic process is that of the athlete(s). If you’re photographing a sport such as track & field or auto racing where you’ll need to be able to quickly change positions, a monopod will provide much of the stability of a tripod while allowing for fast and easy movement.
  • Anticipate where the action is going to be and pre-focus on that spot. Then, when the subject(s) moves into that general area, simply make a quick final adjustment to the direction of the lens and snap the picture.