5 Elements of Great Sports Photography

Capturing intense moments is something all photographers aim to do. In sports photography, those intense moments can be more elusive because the action happens so quickly. The core of athletics is movement, so catching perfect still frames is a challenge that many photographers are intimidated by.

Seasoned photographers learn tips and tricks that help ensure they get the shots they came for. If you're an athlete and photographer, you can capture amazing, unique photos with point of view (POV) photography. These are four tips I've learned that will change your sports photography game and up the quality of your pictures.

1. Know your sport

Study the sport you'll be shooting, and study it in action. You want to understand the sport well enough to predict upcoming moves and actions, and you want to know where the best locations are to capture them. Know what the rules of the game are and try to stay ahead of the action rather than following the action.

2. Move around

Sometimes limitations prevent photographers from getting on ground level with the action, but if you're able to move freely, do it. Your location decides what types of shots you'll get, so move around frequently to change perspectives, give a variety of backgrounds, and catch a more well-rounded view of the action. Get shots from opposite sides, high and low, behind goal lines, etc.

3. Don't forget composition

In all the excitement of moving around and anticipating your subjects' next moves, it's easy to let the rules of composition fall to the wayside.

Don't make this mistake!

It's almost never a good idea to put your subject in the middle of the frame. Let your viewers see the context of the photo -- putting your subject closer to one side allows the viewer to imagine the person moving diagonally forward in the shot, as the lines in the shot lead them in that direction.

4. Turn off the flash

When you're capturing sports action, the flash is not your friend. There are two reasons:

1. It's distracting. Players and people in the audience don't want to be distracted by a bright flash or worse, a series of bright flashes.

2. Your camera's shutter speed can suffer with the flash on, depending on the type of camera you use. If the goal is to capture action, the flash will bog you down too much.

5. POV photography

Point of view photography can produce shots that are as unique as they are incredible. Wearable cameras aren't suitable for every sport or physical activity, but they're commonly used now in surfing, skating, parkour, skydiving, windsurfing, rope swinging, cliff jumping, and more. Additionally, you might don a POV camera to capture a different perspective of many different types of activities and sports.

Wearable cameras, store-bought and do-it-yourself mounts, boom arms, and even cameras worn as necklaces make it possible to capture experiences from a first-person point of view. These shots are exhilarating for viewers because otherwise, they'd probably never have the opportunity to see the point of view of a surfer approaching a monster wave or a base jumper getting a running start before leaping off a cliff. To get the best POV shots:

  • It's okay to use flash. It will enhance colors and provide a closer image to what you're actually seeing.

  • Try highs and lows -- get low to the ground, and find a way to climb up high for unique perspectives that will add interest to your shots.
  • Root for bad weather. Cloudy, stormy days provide the best backdrop, so if the activity hasn't been called off due to the weather, appreciate the natural, soft light the cloudy sky provides you.