two man snowboarding Photo by Colin Lloyd on Unsplash

A Beginner's Guide to Sports Photography: Best Gear | 8 Practical Tips

December 6, 2022

Have you ever seen a sports photo and wondered how the photographer captured such an amazing shot? If you're new to sports photography, it can be a bit overwhelming to figure out all the gear and settings you need to get started. But don't worry; we're here to help. In this beginner's guide to sports photography, we'll give you some practical tips on what gear to use and how to get started.

What is Sports Photography?

Sports photography is a genre of photography that captures sporting events and athletes in action. Photographing sports can be extremely challenging because the action is often fast-paced and unpredictable. To be a successful sports photographer, you need to have quick reflexes and anticipate where the action will happen. You also need to understand the sport you're photographing so that you know when and where to position yourself to get the best possible shots.

Gear for Sports Photoshoot

Best Camera

The best camera for sports photography must meet certain criteria. A high frame rate is important to capture the action, and a good autofocus system is key to keeping the subject sharp. A fast, good zoom or telephoto lens is also necessary, as is a camera body that can stand up to the rigors of outdoor use. The camera ought to have a suitable high shutter speed to freeze the action and a good ISO range to allow for shooting in low-light conditions.

a girl playing rugby with uniforms

Kate Rugby American Football Match Sports Backdrop for Photography

Some examples of the best camera include:

  • Canon EOS-1D X Mark III
  • Nikon D5
  • Leica S2
  • Canon EOS 90D
  • Sony A99 II
  • Leica Digilux 3
  • Sony A65
  • Pentax K-1 II

These are all high-end DSLR cameras that offer excellent performance for sports photography. They all have fast autofocus systems and can shoot at high frame rates. They also have rugged bodies that can withstand the elements.

Best Lens

The best lens for sports photography must be able to zoom in or have a long focal length, to capture the action from a distance. It must also have a fast aperture to shoot in low-light conditions. A telephoto lens is ideal, as it will allow you to get close to the action without being in the way.

Some examples of the best lenses for sports photography include:

  • Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8
  • Nikon AF-S DX 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3
  • Sony E 70-350mm f/4.5-6.3
  • Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8
  • Fujifilm XF 70-300mm f/4-5.6
  • Nikon AF-S FX 500mm f/5.6

These lenses all offer excellent performance for sports photography. They have long focal lengths that allow you to zoom in on the action and fast apertures that allow shooting in low-light conditions.

Other Essential Equipment

Other essential equipment that may be required for a sports photo shoot include an SD card, camera bag, tripod, or monopod.

professinal swimmer swiming in the pool

Photo by leah hetteberg on Unsplash

  • SD cards are important backups if the primary card fails or is lost.
  • A camera bag is important to protect the equipment and to have all the necessary items in one place.
  • A tripod or monopod is important to ensure the stability of the camera when taking long exposure or night shots.
  • A shoulder strap is important for sports photography as it helps keep the camera steady and secure while shooting. It also helps to distribute the weight of the camera and lens evenly, making it more comfortable to carry and shoot for long periods.

8 Tips to Get Stunning Sports Images

1. Use a Fast Shutter Speed

When shooting sports, it is important to use a fast shutter speed to freeze the action. A slow shutter speed will result in blurry images. Using a DSLR camera, set the shutter speed to 1/500 or higher.

2. Use a Telephoto Zoom Lens

A telephoto zoom lens will allow you to get close to the action without being in the middle. This is especially important when shooting sports such as football or basketball, where players constantly move.

3. Do Not Use On-Camera Flash

athelete line on track prepare

Photo by Chris on Unsplash

Using on-camera flash will result in flat, ugly images. If you must use flash, use an off-camera flash unit and aim it at a wall or the ceiling. This will bounce the light off the surface and create a more natural-looking image.

4. Use Continuous Autofocus

When shooting sports, it is important to use continuous autofocus. This will ensure that the camera constantly focuses on the subject, even if they are moving around. To use continuous autofocus, half-press the shutter button, and the camera will begin to focus. Once the subject is in focus, the camera will continue to adjust the focus as they move.

5. Keep Your Back to the Sun

When shooting outdoors, keeping your back to the sun is important. This will prevent the sun from shining directly into your lens and causing flares. If you must shoot with the sun in front of you, use a lens hood to prevent the sun from causing flares.

6. Increase Subject Sharpness

If you're shooting sports photos, you know that timing is everything. You have to be able to capture the perfect moment to get a stunning shot. But what if you could increase your chances of getting that perfect photo?  

man playing tennis

Photo by Nathanaël Desmeules on Unsplash

One way to do that is to use panning. Panning is a technique where you follow the action with your camera, keeping the subject focused while the background blurs. This gives the photo a sense of motion and makes for a stunning image.  

Of course, panning takes practice to get right. But once you get the hang of it, it's a great way to increase your chances of getting a great shot.

7. Pay Attention to What Is Going On Around You

When shooting sports, it is important to pay attention to what is happening around you. This way, you can anticipate the action and be ready to shoot. For example, pay attention to the quarterback when shooting a football game. If he is getting ready to throw the ball, you will want to be ready to shoot.

8. Analyze Your Images After the Event

two athelete racing together

Photo by leah hetteberg on Unsplash

After the event, it is important to analyze your images. This way, you can see what worked and what didn't. Look at the composition of your images and see if there is anything you could change. By analyzing your images, you will be able to improve your results next time.


Sports photography is a challenging but rewarding genre of photography. Having the right gear and knowing how to use it is important. With the tips in this guide, you will be on your way to taking stunning sports images.

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