Capture the Action: A Complete Guide to Sports Photography

sports team photograpy

Do you have a passion for sports team photography? Have you ever wondered how to capture the best moments in sports? If so, you’re in luck! This blog post will provide a comprehensive guide to sports photography, including the history of sports photography and practical tips to take stunning photographs. By the end of this guide, you’ll be able to take photos that truly capture the action and tell a story. So, let’s get started!

The History Of Sports Photography

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Gear and Equipment for Sports Photography

When it comes to capturing the action of sports team photography, having the right gear and equipment is crucial. Here are some of the essential items to consider:

Lenses – A telephoto lens is the go-to choice for sports photography. It allows you to get close to the action without being on the field or in court. A lens with a wide aperture, such as f/2.8 or lower, will also help you capture fast-moving subjects with a sharp focus.

Tripod – While not always necessary, a sturdy tripod can help you keep your camera stable and avoid blurry shots.

sport team photography tripod

Gitzo Traveler Series 1 Carbon Fiber Tripod

Perfectly fit a7 and a9, increasing grip and stability

Exquisite new high-appeal look and feel with distinctive design

Ergonomic strap made of genuine Italian leather included

Memory Cards – Sports photography involves shooting a lot of photos, so you’ll need plenty of memory cards. It’s a good idea to have a backup card on hand, just in case.

Battery Packs – Again, shooting sports requires a lot of shots, so make sure you have plenty of battery packs on hand to keep your camera powered up throughout the game.

Camera Bag – A sturdy camera bag can help protect your gear and make it easy to carry all your equipment to the shoot.

sport team photography backpack

Peak Design Everyday Backpack V2

VERSATILE DESIGN: Customizable internal dividers make this bag ideal for everyday, camera, and laptop carry.

SIDE + TOP ACCESS: Access from top via MagLatch, plus dual side zips. Never dig through your bag again.

EXPANDABLE CAPACITY: 8L of internal expansion, plus 4 hidden straps for carrying items on bag exterior.

When it comes to sports photography, having the right gear can make all the difference. Make sure you invest in high-quality equipment that will help you capture the action with ease.

Top 3 Cameras For Sport Photography

If you want to capture the action of sports photography, having the right equipment is crucial. The camera you choose can make all the difference in the quality of your photos. So, which cameras are the best for sports photography?

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III:
The Canon EOS-1D X Mark III is a professional-grade DSLR camera that is perfect for sports photography. It has a fast frame rate, allowing you to capture the action with ease. The autofocus is also top-notch, so you can be sure that your photos will be sharp and in focus. With the right camera settings for sports photography, you can easily capture the fast-paced movements of your subjects. Thanks to its ability to capture multiple shots this camera is great for sport photography.

sport team photography canon

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

High Image Quality with New 20. 1 Megapixel Full-frame CMOS Sensor Combined with Newly Designed low Pass Filter.

New DIGIC X Image Processor with an ISO range of 100-102400; Expandable to 50-819200*.

New 191-point AF System Capable of Tracking the Subjects Head and Face using Deep Learning Technology.

Nikon D6:
The Nikon D6 is another professional-grade DSLR camera that is great for sports photography. It has a fast autofocus system that allows you to track moving subjects with ease. The frame rate is also impressive, allowing you to capture fast-paced action without missing a beat. This camera is perfect for capturing sports team photography, as it can capture multiple shots in a short amount of time.

sports team photography nikon

Nikon D6

EXPEED 6 Image Processor; 105-Point All Cross-Type Multi-CAM 37K Autofocus System; Scene Recognition System and Exposure Metering

Sony Alpha A9 II:
The Sony Alpha A9 II is a mirrorless camera that is great for sports photography. It has a fast autofocus system that can track moving subjects with ease. The frame rate is also impressive, allowing you to capture fast-paced action without missing a beat. With the right camera settings for sports photography, you can capture stunning photos of your subjects in motion. This camera is also great for sports team photography, as it can capture multiple shots in a short amount of time.

sport team photograpy sony

Sony Alpha A9 II

Compact professional cameras mastered for sports photography and photojournalism

Fastest 35mm full-frame 24. 2MP stacked Exmore RS CMOS sensor with integrated memory

Up to 20fps at full resolution with 60 AF/AE tracking calculations per second

When choosing a camera for sports photography, it’s important to consider the autofocus system, frame rate, and overall image quality. With any of these three cameras, you can be sure that you’ll be able to capture the action and get stunning photos of your subjects. Remember to use the best camera settings for sports photography to get the best results possible.

Lenses For Sport Photography

Telephoto Lens – A telephoto lens is essential for capturing distant action shots, such as athletes running down a field or making a goal. A good telephoto lens will allow you to zoom in on the action and capture every detail of the athletes’ movements. Look for a lens with a focal length of at least 200mm to ensure you can get close enough to the action.

sports team photography canon

Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM

Compact and lightweight.

Optical image stabilization with up to 5 Stops of shake correction

Wide Angle Lens – While telephoto lenses are great for capturing close-ups of individual athletes, a wide-angle lens is perfect for capturing group shots and larger scenes, such as a stadium full of fans. A good wide-angle lens will allow you to capture the entire scene while still maintaining sharpness and clarity.

Prime Lens – A prime lens is a fixed focal length lens that does not zoom but offers excellent image quality and a wider aperture than most zoom lenses. This makes them perfect for low-light conditions, such as shooting indoor sports or night games. A prime lens with a focal length of 50mm or higher will provide sharp and crisp images with a beautiful bokeh effect.

When choosing lenses for sports photography, it’s important to consider the type of sport you’ll be shooting and the conditions in which you’ll be shooting. Remember, the right lenses will make a huge difference in the quality of your images, so invest in quality equipment to take your sports team photography to the next level.

Preparing for a Sports Photography Shoot

Before you head out to capture those amazing moments of athletes in action, there are a few important things to consider when preparing for a sports photography shoot:

Firstly, research the sports team photography you’ll be shooting and learn about the players and the game itself. This can help you anticipate the action and prepare yourself for capturing those crucial moments.

Next, ensure that you have all the necessary gear and equipment for sports photography, including a camera body, lenses, memory cards, batteries, and a tripod. Make sure that everything is fully charged, and have backups just in case. It’s also essential to dress appropriately for the event. You’ll be moving around a lot, so wear comfortable shoes and clothing that allows you to move freely and quickly.

Another crucial aspect to consider is the location of the shoot. Arrive early and scout out the best vantage points, taking into account the light conditions and potential obstructions. It’s also a good idea to get to know the staff and security at the venue to avoid any problems.

Lastly, always have a plan in mind. Think about what you want to capture and how you can achieve it. Be prepared to adapt and adjust your plan on the fly as the game progresses, but having a starting point will help you to stay focused and efficient during the shoot. With these preparation tips in mind, you’ll be ready to capture stunning sports photography that truly showcases the beauty and intensity of the game.

Shooting Techniques and Settings for Sports Photography

Capturing great sports photographs involves more than just pressing the shutter button. It requires an understanding of shooting techniques and camera settings that are specifically suited for fast-paced action. Here are some of the best camera settings for sports photography.

Shutter Speed

Sports photography demands a fast shutter speed to freeze motion and prevent blurry images. A good rule of thumb is to use a shutter speed of at least 1/500th of a second for most sports. If you’re shooting a particularly fast sport like hockey or car racing, consider a shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second or faster.

A Wide Aperture

A wide aperture helps to create a shallow depth of field, which can be useful for isolating your subject from distracting backgrounds. However, be careful not to go too wide with the aperture, as this can result in a blurry image due to a narrow depth of field. A range of f/2.8 to f/5.6 is a good starting point for most sports photography.


In sports photography, you’ll often find yourself shooting in less-than-ideal lighting conditions, which means you may need to increase your ISO to get a properly exposed image. However, be mindful of noise that can be introduced when using a high ISO setting. A good practice is to start with an ISO of 400 and adjust as needed.

Autofocus System

When shooting sports, you need to have a fast and accurate autofocus system. It’s recommended to use continuous autofocus mode and to select a single autofocus point to ensure your camera stays locked onto your subject.

Burst Mode

Sports photography often involves capturing moments of action, so using burst mode can help you capture a series of images quickly and efficiently. Make sure you have a fast memory card to accommodate the high-speed burst rate.

White Balance

White balance is important for capturing accurate colors in your images. If you’re shooting under mixed lighting conditions, use the custom white balance setting or set your camera to auto white balance.

By adjusting your camera settings and using proper shooting techniques, you’ll be well on your way to capturing great sports photographs. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find the settings that work best for you and the sport you’re shooting.

Post-Processing Tips for Sports Photography

Correct white balance: To ensure that your images have accurate colors, you’ll want to correct the white balance. This can be done in DxO PhotoLab 6 using the Color Wheel or the White Balance tool.

sport team photography dxo

DxO PhotoLab 6

Great for detail editing

DxO PhotoLab 6 has a fantastic local adjustment toolbar that enables you to make detailed edits at high speeds.

Sharpen your images: Sports photos can benefit from being sharpened to enhance details and make the action appear more dynamic. In DxO PhotoLab 6, use the Sharpening tool to add clarity to your images.

Crop your images: If you’ve captured too much background or want to focus on a specific element of the image, cropping can help. Use the Crop tool in DxO PhotoLab 6 to adjust the composition of your images.

Remember, post-processing can only do so much. It’s important to have captured good photos with the best camera settings for sports photography in the first place. But with these post-processing tips, you can make your sports photos truly stand out.

Best Practices for Shooting Specific Sports:

Sports photography is a broad field that covers a variety of athletic events, each with its unique set of challenges and opportunities. Whether you’re photographing basketball games, football matches, or soccer tournaments, here are some best practices to help you capture stunning shots of your favorite sports:


To capture the action in basketball, position yourself under the hoop and use a telephoto lens to zoom in on the players. Try to capture the players in mid-air as they jump to make a shot, and use a fast shutter speed to freeze the action.


Football is a high-speed sport that requires a lot of action shots. To capture the excitement, position yourself near the sidelines and use a fast telephoto lens to zoom in on the players. Try to anticipate the action, and use a fast shutter speed to freeze the players’ movements.


To capture soccer games, use a telephoto lens to zoom in on the action and capture the players’ expressions. Look for opportunities to capture the ball in mid-air or the players’ emotions after scoring a goal.


Baseball games can be challenging to shoot because of the distance between the field and the stands. To capture the action, use a telephoto lens and position yourself near the bases. Look for opportunities to capture the players’ expressions and the ball in mid-air.

Track and field

To capture track and field events, use a telephoto lens and position yourself near the finish line. Look for opportunities to capture the athletes in mid-air as they jump over hurdles or clear high jumps.


To capture swimming events, position yourself at the end of the pool and use a fast shutter speed to freeze the action. Look for opportunities to capture the swimmers in mid-air as they dive into the pool or flip-turn at the wall.


Gymnastics is a challenging sport to photograph because of its fast movements and complex acrobatics. To capture the action, use a fast shutter speed and a telephoto lens to zoom in on the athletes. Look for opportunities to capture the athletes in mid-air as they perform their routines.

Dealing with Lighting Challenges in Sports Photography

Lighting can often be one of the biggest challenges when it comes to sports photography. Many sporting events take place in outdoor locations where lighting can be unpredictable and constantly changing. But fear not, as there are ways to overcome these challenges and still capture stunning sports photographs.

Understand Your Camera’s Settings:

Before shooting, it is important to understand the settings of your camera and how they can be used to work with different lighting conditions. For example, a high ISO setting can help you capture sharp, noise-free images even in low-light conditions. Additionally, using a wider aperture can help you let more light into your lens, which is especially helpful in darker conditions.

Shoot in RAW Format:

The RAW format provides greater flexibility for adjusting exposure and color balance in post-processing. Shooting in RAW format allows you to recover highlights and shadows, which can help bring out more details in the final image.

Use a Flash:

In indoor sports photography, a flash can be used to light up the scene. However, flash is often prohibited in many outdoor sports events. When allowed, be careful not to overuse the flash as it can create unwanted harsh shadows and an unnatural look.

Make Use of Natural Light:

When shooting outdoor sports events, you need to make the most of the natural light available. Keep an eye on the direction and quality of the light as it changes during the day. When the sun is too harsh, try positioning yourself so that it is behind the subject. Alternatively, you can use a reflector to bounce light onto the subject and fill in shadows.

Shoot During Golden Hour:

One of the best times for outdoor sports photography is during golden hour, which is the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. During this time, the light is warm and soft, creating beautiful tones and shadows.

By understanding your camera’s settings, using a flash appropriately, making use of natural light, and shooting during golden hour, you can capture stunning sports photographs despite the lighting challenges. Remember to always be prepared, anticipate the lighting conditions, and adapt your approach as necessary to achieve the best results.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Sports Photography

While sports photography can be exhilarating, it can also be a challenging and demanding pursuit. As with any field of photography, some common mistakes aspiring sports photographers need to avoid to produce exceptional results. Here are some mistakes to steer clear of:

Forgetting to check the camera settings before shooting

It is crucial to make sure your camera settings are correct before beginning to shoot. Many photographers make the mistake of not double-checking their settings, leading to poorly exposed or out-of-focus shots. Don’t make this mistake – take the time to set your camera up correctly and then make any necessary adjustments throughout the shoot.

Shooting from a poor angle

To capture compelling sports photos, it’s important to consider the angle you are shooting from. Avoid shooting from an obstructed view that does not allow you to capture the full action of the game. Also, consider shooting from different positions around the playing field to get varied and unique shots.

Focusing on the wrong subject

One of the common mistakes in sports photography is focusing on the wrong subject. Always make sure that you are focusing on the most critical moment of the game. For instance, during soccer, it’s usually the ball, whereas in baseball, it might be the batter, or during a basketball game, it might be the slam dunk.

Failing to anticipate the action

Sports are fast-paced, and the action can be over in a split second. To capture the most impactful shots, photographers must anticipate the action, and focus on the crucial moments in the game. The key is to study the sport you’re photographing so that you can predict when the game-changing moment will happen.

Ignoring sports team photography etiquette

Sports photography etiquette includes dressing appropriately, being courteous to players and coaches, and asking for permission before taking a photo. Follow the guidelines set by the sports team and make sure you do not interrupt the game.


Sports photography can be an incredibly rewarding and exciting field to pursue. From capturing the emotions of athletes to the adrenaline of a competitive game, there are endless opportunities to tell stories through your lens. As you dive into the world of sports photography, remember to prioritize safety, come prepared with the right gear and equipment, and develop your shooting techniques to truly capture the action. Additionally, it’s important to constantly strive for improvement in your skills and knowledge and to never stop learning. As you continue to practice and refine your craft, you’ll become more confident in your abilities and produce even more impressive and captivating sports photos. So, go out there and start capturing the action – whether it’s a local youth league game or a professional competition – and make sure to share your work with others to inspire and impress. Remember, the power of sports photography lies in its ability to convey the energy and excitement of the game, so keep pushing yourself to capture those incredible moments that make us love sports even more.

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