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Tips for Taking Creative and Unique Sports Photography Images

Tips for Taking Creative and Unique Sports Photography Images

Sports photography is one of the most exciting photography genres out there, especially for sports fans who want to immortalize their favorite team’s historic plays and record-breaking achievements. Observing and remembering the game through the lens of their camera helps them relieve moments of glory, especially the rarest moves and dramatic wins that will be celebrated forever.

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Whether you’re a beginner shutterbug or a professional photographer who wants to finally delve into sports photography, this article will help you get started and take your first leap into the world of sports.

Before we do that, let’s first develop an appreciation of this thrilling photography genre by answering the question below. 

What is the primary goal of sports photography?

What is the primary goal of sports photography

Sports photography is more than just taking photos of players in the field running around, jumping and shooting for a shot. It’s more than just capturing a person going for a strike or hitting a ball for a home run. 

Beyond all the intense actions and technical moves and plays, capturing images of once-in-a-lifetime moments of strategic, unexpected, and dramatic plays that can make or break the game makes this genre very special, especially for sports fans.

A sports photographer’s job is to capture these fleeting moments and recognize the admirable sacrifices, perseverance, and skills of every player. Their task is to capture a scene that represents the passion, commitment, and dedication of these hardworking sports teams.

Aside from accurately depicting and freezing these ephemeral moments, sports photography is also about creativity. It shows the skills and the unique perspective of a photographer-slash-sports-fan who wants to show appreciation for the sports that they love.

This article will help you achieve these things and more, through our helpful tips on how to take creative and unique sports photography images.

Let’s get started.

How do you create unique sports photography photos and videos?

create unique sports photography photos and videos

A live game, whether in an outdoor field or an enclosed stadium, is always intense. Aside from having the wit and the energy to keep up with a sports’ intensity, being ready for the unpredictable will help you survive your first shoot.

More importantly, it makes a huge difference if you have complete camera equipment in your camera bag. With the right device and supporting devices, you won’t have to worry about missing the best shots you can get. 

Here are some of the most basic but helpful sports photography tips to remember.

1. Do your homework and plan your shoot.

planned sports photography shoot

    Before your planned sports photography shoot, make sure to do your research. 

    Know more about the sports.

    First, read more about the sports and the plays you should look out for. If you already know this, then you’re in luck. However, it’s still advisable to check out existing photos online of the same sport for inspiration. 

    Study the event location.

    Another important preparation step is to know more about the location of the event. What kind of field or structure is it? Will it be an outdoor game or an indoor court? Is there going to be access to natural light or is it going to be well-lit indoors? 

    Aside from reading online, you can visit the location and try to visualize the event. A 20-minute walk around will give you a clearer, more realistic idea of what you will have to deal with, in terms of finding the best spot to mount your camera during the live game.

    Choose good shooting locations.

    where will you position yourself and your camera

    More importantly, where will you position yourself and your camera? Will you have access to areas where you can take great photos without obstructions and heavy foot traffic? Remember that you should not stay in one location. It’s important to continue moving, depending on what the shoot demands.

    Choose a subject or focus on game highlights.

    subject or focus on game highlights

    Lastly, do you have a target subject, perhaps a specific player or a team? What moments, plays, and highlights do you want to focus on?

    Know what shots you want to take.

    To answer these questions, you must know what you want and what images you want to achieve. Sports events are always unpredictable and planning can give you a guideline in case you get distracted or lost in the moment.

    2. Bring the right camera lens.

    As mentioned earlier, you can succeed in sports photography if you have the right camera equipment with you. One of the most important camera components that you have to have ready is a long lens. 

    A long lens, especially a 200mm lens is good enough to give you the high-definition shots from a good distance. However, if you’re covering sports events in really huge locations, you might want to get hold of a 400mm lens to give you a closer view of your subjects.

    You don’t want to miss the best moments just because you forgot to put a zoom lens in your camera bag, do you? 

    3. Ready your high-speed camera equipment.

    high-speed camera equipment

      Basketball, football, volleyball, swimming, frisbee, hockey, and motor and car racing all have one thing in common: they are high-speed events that involve multiple subjects. 

      Sports photography can be a type of high-speed photography because of the speed, agility, and fast-moving objects involved in the game. Therefore, you should consider this genre as a challenge to test how fast you can trigger your camera to take a shot.

      fast-moving objects in sports photography

      However, you have to understand that your human reflex isn’t fast enough to push the shutter and take a photo. You can try but you’ll just end up with missed shots or blurry images. Since this is a live event, there are no retakes or do-overs. 

      You only have one chance, one shot, to freeze the moment, so what can you do?

      Activate your camera’s highest shutter speed setting.

      Naturally, you would want to adjust your camera’s shutter speed. With a faster shutter speed, you’ll have to match your aperture and exposure value accordingly. 

      Most basic DSLRs may have a Sports Mode that provides similar settings. However, these automatic shutter priority features are not perfect. You still have to rely on how fast you can click the shutter. It’s doable but there’s a huge possibility that you might miss many epic moments, just because you’re too slow.

      adjust your camera’s shutter speed in sport photography

      Luckily, you can rely on a fast, intuitive, and advanced high-speed camera trigger: MIOPS Flex.

      4. Use MIOPS Flex as your high-speed camera trigger.

        MIOPS Flex is one of the newest MIOPS products that features high-speed sensors and functionalities to help even beginners up their game in sports photography. 

        [flex]

        MIOPS Flex is powerful enough to capture millisecond lightning strikes, so imagine what it can do to help you take mind-blowing sports photos! 

        These MIOPS Flex modes are perfect for sports photography.

        As a high-speed camera trigger that can be attached to your camera, it makes use of two important modes: the laser mode and the sound mode. What can each mode do?


        Laser Mode

        Flex’s Laser mode uses a highly sensitive motion sensor that detects motion as soon as an object breaks the laser. These are best for sports events where you have a front seat view of the action, with a distance enough for the laser to reach the subject.

        highly sensitive motion sensor

        Sound Mode

        Since the Sound mode uses sound as its stimulus, this is perfect for motocross, car racing, and other loud sports events. The sound sensor can be adjusted to just pick up noise or sound at a specific decibel level, so your camera won’t get triggered even with just the sound of a crowd cheering or the signal of a buzzer.

        Imagine the possibilities, remotely and automatically triggering your camera’s shutter while you sit back and enjoy the game!

        remotely and automatically triggering

        The MIOPS Flex has other features that will make sports photography easier and more creative!

        Aside from its high-speed camera sensors, Flex also provides intuitive and user-friendly features that can turn a flat image into a dynamic and more interesting photo.

        Here are some of them.

        1. For one, you can have your smartphone control your camera. Using MIOPS’s dedicated mobile application, you can activate your camera and adjust the settings from a distance. 
        2. Since your camera is connected to your smartphone, you can instantly see the photos or videos that it took, and instantly share them on your social media accounts.
        3. In case of timelapse or taking a video of the event, you can see the previous images and motion shots even during the shooting process.
        4. Another interesting Flex feature that will help you take a creative photo is its dedicated photo editing option. Using this, you can combine multiple photos into a single image. What a fast and cool way to deliver a more dynamic photo!
        5. Flex has also a Holy Grail Setting, a special feature that helps you cope with a sports location’s ever-changing lighting conditions. It can help you shoot videos and images, without touching your camera, as it automatically adjusts your settings to respond to the fluctuating light source. 
        6. Most importantly, Flex allows you to place your camera in strategic yet hard-to-reach places. As mentioned earlier, going to a sports event presents the challenge of finding the perfect locations where you can position your camera. 
          Thanks to the remote and wireless shooting and setting adjustment capabilities that Flex offers, you can rest assured that you have full control of your camera without physically touching it.

        5. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your shots.

        perfect location and the complete camera equipment

        Once you are well-prepared for the event and have found the perfect location and the complete camera equipment, you can finally focus on what really matters: having fun. 

        Don’t be afraid to just be yourself and experiment. The most creative shots are delivered by photographers who have mastered the art of playing around with their perspectives and their choice of subject matter.

        Shot Variations

        Be ready to get out of your comfort zone and deviate from the norms, as long as you’re still observing the fundamentals: light, composition, and angle. Also, present variations, especially when shooting people: full body shots, portraits, mid-action shots, establishing shots, and a lot more, can help open your eyes to different perspectives.


        Angles and Framing

        Experiment with different perspectives. You can take low-angle, high-angle, and wide-angle shots to tell a story or set a mood. Look for framing opportunities to add drama and focus to the moments that you want to capture.


        Use Lights and Backgrounds

        Use Lights and Backgrounds on sport photography

        Make use of the objects and other elements around you. Use the lighting, the colors, and even the crowd to tell a story and to add more interesting details to your shots. These tips can also help you express the atmosphere and mood of the game.

        Stage lights, LED screens, stadium lights, and scoreboards, fan-made banners, and other sources of light and colors are everywhere! Use them to your advantage, especially in delivering a very unique composition! 

        6. Be patient and don’t give up until the game is over.

        Sports events can be really exciting, but there are just games that can turn cheers into boos because of how flat, boring, or frustrating the moments are. As a photographer, you might feel that you’re wasting your time and losing opportunities to capture unique shots. However, just be patient and try to be creative!

        Every play, no matter how dull or frustrating they are, still tells a story. It’s your job to capture these stories and bring out the best, even out of the plainest and most uneventful game. It’s one of the challenges that you have to overcome, especially if you’re planning to go professional.

        On the other hand, if the game is breath-taking and you think you’d have a lot of amazing shots, don’t go flipping through your gallery yet! The game is still in progress and you might miss some of its best highlights that are yet to unfold.


        Your First Journey Into High-Speed Photography Through Sports Photography Starts Here

        High-Speed Photography Through Sports Photography

        Hopefully, these pieces of advice have helped you gain confidence, skills, and knowledge of what to expect in your first photography event. More importantly, we wish that your experience in sports photography will open more doors to the amazing world of high-speed photography.

        Yes, there’s a bigger world out there and high-speed photography has a lot to offer when it comes to freezing millisecond-speed moments. If you are curious and want to know more about what you can do with this highly celebrated genre, let MIOPS and our line of high-speed devices guide you there.

        Good luck and have fun!

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        The Best Tips for Shooting the Most Creative High Speed Photographs

        Smart+ captures a colorful balloon while popping

        How fast are you?

        You know how to compose, use the light, and operate your camera.  You’re handy with a flash.  You consider yourself a pretty good photographer.  But how fast are you?  When the difference between getting and missing the shot is measured in milliseconds, are your reflexes and trigger finger up to the task?

        High-speed photography is capturing the moments that happen in a fraction of time which you can’t see with the naked eye, like a bursting balloon or a splash of water.

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        Recommended camera and lens

        Of course, you need a DSLR or a mirrorless camera, if you have any other camera that has manual controls, it will also work fine. Next is the lens and just like the camera, any could work. For instance, you can use a 100mm macro lens for close-up shots like liquid sculptures and a 24-70mm zoom for balloon shots. The only lens requirement is that the focal length should be long enough so that you have sufficient distance between your camera and the subject, to keep your gear safe from colors and water splashes.

        a water drop captured with high speed photography techniques at a river inside a forest

        Lighting

        Next, you need flashes, it could be one for simple shots or you can add multiple for a more complex composition. The next requirement is a tripod because you need to do lots of work simultaneously, so it’s better that the camera is fixed on the tripod. You also need a shutter release cable or remote to release the shutter. For instance, the MIOPS Smart Trigger has multiple modes for sound, laser, lightning triggering as well as Time Lapse and HDR modes.

        Triggering the camera

        When you're ready to start shooting even faster-moving objects or find that the “fast hands and timing luck method” isn't sufficient to capture your moving object, you may want to look into a shutter trigger.  Some of these use sound to trigger the shutter and flash, others may use laser beams so that when the beam is broken by the moving object, the shutter and flash are triggered. 

        use MIOPS Smart+to capture high speed photographs with sound or laser modes

        Using MIOPS Smart Trigger

        Sound and Laser modes are a great alternative for getting those high-speed photography shots that portrait and product photographers dream about.

        [smart]

        Laser Mode

        The MIOPS Smart+ has a photocell on the front panel, which is utilized for a number of things, including the laser triggering function. The available parameters are straightforward and are pretty much self-explanatory. Once your preferences are set, a press of the start key and you’re good to go. There are three parameters available:

        • Threshold – This is the sensitivity to the laser. If set too high, it can cause false triggering. Too low a setting can cause failure to trigger.
        • Delay – Allows you to delay the shutter release after the initial trigger event. Delays are specified in milliseconds (0-999)
        • Frames – How many images you want to be taken once the laser has been interrupted.

        Liquor bottles captured on air while dropping liquid

        Sound Mode

        The sound function allows triggering of either the flash or the camera, or both. Sometimes it is needed to add a delay to the shutter and it all depends about the camera settings, lighting conditions, and external flashes. Simply point the Smart+ at the sound source and adjust the parameters, which are available in three options:

        • Sensitivity – This is the sensitivity to the sound. Setting too high can cause false triggering. Too low can cause failure to trigger. Having the trigger further away from the source introduces a delay (3 milliseconds per meter) and will need to be compensated for with higher sensitivity.
        • Delay – Allows you to delay the shutter release or flash after the initial trigger event. Delays are specified in milliseconds (0-999)
        • Lock – If set, the MIOPS will trigger once. Particularly useful if using the dark environment and firing the flash mentioned above. In this case, multiple firing can ruin a high-speed image.

        For shooting with the sound mode, a good example is to set your camera to about 1.3 to 1″ second shutter. Set the MIOPS to sensitivity 90, delay 10ms, then set it to Lock “On” so it only triggers once as any kind of sound can trigger your flash. After pressing start on the MIOPS Mobile App, press your shutter and try hitting an object, such as a plastic bottle of water as a test subject.

        A SpaceX rocket captured with Smart+ using sound mode

        Once you isolate the sound correctly and find your best camera settings, then it will be time to put the real object that you would want to crash to set the sound trigger. Again, it could be crashing a bottle. Remember that the MIOPS Smart Trigger is not water-resistant, so be careful and avoid getting it wet. You need to shoot in a dark area or turn off all the ambient light because the slow shutter of your camera might expose for the ambient light.

        Related Article: How to Use MIOPS Smart+ Laser Mode

        About The Author Manuel Delgado:

        Manuel Delgado is an award-winning photographer with a specialization in travel and documentary photography. He writes for Contrastly and is a Mentor for NGO Photographers Alliance, having led workshops in Africa with a focus on ethical and humanitarian photography. His work has been exhibited in Europe and the Americas.

        Driven by an innate curiosity for his surroundings, Manuel´s process is mainly focused on capturing people in their natural environment; translating through his lens the subtle threads of daily life that are shared across cultures, borders, and races. Depicting people from diverse backgrounds, his work is united by a shared aesthetic that serves to tell each individual’s story. Manuel is currently living in Düsseldorf, Germany. 

        Manuel Delgado Instagram Profile

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        [faq q1="how to use Sound Mode in camera trigger?" a1="The sound function allows triggering of either the flash or the camera, or both." q2="how to use laser Mode in camera trigger?" a2="The MIOPS Smart+ has a photocell on the front panel, which is utilized for a number of things, including the laser triggering function." q3="what are the Recommended camera and lens for high-speed photographs?" a3="Of course, you need a DSLR or a mirrorless camera, if you have any other camera that has manual controls, it will also work fine."]

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