I think probably the biggest tip I can offer you when it comes to sports photography is to take lots and lots of pictures. You are using a digital camera, right? Use the digital technology to your advantage. You are not shooting through rolls of film, so go ahead and take extra digital photos at a sporting event.
First off, it helps in that the more practice you have, theoretically the better you will get at taking future photos. Second, with the split-second nature of a sporting event, it is hard, if not impossible, to record every single moment perfectly. Taking more photos increases the chance of getting that one great photo you will want to show.
Get plenty of sleep the day before the event so you bring your A game to the venue. You do not want to be dozing off when your kid hits a home run. Also, get to know the layout of where you will be. You can pick out the best area to get the best pictures before you show up and save some valuable time!
Everyone wants to record the occurrence of a great play – the contact between bat and ball as it is hurled towards the outfield, the fine release of a basketball as it gracefully begins its arc towards the basket, or the forward motion of a quarterback tossing a football towards a wide receiver just as he is about to get blindsided by a defensive lineman.
While these photos are great, you should also look at capturing the emotion after a great play has occurred. Take snapshots of the jubilation, smiles, and high-fives, and do not forget the look of bewilderment on the other teams face after something special has occurred. Photos are supposed to tell a story, and capturing human reaction to an event may be more telling than capturing the event itself.
Zoom is absolutely necessary. A long telephoto zoom is practically essential at sporting events. Unless you are a professional and commissioned to take photos at an event, allowing you sideline or bleacher access, you probably will not be seated as close to the action as you would like.
A long 7+ or higher zoom can make the difference between a photograph looking like a bunch of dots moving around versus one telling a story with detailed players facial expressions.
You will also need a fast shutter speed. Set your digital cameras shutter speed as fast as possible to handle photographs with the available light. This reduces the chance of camera shake if you are unable to use a tripod.
Also, actions occur in the blink of an eye and you do not want your photograph to be so blurry that you cannot recognize the players or movement. Granted, selective blurring can result in intriguing photos, but you also want the ability to take fast, crisp, clean shots.
Study your digital camera manual for assistance in changing the shutter speed. Then at the event, practice a few shots before the game starts to ensure you have enough lighting to support faster shutter speeds.
You do not want your photographs looking all washed out. The more available light, the faster you should be able to shoot with your digital camera. And, of course, correct use of flash can also allow you to use faster shutter speeds.
Remember that there will still be shutter lag. When you press down on your digital cameras shutter, it may take a few milliseconds before it is pressed down firmly before a photo is recorded. You should practice taking photos with your digital camera before going to a sporting event to learn and be able to anticipate this shutter lag time.
Note that lag time also increases during the cameras auto focus process. You can decrease this added lag time by setting your camera to manual focus mode or by keeping the shutter button halfway down, already auto-focused on a particular area.
If your digital camera has a burst, or rapid shot mode, it may prove beneficial to your sports photography. During a fast-paced event, it is almost impossible to time every shot perfectly. Burst mode lets you set up your exposure, shutter speed, and other options as you anticipate a play, and, just as you expect a play is about to happen (such as a penalty kick), you can take several photographs in rapid succession.
When purchasing a digital camera that you plan on using for sports photography, see if it has burst mode. You should check to see how many photographs the camera can take in succession. How long will the burst mode work? Does it take 10 photos in 2 seconds, etc.
Also find out what resolutions are supported by the burst mode. Some digital cameras may support 8 megapixels at RAW quality for normal photos but only 5 megapixels at JPG quality in burst mode, for example. Find out, too, if the camera requires high-speed memory to take burst mode shots.