Editor's Blog: Rik Shares His Sports-Photography Tips (with Photos)

Editor's Blog: Rik Shares His Sports-Photography Tips (with Photos)

Get As Close to the Action As Possible


Still in "well, duh..." territory? Maybe so, and maybe not - y'see, it all depends on what you define as "the action."


If you're shooting basketball, for example, a seat at half court is a lousy place to be - all you'll be shooting are the backs of players under the basket. If you're shooting American football, real football (aka soccer), or rugby, you're going to want to roam around the pitch (aka, field) depending upon where the sun is and what the game circumstances are. Baseball? Try to get near a dugout. Bottom line: Place yourself in a location most appropriate to your sport, the flow of the game, and the sun.


If you're shooting an outdoor sport, the sun is your best friend and your worst enemy. Try to keep it behind you - though not directly behind you, as a lack of shadow may flatten your images. A three-quarter angle works well, though I've found that some interesting effects can be had with the sun at a full right angle.


Rugby photo
Side-lighting can give depth to a composition.


The sun is a capricious fellow, as well. You can start the day with a sun so bright that it washes out your images, and then later the clouds come in and muck everything up.

While the position of the sun is important, the flow of the game is even more important, so you may have to sacrifice good lighting for good action. If your camera can show over-exposed areas (such as my D70 in its Highlights view), shoot a few white objects in bright sunlight and check to see if they're overexposed. If so, compensate. And when the sunlight changes, you may need to reset your exposures.

Rugby sports image
An overcast day makes for even, if dim, light.


When positioning yourself, make sure to check out the background. A background with a lot of activity will reduce the impact of the athletic competition in the foreground. A background that's dull as dishwater can do the same.

Rugby sports image
This might have been a moderately interesting shot, but the fact that the stands were empty robbed it of any impact.


Of course, there may be times when you want a busy background to emphasize the energy and importance of a game. Also, you may want to try to combine an element in the background with an element in the foreground to tell a particular narrative, as in the next shot.

Rugby sports image
That's my younger daughter in the background, cheering on her older sister in the foreground - who's about to be clobbered.





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Valuable information and excellent design you got here! I would like to thank you for sharing your thoughts and time into the stuff you post!! Thumbs up
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Paul Nielsen

Hi Rik

Great article...enjoyed the humour and take on the game of female rugby. Nice that you are pursuing a hobby as well as spending quality time with your family. Best of both worlds!
After two years of landscape /travel photography I am now moving on to the sports photography side of things....should be fun. My 100-400mm lens is going to be working overtime.
Keep up a really good blog.


Jason Whong

I've been taking quite a few sports photos myself lately. I have to say my favorite lens is the Canon 200mm f/1.8L. But it's probably a $6,000 lens.

Anyway I loved the entire article except for that bit about the clone tool at the end. But then, I am always going to be opposed to altering photos.


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Will Howarth


Are you embarrassed to be working for this magazine? The switch to a new format is a disaster. I don't care about the loss of the old raffish and zany tone, but this new version is all design and white space and NO CONTENT, aside from your columns and those by Nikki.

I just spent some time reading through the Forums. Every time a subscriber wrote in to complain about the new magazine, the Topic was closed! I mean, that really troubles me. If we can't make a comment and express our opinion about what the New Order is doing, then why bother to subscribe?

I'd like to hope that things are going to change, but I don't really see that. When my subscription runs out, I'll let it die. I have a collection of issues that goes back to the beginning, and I'd like to give it to a library. That topic is also forbidden to discuss on the Forums, by the way.

Good luck, Rik. I hope you find a good job somewhere else.

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Great blog Rik. Not a lot of blah, blah, blah. It's a lot of pages, but very much to the point with a lot of pics. I've only seen one women's rugby match but I'll never forget how that changed my perspective on quite a few issues.


Jamie Berry

Your blogs are always so useful, Rik! I loved the recipe edition too, that was a great piece. I find pieces like these set your site apart from all of the generic Mac news sites, as much as I enjoy them as well. You've inspired me to look into a D70. Thanks!



I too have realized how much better a good wide [vertical or horizontal] crop can be. A good content rule to keep in mind [with any 'artwork'] is that objects that extend beyond the edge of the [paper, screen, print] creates additional interest in an object. By using cropping methods as stated above and in the article, you can bring more attention to the subject of the photo.

Good Tips, Rik!



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When the Stanford women played the Cal women at the beginning of this season, the Cardinal routed the Bears 60-5. Check it out here. But thanks for the compliment on the article.



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