There are many disciplines of photography that require a certain technique to get the best out of it. Sports photography is one that requires quick reflexes, confidence in your camera equipment and knowing what settings you can use quickly to capture the fast pace of what you are taking pictures of.
I had the chance recently to take pictures of a football match between two teams from work. I wanted to use the opportunity to not only gain experience in this area, but also see if I could capture some images that my colleagues a work would be pleased with.
The first thing about sports photography is that you need to have reliable equipment. Spare batteries (fully charged) and plenty of space on several memory cards. Due to the fast pace of sports you are likely to take lots of pictures.
Equipment wise, well the press photographers you see at sporting events have big lenses for a reason. You need a fast lens. By fast I mean a wide aperture allowing you to use fast shutter speeds to freeze the action. The other good thing about using a wide aperture is that you can use a narrow depth of field which makes sure any distracting backgrounds, like advertising boards, are blurred out as much as possible while keeping the subject of the shot sharp.
Other important equipment features would be a camera body that has a fast continuous shooting speed. Several frames a second will allow you to fire off rapid bursts of 4 or 5 frames giving you more chance of capturing that magic moment like a goal (as above) or another event that people may want to see again.
Another important bit of kit is warm clothes. In the winter at open grounds like football pitches the wind and the cold can soon make your hands go numb which makes taking pictures and adjusting settings all the more difficult. So wrap up warm!
So, you have the equipment, but it’s not just a case of pointing and firing off lots of shots. The key to producing great sports photos is to be able to read the action so you can better predict what is about to happen and be ready for it. Just like wildlife photography, where knowing your subjects behaviour gives you a much better chance of a great photo opportunity, knowing at least the basics of the rules of the sport you are watching, knowing which are the players who are more likely to provide you with the action shots and knowing what position on the pitch, track, court etc will give you the best opportunity to get a good shot.
For instance on a bright day, part of the football pitch might be over shadowed by the stands, making it darker. This means you might not be able to use as fast a shutter speed to freeze the action when the action is going on on that side of the pitch.
If there are crowds watching, there is a good chance they might be wearing the teams colours which will mean the players might blend in more with the background, so maybe a slightly higher view point for you pictures will help minimise that.
If your lens has a limited zoom range, you may not be able to get clear shots in certain places. Whether the action is too close or too far away, it might mean you have to accept you might miss some shots. So position yourself to reduce this as much as possible and give yourself the most coverage you can.
The good thing about sports photography, depending on what the sport is of course, is that you are likely to gets lots of opportunities during the game to take pictures. This gives you lots of practise to help perfect your technique. I really would advise you to go along to a local match and see what sort of shots you come back with. You never know, the players may even want to buy a print or two off you if you’ve captured their goal!