Practice Session


Observing and anticipating a moment will help you shoot perfect action shots just like this one. Exposure: 1/250sec at f/8 (ISO 3200). Photograph/Raj Lalwani

Observing and anticipating a moment will help you shoot perfect action shots just like this one. Exposure: 1/250sec at f/8 (ISO 3200). Photograph/Raj Lalwani

Local sporting events give you the perfect opportunity to hone your photographic skills. Neha Mutreja tells you how you can come back with amazing action shots from such events. 

This article was originally published in April 2012.

Photographers interested in fast action photography usually have ambitions to cover largescale national or international level sporting events. However, local and regional sports provide the perfect base to experiment, practise and develop the skills necessary for this genre of photography. By using the following simple ideas, you can learn to shoot amazing photographs with the most basic equipment!

Exploit the Scale of the Event

The venue of the sports event is always chaotic and lively. But when you are covering a local sports event, it tends to be less crowded. This will give you ample time and space to move around and scout for appropriate vantage points.

Make it a point to find locations from where you can get a clear view of the action. Additionally, the venue of a local event is usually small. This gives you the advantage of exploring different composition styles. For instance, in athletics, the focus is on the finish line. But if you are shooting a dance performance or a karate session, you should be close to the players to be able to capture the right moments.

Observe and Capture Emotions

The audience forms a large part of the atmosphere at a sporting event. Look for different emotions by observing the expressions and reactions of spectators. You will find moments of euphoria as well as disappointment. You can also make use of the zoom in your camera to focus on interesting expressions of a single spectator, especially those who have painted their faces or are wearing their team’s jersey.

Explore Your Photography Gear

Intelligently Most of the times the action in a sport takes place quite a distance from the camera. If you wish to capture a tight frame of your subject, use a telephoto lens of 200mm or 300mm. If you are using a wide-angle lens you can use the deliberate distortion to add drama to your image. On the other hand, a wide-angle lens also helps you achieve a greater depth-of-field allowing you to include more of the background.

Similarly, it is important to explore exposure settings. Shutterspeed, for instance, plays an important role in action photography. A fast shutterspeed will enable you to freeze a skateboarder midair. A slower shutterspeed, on the other hand, will help introduce a sense of motion while shooting running athletes.

Look for the Perfect Frame

Great action photography is all about emotions. Your framing should portray what you want to convey and nothing more. The best part of local sports is that they happen frequently.

There is always a thrill in getting that perfect picture of a player flying through the air or pinning down his opponent. But it is only through practice that you will be able to shoot such pictures. So the next time you think of becoming a good sports photographer, start by capturing action in a local park or attend a sporting event in your town. You will be surprised by the great shots you manage to bring back.

Learn Soft Skills

  • Always take permissions before you go to a certain event. This will make it easy for you to move around the venue.
  • Familiarise yourself with the place and the people.
  • Try not to get in the way of the audience. If you feel you can get a shot from a particular position, take their permission and shoot.

Event Courtesy: Red Bull Street Freestyle Football national level finals, held in Mumbai.

Tags: Shooting Technique, Neha Mutreja, april 2010, action, sports