How to Take Great Sharp Sports Photography

If you’re a keen sports photographer who wants to get the sharpest possible pictures, then read on! We will look at various aspects of photography, and how to best capture the action on the pitch and field, from shutter speed to lighting and how to capture the perfect shot.

Shutter speed

In general, the faster the shutter speed, the less likely it is for the picture to blur due to camera movement. The maximum shutter speed allowed on digital cameras is 1/4000th of a second. For many sports photographers, it is common to shoot at higher shutter speeds, around 1/200th or faster. As long as the shutter speed does not exceed the maximum amount allowed, a fast shutter speed is usually sufficient to capture motion. However, it is important to note that the maximum amount of time a shutter is open is known as the maximum sync speed, which varies from camera to camera.

The shutter speed must always be set to the minimum value needed to achieve the desired results, and not the maximum that the camera allows. This is because, once the shutter opens, there is no guarantee that the shutter will remain open as long as you need it to.

If the shutter speed is set too high, the picture will be blurry, due to the camera moving too fast through the scene. If the shutter speed is set too low, the photo may be overexposed and show a streaky effect on the image. It is important to set the shutter speed appropriately, taking into account the direction of movement of the object.

Setting the shutter speed

To select the correct shutter speed, take into consideration the following points:

1. What movement is being recorded?

The direction of movement of objects or people will determine the appropriate shutter speed. For instance, if you are photographing a group of people walking across a green field, you should set the shutter speed at 1/250th of a second, as the subject is moving in one direction. Conversely, if you were photographing a car driving along a motorway, you would set the shutter speed at 1/2000th of a second, as the vehicle is moving in a different direction to the subjects in the picture.

2. What is the exposure time?

If you are using a flashgun, you should set the shutter speed at 1/200th of a second, to allow the flash to fire without being overexposed.

3. Does the movement need to be stopped?

If you are photographing a subject that moves against the background, for example, a football player running away from the goal, the background will be blurred, but it is necessary to record the subject as it moves. To prevent the background from becoming blurred, you should set the shutter speed to a slower rate than the maximum sync speed of the camera, for instance, 1/60th of a second.


Another important factor when capturing the perfect picture is lighting. Different types of lighting can affect the outcome of the photograph.

The best light for a picture is sunlight. In daylight, the light is evenly spread out, giving a natural look to the subject, and this can be achieved by simply having the sun directly behind the subject.

Tungsten light bulbs produce a soft, even light, which can be effective in photography. Tungsten light is often used in studios, where it is produced by a large tungsten lamp which disperses the light evenly and has a warm, even color.

Incandescent bulbs produce a harsh, uneven light and should not be used for photographs, as they give the appearance of a flat picture.

Fluorescent lights are more versatile and can be used in a variety of ways. For example, fluorescent tubes can be used to provide an intense source of illumination, producing a bright, clear, even light. Fluorescent tubes can also be arranged to produce different levels of intensity.


Using a flash in conjunction with a flashgun is a useful method of producing a sharp, well-lit picture. This can be done in two ways:

1. Direct flash:

This type of shooting requires a flashgun which produces a powerful burst of light, in addition to the regular light from the camera.

2. Indirect flash:

This technique is similar to the direct flash, however, the flash is fired from a further distance, which is reflected back towards the camera by a reflector.

When using a flash, the settings on the camera will vary according to the type of lighting, as explained above. If a flash is used, it is important to set the shutter speed to ensure that the picture is properly exposed.

Shooting tips

As with most sports, there are certain times of the day and season in which shooting can be best achieved.

Photographing football matches can be tricky as the crowd will make it difficult to get a clear view of the action. It is recommended that you avoid shooting matches during the morning and evening when the crowd is at its densest.

In order to get the clearest image, the stadium should be empty. Shooting during the week when only a small percentage of the seats are occupied will make it easier to get close to the action.

When you get into position, you will notice that a ball will occasionally bounce into the air. If you are able to get a clear shot of the ball as it bounces into the air, it will be an impressive image.

It can also be advantageous to take a series of pictures of the same action. For example, if you were shooting a football match, you could take a series of shots when the ball is kicked into the air. By combining several images, you will get the best chance of getting the sharpest shot possible.