Photography Tip: How to Shoot a Sports Event?

Last weekend, I had an opportunity to shoot a track and field event at the Pasadena Games, up in good old Pasadena, CA. A friend called me up and asked me, if I wouldn’t mind driving up to north and taking some shots of his son. I am always up for practicing photography, and I had never shot a sporting event, so I volunteered. I jumped online with my trusty friend, Google to see everything I needed to shoot this type of event.


The first thing that popped into my head was, “Am I going to drop a couple of hundred $$ on some gear to make this happen”. Thankfully, I did not need to do that. After reading about 10 or 20 blogs, on the subject, I had a pretty good idea of what I needed; a camera, decent lens, spare battery and memory card, and a monopod. After checking out the list, the only thing I needed was the monopod, of course a 600mm lens would have been nice. I have about 2 or 3 tripods in my arsenal and I can count, on one hand the number of times I have used them, so I was a little reluctant to purchase another. What steered me to the monopod theory was the fact that my Nikon 70-200 lens tends to get a bit heavy after carrying it around all day. Once, I shot a wedding reception that lasted nine hours and I was definitely sore the next day. After doing some research, I discovered the main thing to look for: was the material the monopod was made of, how many pieces made up the monopod, the fewer the better and the locking mechanism, note your results may vary. Armed with this information, I headed to my local photography store, Calumet. I talked with one of the sales reps, and I even got a chance to with one of the vendors, from Manfrotto. Well, to make a long story short, I was short on time, and the Calumet Carbon fiber monopod had all the right features, at the right price.

Location, location, location

This is the tough one. I am not sure, if you have ever been to a track event, but there is a lot going on and all at the same time. If possible, I would recommend hiring an assistant or two to cover each event. In my case, there was really no time, so I tried to do my best to cover it all. I think I did a decent job. Some things to know: get to the event early like you would any event. Make sure to purchase a schedule of the event, this will allow you to keep track of when and where each event is going to happen and to avoid some of the confusion. Try and gain access to the field, if you need to slip security aBenjamin. My pictures were good, but they would have looked much better had I been a bit closer to the action. Something else to keeping in mind, the good old sun, you will need to work with it. Some events will have you shooting directly into it, so you many need to change your position in order to get that perfect shot.

Camera Settings

Now keep in mind that you will be shooting an outdoor sports event, so chances are you will be shooting at high speed, unless of course you are looking to blur the background or add action to your shots. I think I had my camera set to Manual mode around 1000. Remember to set ISO setting for the appropriate time of day 100 for bright light and 400 to 500 for afternoon, and 800 to 1600 for evening and so on. Aperture is another setting that will need to be taken into consideration, since it is an event, you will probably want to include some background for dept. I chose 5.6 for my aperture. Some blogs will tell you to shoot in JPG instead of RAW, when photographing sports. I tend to agree with this one, for the sheer fact that when you shoot a burst of pictures say following the subject in action, the camera will need to catch up if you will with writing to the memory, no matter how fast the memory stick is. And last but not least be sure to set your White Balance and keep in mind that your white balance will be changing throughout the day. Some photographers keep it set to Automatic, for those forget about it. None of these steps are set in stone and there is not perfect formula, so go out and have some fun.