Capturing the action of a thrilling sports event, whether it is football, rugby league, soccer, tennis and everything in between, is a wonderful feeling for all involved. But just how can we get those shots we see in the magazines and newspapers?
The essence of sports photography lies in capturing the drama and excitement of moving subjects. To do this, you have to be familiar with the equipment and have knowledge of the subject, so that you can anticipate what's gonna happen next.
Q: Do we need a specialized lens or a telephoto lens for sports photography?
Ans: Well, it depends on what your subject is. For sporting events that happen at some distance from the camera, a powerful tele will be essential to fill the frame. Photographers who cover athletics, motor sport or football need at least a lens of 400mm. For a sport like cricket they need a lens going up to 800mm for wicket shots.
Q: What is the ideal shutter speed one should shoot at?
Ans: Shutter speed is the single most important thing to get right in action photography. If yours isn't set fast enough then you'll be left with blurry, disappointing shots that no amount of Photoshop post-processing will be able to salvage. There are three factors to consider when choosing a shutter speed to freeze the subject movement 1) the speed of your subject travelling at 2) the direction it’s moving at 3) how big is it in the frame. If your subject is travelling across your path or filling most of the frame, you will need a faster shutter speed than if it’s heading towards you, and is small in frame.
Q: What is the Aperture and ISO I should use?
Ans: To help you reach the high shutter speeds required, you'll need to open your aperture up nice and wide. If you have a very fast lens (such as the f/2.8 and f/4 lenses that professional sports photographers invest in), then you may be able to get away with coming down from the maximum aperture by a stop or so. Because you're using such a fast shutter speed, your camera might struggle to properly expose the scene even with the aperture fully open. If this is the case then the only thing you can do is increase your ISO speed.
Q: How do I set my focus, when photographing a sport action?
Ans: There is no easy solution available, but there are few techniques you can use. If your subject is following a set course, like an athlete, a motor-cyclists, your best bet is to pre focus on the point that you know the action will pass, such as the corner of a race track or the finish line. And all you have to do is set your eye on that point, then just before your subject reaches, press the shutter button.