Sports / Action

Sports and Action Photography Tips






What’s different about sports shots, well they happen fast and most of the time there isn’t a do over. So careful planning, anticipation and the right gear help a lot. What can you do with the equipment that you have, well here are a few tips and settings that may guide you in the right direction:

Let’s start with what we can control – camera settings, position relative to the action, lenses. When possible, its a good idea to have two bodies, each with different lenses attached. Mono pods are pretty useful if you shooting with larger telephotos. Fast apertures lenses let you shoot in dimmer ambient light conditions, they also allows you to control depth of field and isolate the subject a little better.

The shot above was at f4, and I was fairly close to the runner, so the background is still busy, and the subject isn’t as isolated as I would of liked, but that can be corrected a bit in post processing. In this edited version, I have used Photoshop to blur the background some more. The degree of blur can easily be adjusted.


Some bodies are more oriented to large burst rates like a D500, and some are not. If yours isn’t one them, then you have to be more selective on how long you hold that shutter down. Possibly shoot more jpegs if the lighting allows, and you don’t need max dynamic range that shooting RAW provides.

Below are some sports specific settings that I took from one of my older bodies:

AF Sport Settings:

  • A1 AF-C Release + Focus
  • A3 Dynamic Area – 9 or 21 points
  • A4 Focus tracking short -1 or 2
  • A8 Number of focus points – Normally set to max
  • Active D-Lighting – Off (when lighting allows)
  • NEF (RAW) bit depth 12-bit compressed

Other Tips:

  • Back button focus can come in handy if you find yourself switching back and forth between AFC and AFC on Nikon bodies.
  • Use AF fine tune for telephoto lenses, to make sure your images are as sharp.
  • Don’t be afraid to use higher ISO’s to help maintain reasonable shutter speeds, typically that is at least 1/500 of second, but may need to be higher if the subject is very fast and you want to stop the action.
  • Panning can help portray a sense of speed and naturally blur the background.


Camera Stuff

Do All Roads Lead To FX

Do you ever look at used camera equipment ads, many now start by saying “selling all my DX gear, moving to FX”. Almost like people are running for their lives to escape a fate worse than death – Having to shoot with DX lenses. The funny thing is most people don’t know why they are going to FX, but it cost more, so it “has” to be better.


Before you sell all your equipment, take the time to know the Pros and Cons of going to a FX body. I have a brief list below that hits some key benefits of each format. It really comes down to the type of photography that you do, and of course the size of your wallet. Digital technology is still emerging, it is not a one size fits all sensor solution yet.

DX Advantages:

  •  Smaller cameras and lenses to haul around, size does matter.
  • DX  lenses are generally less expensive. 
  • Single zoom lenses can cover a greater focal length range. A big plus when two lenses, a fast 70-200mm and a 17-55mm f2.8 zoom will cover 90% of most shoots.
  • You get a free teleconverter, also called a crop factor, which means a 200mm lens gives you the equivalent of a 300mm on a APC DX body, great for sports on big fields.
  • You can enlarge a 12 MP DX file just as much as a 12 MP FX file.
  • For a given lens and camera to subject distance you get more DOF.

FX Advantages:

  • No more doing crop factor conversions in your head, you get the field of view you expect from a given focal length.
  • Wide angle, is really wide angle, and you don’t have to have a super wide angle 12mm lens, because  18mm works just fine.
  • You have less depth of filed for a given focal length and subject distance, so the bokeh looks a little better, and you don’t have to shoot at f1.4 to have your subject stand out, you get less DOF.
  • More detail in portraits and close ups with the same lens.
  • Better high ISO performance due to pixel size, so you have less noise in low light conditions and can leave the flash at home.