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

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

Get Clear Shots


You're going to want to isolate your subjects from their backgrounds, and capture them as shaply as possible (unless you're going for some artsy effect, but I'm not good enough to do that). To do so, shoot with the lowest f-stop (i.e., the widest aperture) that your camera or lens is capable of, and the fastest shutter speed that you can use and still let enough light into your lens to convey a image.

In general, the wider the aperture, the shallower your camera's depth of field - depth of field being the distance in front of and behind the in-focus subject that remains in focus. Now, "shallow" may sound like a bad thing, but if you're trying to isolate a subject from her background, you want the subject in focus and the background blurry. The following image wouldn't have highlighted the ball-carrier had all the players been in sharp focus.

Rugby game
The out-of-focus women behind the ball carrier are a mere few feet away - but the depth of field was plenty shallow.


Also, shoot at the highest zoom level possible or appropriate so that you can capture expressions and personality in the shot. Of course, the higher your zoom level, the more difficult it is to keep your camera stable enough for a sharp shot. The standard rule of thumb for zoom shooting is that your shutter speed should be about equal to the inverse of your zoom level. For example, if you're zoomed in all the way using a 300mm lens, your shutter speed should be 1/300th of a second - minimum.

As I mentioned, this is the standard rule of thumb - but it doesn't work for me. Personally, I need to have my shutter speed be a bit less than 2 times that of my zoom level. That is, if I'm shooting at a full 300mm zoom, I need to have my shutter speed in the 1/500th of a second range. Experiment and find out how shaky you are. I've also found that it helps to hold my breath when at full zoom.

Some shooters swear that manual focus serves them better than auto focus - but not many of them are shooting sports. Sports - especially fast-paced ones - are hellish to shoot with manual focus. Maybe after years of practice one could master the technique, but I've found that my D70's autofocus capabilities suit me just fine.




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Joe Davids

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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Read why here:http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/notcamera.htm


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.

Will Howarth, Princeton University





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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