Sports photography is more than knowing how to freeze the action. It's being able to anticipate the action by knowing the sport, finding the emotion in the participants, and, of course, using the necessary techniques and equipment.
A good sports photographer knows when it is ideal to freeze the action. Even if the action is captured, it may not be an optimal position for the athlete. It is therefore advantageous to be familiar with the sport in question in order to discern the ideal movements specifically for that sport.
It is important to know how to place ourselves in the right place in order to compose the image and at the same time not to disturb the participants and the referees so as not to compromise our safety or that of others.
When I started out, not realizing how dangerous it could be, I had several balls and frisbees thrown at my head, and even had players fall on me! I have since learned to recognize safe locations that still allow me to have a good perspective.
Be aware of your surroundings
Our eyes should not only stay on the players on the field. We need to look around to make sure nothing is dangerous, but also to look for the emotion of the players on the sidelines, the spectators, etc. Ambient shots of the event can be just as interesting as the action shots, as these tell a story and reveal the emotion.
Obviously, professional photographic equipment is needed to successfully focus and capture people in fast action. Unfortunately, the most suitable cameras and lenses for sports photography are also the most expensive. Entry-level and intermediate cameras can be used, but it will be much more difficult to get good images.
Cameras like the Canon 1DX Mark III ($9000), the Nikon D6 ($8500) or the Sony A9 Mark II ($6000) are the pinnacle of cameras for sports photographers. Mirrorless cameras like the Canon R6 ($3500), the Nikon Z6 Mark II ($2700) and the Sony A7III ($2600) are also very good choices if flagship cameras are too expensive. Then, a lens like the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS III ($2800) is a staple for shooting sports. Fixed lenses like the 400mm F2.8 IS III or the 600MM F4L IS III are also widely used by professional sports photographers, but these cost over $15,000, all brands combined.
With this information, you can see that being a sports photographer is not affordable. The cost of the equipment easily reaches $30,000 and more.
Prices are in Canadian dollars ($CAD).
It is not uncommon to take 2000 pictures a day at a sporting event, so the culling of the pictures must be efficient. Blurred photos, those that do not contain the important element (for example a football), or those whose captured movement is not optimal, are immediately rejected. After the first culling, there are still a few hundred images that need to be sorted a second time to keep only the best images.
Then comes the image processing with the help of a software like Lightroom. The processing of sports images is generally quite light since it must preserve the authenticity of the event, but it still needs to be done carefully.
We can now see that sports photography is not only about being able to freeze the action with bursts of photos. A whole way of thinking is established among sports photographers. Working with athletes is about being able to showcase them in their moments of glory. Sports photography is a difficult style, but a lot of fun!