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Analysing Sports Pictures

Sports pictures are usually broken down into two categories: victory and defeat. Each category will include 'frozen action' shots that show the key elements of the sports event/ game/match/race.

Before a photograph is taken, you should think about the following items to ensure that you capture the best shot possible.

1. Composition of a Picture

How is the picture composed?

  • Who/what is in the sports picture?
  • What position and scale of photo do they take up in the image?
  • Exact location in the picture of the subject? Centred? At the top? Bottom? To one side?
  • Composition elements of the picture balance with the sports player?
  • What other elements make up the sports picture. What else is in the image? Crowds? Pitch? Racetrack?  Do you need additional licensed rights to use the image?
  • Are they given equal or less space? What is the main focus of the picture (what can you see most clearly)?
  • What is the depth of field in the photograph?
  • What is in the background of the image?


 2. Content

What is this Sports Picture showing?

  • Does the picture say 1000 words? Can you add a good caption to the picture? Is it suitable? Does it make a statement or joke?
  • Who is the subject/team in the image? Who is in the picture? How important/famous are the people? Does the picture reflect their status and talent?
  • What body language do the players show?
  • What expressions are on their faces, do they enhance the picture?
  • Are the sports people in the air or on the ground?
  • Is the content of the picture eye-catching and memorable, or has the photographer managed to ‘freeze’ the action at a moment that is unique and unusual? 
  • What details do you notice in the picture – equipment, logos, sweat, injury, etc? Can you get rights for the image?



3. Effect

A great picture needs little or no introduction. 

  • Does the picture grab your attention? What attracts you to the picture? Would it make you read the article or buy the publication?
  • Is the picture effective in showing the 'moment' of the particular sport/ game/match/race?
  • Does the picture convey victory, defeat or a decisive moment in the event?
  • What are your expectations of pictures depicting individual sports? Does this picture challenge the usual codes and conventions?


Advice for Amateurs

One of the hardest things to capture on camera is that split second moment of action, which will define that particular game on that day. To help achieve this you need the right equipment, a natural ability to take the perfect shot and plenty of patience.

If you’re a sports photography amateur, we’ve listed below a few pointers to get you started.

It may seem obvious but photographing different sporting actions requires different cameras, lenses and techniques.


Modern digital DSLR cameras can shoot to memory cards thus allowing frame after frame of images to be captured on the camera. This means that you can take picture after picture in rapid succession, maximising your chances of taking the best possible photo.

Knowing where the action is going to happen and positioning yourself in the right location. The best way to do this is to know your sport, i.e. the style of play used by the coach/team/player.



For fast moving sports you will need a telephoto lens and, for sports played indoors or at night, you will need fast lenses with large apertures that let in a lot of light to illuminate the image.

The best pictures focus on the players, who should be centred in the shot. The scenery around the subject should almost fade into the background.

Another obvious point, but the image must be focused. AF or Automatic Focus is ideal for beginners, however it is worth bearing in mind that professional manual focus can produce superior results.

At major sporting events photographers are allocated areas to take pictures; bear in mind that to access these areas you will need a “Press Pass”, and these passes can be vary difficult to obtain.

Finally, and perhaps most obviously, keep practicing! If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!!






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