Sport photos: Quick and dynamic

Sport photos: Quick and dynamic

Does the term "sports photography" instantly conjure up the image of professional photographers behind the goal with their huge, super telephoto-lenses for you? The most expensive equipment is not, however, the most important thing when it comes to taking good photographs of your next sports event or children's football tournament. Read on to find out how you can optimally capture all the action, speed and emotions.

Image design and cropping

As with most photographs, the image content in sports photography is of great importance. It helps to have a basic understanding of the sport in order to find the best location to take your photos and to anticipate the movements in advance. A good sports photo can also show the emotions after the game, e.g. the winner in front of a cheering crowd or a loser set against the perceived vastness of the stadium.

Effects and techniques

It's not just the image detail that varies depending on the type of sport, but also the respective photo technology used. Thus, in fast sports such as cycling and motor sport events where panning is common, the camera bears in on its subject so that the background is blurred. With fun types of sport, e.g. beach volleyball, wide-angle or fish-eye effects prove particularly suitable, while in other sports, close-ups of frozen or cropped individuals or tackles work best. However, if you want to take really exceptional images, you're better off ignoring these standards and trying out different effects:

1. Up close

A classic, and one that can be used in almost every type of sport, is the cropping of individual objects, e.g. a tackle in ball sports. In order to blur the background so as not to divert attention away from the actual subject, the aperture should be opened as wide as possible while the shutter speed is kept as low as possible, depending on the speed of the sport. Tight editing conveys additional closeness and intensity with this type of photograph.

Sport photos: Quick and dynamic

2. Dynamic

Panning occurs in sports that have a certain degree of regularity in their movements, to a good standard. The idea is to capture the actual subject, e.g. a car, clearly in all its glory, whilst blurring the background as much as possible. This can help better convey the speed of the event being photographed. Conversely, you can use the effect with a longer shutter speed to capture the foreground or background clearly, but keep the athletes themselves in a hazy blur of colour.

3. Simple or extreme

Many sports photographers seem practically overloaded with their 300 to 400 millimetre lenses; you can do just as good a job and take fantastic shots using simple wide-angle or fisheye lenses with a focal length range of 12 to 30 mm. Using just the image size, objects can be highlighted or the background can be made appear much larger and more spacious. The prerequisite here is, naturally, proximity to the action.

Sport photos: Quick and dynamic

Safety and technology

For large events, places for photographers are usually limited and fixed. However, in the amateur and recreational fields, you can often move freely and thus get a lot closer to the action. As such, the most important rule applies to your own safety: a volleyball at close range can be very painful, especially since you'll be holding the hard camera right in front of your face. For shots that are supposed to be really close to the action, it is worth consulting with the organisers to see if you can install a camera in a fixed position and then control it remotely.


Good equipment does not automatically equal good photos. However, it is advisable to pack at least a travel zoom lens in order to cover all possible angles. In addition, the lens should – especially in sports halls or in bad weather – have as much light intensity as possible. Cheap and mid-range SLR cameras, as well as system and compact cameras, often have an automatic sports program. Provided there is enough light, the automatic system tries to work with as open an aperture as possible and the fastest possible shutter speed, which often leads to very good results. In addition, it pays to always have enough memory cards and a replacement battery in your luggage. In a 90 minute football game, more than 1,000 images will add up quickly.


It can be an advantage to know your camera equipment and its capabilities in order to search in advance for a suitable place to take pictures. Prior to the event, think about a couple of picture ideas so you can concentrate entirely on your subjects during the game itself. And don't be disappointed if the best battles take place on the other half of the pitch; instead, focus your sights on your surroundings. The audience or the coaches can also provide good sources of emotions. While mostly only a single image is displayed in newspapers, it is usually worth shooting a series of images. Charting a bad foul all the way up the reconciliation of the players can often result in fascinating series.

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