Unique challenges make outdoor sports photography a daunting task for photographers. Variable conditions with little to no control over lighting, a fast moving subject, and an inherent unpredictability to the action are some of the reasons photographers struggle learning to shoot outdoor sports.
In this article, we will break down the basics of sports photography and get you up to speed quickly. We will look at equipment, cost control, and share tips for for getting winning shots.
You can get by shooting with a more economical model, but a professional camera built for outdoor use will make your life a lot easier. I’m a big fan of the Canon 1D series. They can be cost-prohibitive for many shooters, but they have several advantages which are crucial to success in sports photography.
The body construction is rock solid. Although I make it a point to cover my camera with a plastic bag on a rainy day, I have been caught in downpours several times while shooting without a bag at the ready. I have yet to experience a problem with the camera in four years.
The auto focus systems are outstanding, and one of the main reasons professional sports photographers love the 1D series. I utilize center point auto focus, and am consistently surprised by how fast it locks onto a subject.
Noise reduction is impressive. Noise can become a real issue for outdoor sports photographers who need to keep shutter speeds high in low light conditions, and have no choice but to boost ISO to 800 or 1600 at times.
Professional level bodies also have extraordinary burst mode capability, allowing you to capture several images per second.
Durable construction is a must for any lens used in outdoor sports photography. Weather is always a concern, but so too is having a football unexpectedly bounce off your lens.
Outdoor sports such as lacrosse, football, soccer, and field hockey take place on large fields of similar lengths and widths. All require significant reach from a lens. I used to believe 400mm was a prerequisite for outdoor sports, but with newer camera models pushing 20 megapixels and higher, you might be able to get by with a versatile 70-200mm zoom.
You certainly want a high speed lens with an aperture of f2.8 or lower. This will grab as much light as possible, and allow you to shoot at high shutter speeds and lower ISO levels.