A day in the Life of a Sports Photographer

Sports Photography
Photo by Juan Velez Photography

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to shoot a sporting event?

Sports photography is a significant segment of the industry, and there are plenty of opportunities here if you’re looking for another source of revenue for your photography business. Sports photography can be one of the most daunting types of photography, even to advanced photographers. The slightest mistake can ruin a shot.

Capturing action at the fast pace of athletic events makes for a challenging photographic assignment.

An excellent sports image shows the skill, intensity, and sometimes grace of an athlete. It captures emotion, strength, and power with a storytelling ability. Stopping a single moment in time at 1/2000th of a second while looking through a camera and a 400mm lens is amazing to me. Sure, you can tell stories with multiple photos, but capturing it all in one is what keeps me working at my craft after all these years.

Remember, photography as an art form is a never-ending process of learning. Advice for anyone wanting to become a stronger sports photographer, never get too comfortable photographing a game. Challenge yourself; look at images of photographers you admire, and go to a game with the mindset of trying to emulate something you like about their style. Find new ways to tell stories, and accept that you will probably fail a lot along the way.

The day before the sporting event

  1. Gather all your gear and make sure camera batteries are charging, flash batteries are charging, quickly clean my lenses, and clear all my cards.

Morning of the sporting event

  1. The gear is packed and in the car. Double-check that everything is there and batteries and cards are back in the camera bag and not still charging in the house!
  2. Essentials are packed; snacks and sunscreen.
The photo was taken by Juan Velez.

Team sports Coverage (2 Hour – 3 Hours)

When I refer to team sports, I refer to sports where you might have more than one subject. Examples include soccer, football, softball, and baseball, where you can have two if not more players in a single short.

  1. Keep “your eyes on the ball.” The ball is the central object of almost every sport I mentioned in this section. As such, any photo not containing the ball in the frame is a failed opportunity. It took me a long time to master.
  2. Balanced lighting is one of the essential elements of a good picture. Once you have taken a picture with proper lighting, half your work is done.
  3. Get close, usually with sports lenses that reach 400 MM into any sporting field. Ensure that you zoom in enough to capture the action but also, to capture the ball.
  4. Flashes distract athletes and are generally bad form at sporting events. That means you’re going to have to work with the light already there, and that means bringing fast lenses.
The photo was taken by Juan Velez.

Single sports Coverage (1 Hour – 2 Hours)

When I refer to single sports, I am referring to sports that give you one subject. Examples include tennis, track and field, wrestling, and swimming, focusing on one individual.

  1. Portray emotions in single players. I think the pictures below illustrate motivation, determination, reaching your limits.
  2. Shoot tight, crop tighter – draw the viewer into the action. The shots below were cropped to ensure that you focused on the action. I might appear close, but I was 400mm+ away from the subjects at the point of shooting.
  3. Ensure that you get goals and runs; whatever is happening will clearly cause excitement or disappointment.
The photo was taken by Juan Velez.

Congratulations Shots and Group Shots

  1. General wide-angle shots to show the atmosphere and size of the crowd.
  2. Close-ups of the couple being congratulated by their loved ones and coaches.

After the sporting event

Ha, just when you thought the day was over and you could go to bed, not quite. There is one more thing that MUST be done. This is my 100% unbreakable, must-do, the golden rule for every single wedding, no matter what my plans are that night!

As soon as I get back to the studio or home, I ALWAYS UPLOAD ALL THE CARDS AND CHECK THEM ON MY COMPUTER before doing anything else!

Once I know the photos are uploaded and safe, then I can finally relax. Or, if I’m reshooting the next day, I put everything on a charge, clear my cards, and get ready for round two tomorrow! 🙂

Feedback from Pixba that I agree with

There’s plenty of demand for quality photography of sporting events, and it is a specialized skill that not everyone can do. All of this equals the potential for an enterprising photographer. Plus, it’s a fun challenge that is very different from other forms of photography. Even if you aren’t that into the game, you may find that you love shooting sports events.