Learning How to Shoot Sports Photography


How do you learn to be a sports photographer?  Well it isn’t by getting a college degree.  As far as I can tell there are no degrees in sports photography and even if there was, it probably wouldn’t be of that much use.  While there are many courses and introductions to basic photography as well as online courses and help with computer manipulation of photos there is nothing in the world of sports photography.  A bit odd when you think about it since sports generates so much emotion and is such a large part of our culture.  Add to that fact that sports photography is the toughest of all photography skills to learn.  It may be just as well, because as with most things if you want to learn it you just need to dive in and learn it on your own.  Make it an ongoing education by self-study and practice. 

Learn from a professional

Why do people go to college?  One reason is to learn from someone that already has the knowledge and experience.  Someone that can teach them the ins and outs and help them avoid mistakes.  Take that same strategy when learning to shoot sports.  If you are shooting an event and notice a professional photographer wander over, make a friend, and learn from them.  Notice or ask what setting they are using, what are they shooting with, and even watch and listen to them shoot.  Learn the timing from them, and watch where they are standing.  Now granted every professional photographer isn’t great, but you may learn something that will make you better.  Another option is to ask a professional online.  Submit your photos for analysis and get feedback from a professional sports photographer. 

Go to sports magazine websites and look at their galleries.  Look for the sport you are working on and look at the photos, composition of the photo.  These are shots you can learn to produce.  Some great resources for seeing professional sports photography:

Yahoo’s Sports Photos
Sports Illustrated Top Photos of 2008
Youth Sports Photos – Football

Practice or Study
You can become an expert in a number of ways.  You can decide to learn everything there is about your camera, understanding how light works with the sensor, how the camera interprets color into 1s and 0s.  There are 1,000s of books you can read and 1000s of websites.  You can also become an expert by what I call the practical method.  Get out there and just do it, practice and see what works.  You might not know why 400 ISO works in a particular situation, but you will know when it works for you and the sports you are shooting. 

Both these methods work for learning sports photography and I won’t necessarily recommend one over the other, but probably the best approach is a combination of both.  Spending hours and hours reading about photography before you take your first photo is not the best approach and taking 1,000s of photos without understanding what aperture is wouldn’t be wise either.  My recommendation is get out there and start shooting.  Then as you see your results, and start wanting to improve different aspects of your sports photography read a manual, read a book and ask questions.  Make sports photography a life long learning endeavor.

ProPix Photography LLC
The Sports Photography Professionals

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