What is Sports Photography?
Sports photographers are professionals at shooting in-game action shots of athletes or sports vehicles. In most cases, this is considered a branch of photojournalism, as it’s often used to provide coverage of sporting events.
Sports Photography: A Quick History
Sports photography became popular in the early 20th century as the shutter speed of cameras and quality of lenses improved. This allowed photographers to capture athletes in motion, and so the photographs started to be published in newspapers and often became collectible items in their own right.
The first issue of Sports Activities Illustrated was launched in 1954, which gave sports fans and photographers a place to read about their favorite sports and athletes.
What is Sports Photography Used For?
Sports photographers usually work with the media, such as newspapers and magazines, to provide editorial coverage of athletic events.
However, sports photography also features heavily in marketing content for the sports industry to help build athlete brands and promote sports in a visual medium.
Equipment for Sports Photography
Because photographers will be capturing athletes in motion, and most often from a distance away from the sporting event, they require special equipment to ensure their photographs are clear and precise.
Sports photographers choose camera bodies that have fast autofocus and high burst rate features, and in particular, cameras that can capture images at 8 frames per second or higher are very popular. While there are point and shoot cameras on the market with similar functionality, DSLR or mirrorless cameras are the industry standard for professional sports photographers.
To capture subjects in motion at a long range, sports photographers typically use fast telephoto lenses with fast autofocus. This allows them to isolate the subject against the background and capture images in a fracture of a second. Lenses with fast shutter speeds are also very popular, particularly with high-speed sports. Photographing sports outside also requires lenses with a slower aperture.
Whether a photographer is shooting indoors or outdoors, a stabilization accessory like a monopod or tripod is essential to prevent images from becoming blurry. Many photographers also carry extra batteries to cover them over the course of an event.
Depending on the sport, some sports photographers use remote cameras, which allow them to capture shots from places they couldn’t otherwise be stationed, such as above a basketball hoop or in two different places on a race track.
Understanding The Rules
One little-considered fact about sports photographers is that they have to have a detailed knowledge of the sport they’re photographing. By anticipating plays during a game or an athlete’s movements, they can have their camera ready to capture athletes or vehicles at key moments. As sports photographers also regularly undertake editorial work, knowing the rules can help them capture the “story” of the event by capturing pivotal moments during the event. Most sports photographers will also take photographs before and after events, so with this knowledge, they’ll be able to compile an accurate overview.
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