Tutorial: Sports Photography

Lenses

Professional sports photographers equip themselves with super-telephoto lenses. Lenses with focal lengths of 400mm, 600mm or even 800mm fill the frame with subjects that the naked eye can struggle to see.

The lenses you currently own may have a more modest focal length. However the standard zoom, such as the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II, often supplied with an EOS camera is still capable of bringing subjects closer – you just need to choose a sport or event where the subject is not so far away. On these occasions, very long focal length lenses are often too powerful and your standard zoom is perfect.

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My ball, © Kevin Evans-Jones 2011, Canon EOS 40D

If you are shooting sports where the action happens further away a telephoto zoom lens with a longer focal length would be useful such as the EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM.

Lenses with large maximum apertures (e.g. f/2.8 or faster) have a number of advantages. Letting more light through to the sensor of your EOS means that you can use a wider range of shutter speeds. In addition, shooting at wide apertures has the advantage of isolating the subject from the background. You can get a narrow depth-of-field, which means your subject will stand out from its background.

Have a look at the sports lens tutorial in the EOS Knowledge section of EOS Adventure for some more information.

Focus on your subject
Whilst your EOS has fast, accurate focusing, to gear it towards sports photography you can change the AF Mode to AI Servo AF. Then hold down the shutter button halfway and the camera will adjust focus continuously as you follow your subject.

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Jamie vaulting, © Simon Moore 2011, Canon EOS 1000D

Focus manually
With some sports it is best to set a manual pre-focus. If you are photographing the high jump, for example, you know exactly where the athlete will pass over the bar. You can set the lens to manual focus and focus on the bar. Press the shutter button as the athlete passes through this point.

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