How To Photograph Outdoor Sports – DSLR Photography 101

How To Photograph Outdoor Sports – DSLR Photography 101

This post is the fourth part of our DSLR Photography 101 series. Also check out Part 1 – It’s Not the Camera, It’s YouPart 2 – F What? Understanding F Stops and Part 3 – Be Aware of The Whole Picture: Composition.  

You don’t want to miss Becca’s goal on the pitch or Johnny’s tackle on the gridiron.

While there is nothing I can teach you about focusing (have yet to use manual focus with my D300 in almost three years), I can help you try and capture the moments you want to.

Most minor sports will allow parents on the sidelines. A medium length zoom, think 70-300 or 80-200, should allow you to fill most of your frame (viewfinder). It is harder to make the camera focus on a smaller section of the screen or action, especially when it is moving.

Unless you are tremendously talented and comfortable with your camera and lens combination, aim to fill about 75% of your frame. That gives you room to crop if you need it, while giving you plenty of resolution remaining to get a photo printed.

How To Photograph Outdoor Sports

In reality, you need less than one megapixel to have a 6×4” standard photo printed whether you do it at home or have it printed at a store. Most digital photo frames are not high resolution either.

I always shoot at maximum resolution in case I capture an exceptional image of my daughter I want to print in a large format.

But I shrink the images and email them to my family too because the six-10 megabyte images the 12-megapixel image camera produces are not email-friendly.

But I digress. Here are some tips for taking photos of outdoor sports.

Find a spot on the sidelines you like, but keep moving with the action. Follow the action so you can continually keep the frame full. I like to stay in one space for 10-15 minutes at a time. At a football or soccer game, it’s more like one sideline, behind the net or behind the endzone. Be ready to zoom or unzoom quickly. In football, every play starts near the centre of the field but more times than not, drifts towards one sideline or the other. Ideally, you capture the moment of the player running towards you or catching the ball. As the action gets closer to you, it will overfill your viewfinder so you have to unzoom.

How To Photograph Outdoor Sports

If you are behind the net, you can easy shots of the players coming in on a breakaway. There are two main options here: you have a zoomed in shot of the scorer, or you can zoom out and have the player, ball, goalie and net to really show what’s happening.

Outdoor sports are one of the few domains where I don’t like shallow depth of field. I usually try and shoot in the F4-5.6 range to make the whole player is in focus.

I like action shots. I don’t like to take pictures of players standing around.

Some of my favourite outdoor sports photos I have taken haven’t been terribly relevant to what I was supposed to be covering at the time. Unfortunately, copyright prevents me from sharing them. But think of a 4-year-old girl swinging from the top of the goalie net because the action is on the other side of the field. Or, during a late-November football game, a player removes his sweaty helmet during a huddle and steam is rising of his shaved head. Or 10 minor hockey players chasing the puck.

You want to capture moments in life. You are recording history with you camera. You don’t want it to be blurry. Get off the bleachers, down to field level and record some memories.

Snap Shots: Tips from a (former) pro

I’ve talked about being aware of your surroundings when it comes to the background of your photos. But this little gem takes it a different way. Always be aware of your physical surroundings when you’re taking photos. Here’s why. The year was 1988. My minor soccer team was undefeated and representing our league in a huge tournament in conjunction with the World Under-18 Track and Field Championships. I was dribbling in on my first ever breakaway. I was a defenceman so this was a big deal. My dad was chasing me down the sidelines, film camera firmly glued to his eye, snapping photos as his ran, straight into the players’ bench. It was permanently attached to the field with concrete pillars.

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