All-Star Sports Photography Tips and Tricks

Capturing exciting moments is one of the best parts of photography and photographing sports provide ample opportunities for great shots and impactful images! Though it can be difficult to capture the intensity and emotion of sports moments, we’re here to give you some tips, tricks, and gear recommendations to help you master sports photography with the help of some images from local, Cleveland sports photographer, Tim Phillis

Get in the Game


Perhaps your best tool for capturing awesome sports shots is an understanding of the sport you are shooting. Before you head out to photograph a sporting event, make sure you have a good understanding of the rules, general gameplay, and player dynamics. This will help you anticipate exciting moments and help you make sure you’re capturing high energy, dynamic moments. This approach is key to capturing the emotions behind sports. Knowing what’s going on will be super useful in anticipating player reactions or interactions. 

Mastering Your Camera

Sports happen fast, you’ll want to make sure you are familiar with your camera and camera settings so you don’t miss any photo-worthy moments! This will take some practice but the more familiar you are with your camera and gear the faster you are able to make adjustments and the more likely you are to never miss a moment. 

There are a few settings specifically that will be really helpful when capturing sporting events. 

Fast Shutter Speeds:
High shutter speeds are essential when capturing high energy and dynamic subjects such as athletes. It will be useful to use your camera’s shutter priority mode to ensure that you’re always in control of your shutter speed. 
Continuous Autofocus:
Sports moments happen fast. You’ll want to utilize your camera’s continuous autofocus mode to make sure focusing on your subject happens quickly and accurately. This autofocus mode will track moving subjects in fast-paced sports, like soccer and basketball, keeping your image sharp and clean. 
Wide Aperture
A wide aperture or low f-stop will help you emphasize your subject and create a pleasing background blur. 
High Burst Mode
When it comes to sports photography, less isn’t more. Utilize your cameras high burst mode to maximize your chances of capturing the perfect moment. This will allow you to take a series of rapid shots in a row, ensuring you don't miss the perfect shot. 

Composition Techniques

Composition is king! Make your subject pop by keeping in mind a few simple compositional tips! 

Rule of Thirds:
Place the subject, such as the athletes or the ball, along the grid lines to ensure that your image is balanced and visually appealing. 
Get Up Close: 
Help your viewers connect with the moment you captured. Fill your frame with your subject and focus on capturing emotions or expressions that communicate the intensity or excitement of the moment. 
Limit Distractions: 
Make sure your subject is the focus! Try to capture your subjects against a clean or uncluttered background.
Leverage Foreground: 
Use foreground elements such as sporting equipment or other players to frame your subject. This gives context to your images and adds a ton of visual interest for you viewer.


Positioning + Panning


Though sometimes space can be limited while photographing sports, don’t be afraid to test out different angles and perspectives. Depending on access, you may be able to shoot from the sidelines, endzones, or elevated positions. Test every vantage point for yourself and challenge yourself to test out a new perspective!



Try out panning to add a sense of motion to your images. Track a moving subject and use a slower shutter speed to capture your subject with a blurred background.

Get the Timing Right

When it comes to sports photography, timing is everything. Anything you can do to ensure that you are able to keep up with and capture fast-paced moments will help you get great shots! 


In addition to learning the sport you’re shooting so you can anticipate photo-worthy moments and using fast shutter speeds or high burst mode, pre-focusing you camera can be really helpful. Once you’re able to anticipate where the big moments are  likely to happen, pre-focus your camera on those areas and wait for your subject to enter your scene. This approach will help your camera focus faster and increase your chances of capturing important moments!

Get the Right Gear!

Having the right gear is essential in any type of photography but it’s especially important in sports photography! 

Cameras + Lenses
First and foremost, a fast telephoto lens is essential! These lenses allow you to keep your shutter speeds high and your aperture wide. Plus these lenses are great for capturing subjects that are far away in difficult lighting positions. Cameras that excel at autofocusing and have a high frames-per-second rate will also be very helpful. 


Monopods and tripods provide stability and help ensure your shots are clean and crisp. Monopods are especially helpful in situations where you need stability and mobility as they are a bit easier to move around than tripods. You’ll also want to make sure that your memory cards are high capacity cards with fast write speeds, especially if you plan on using continuous shooting mode. 


Sports photography is a combination of technical knowledge, creativity, the right gear, and passion. It is an opportunity for you to capture exciting sports moments and document compelling stories. Whether you’re shooting amateur athletes or professionals, there are plenty of opportunities for awesome action shots Gear up, hit the field, and put your passion for both sports and photography to work! 

All Images Courtesy of Tim Phillis at TCP Photography
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