Introduction to Sports Photography | Neil Gunner | Skillshare

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Introduction to Sports Photography

teacher avatar Neil Gunner, Photographer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

16 Lessons (51m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. What Camera do You Need?

    • 3. Camera Terms You Should Know

    • 4. What Lens Do You Need?

    • 5. Good Things To Have With You

    • 6. Find a Sport To Shoot

    • 7. What Do You Shoot?

    • 8. Sports Photo Techniques

    • 9. Camera Settings For Sports

    • 10. Nailing Focus

    • 11. After The Shoot

    • 12. Showing Off Your Photos

    • 13. Building Relationships

    • 14. Some Ways To Make Money

    • 15. Class Project

    • 16. Final Thoughts

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About This Class

Learn how to get started in sports photography with this easy-to-follow introductory-level class. Whether you’re looking to capture your favourite athletes making the big plays or you’re simply out to take some snaps of your kids’ or friends’ games, I’ll teach you everything you need to know to take better sports photos.

We’ll cover cameras, lenses and other gear, how to find a sport to shoot, what and how to shoot when you’re there, techniques and settings for capturing emotionally powerful action and behind-the-scenes images, things you can do to improve your photos after the game, and even some ways to build relationships and make a little money from your work.

Think of this class as a beginner’s guide to sports photography; ideal for anyone who is interested in taking pictures of sports and action, or who has just begun doing so. Each lesson is short, focused and filled with practical examples.

It’s helpful if you already know your way around a camera, but not necessary. You don’t even have to own a camera to begin the course, but you will need one to complete our class project: find a sport, photograph it, and display a small album of your best action and atmosphere shots.

By the end of the class, you’ll be ready to capture all the intensity and excitement of your favourite sports.

My name is Neil Gunner and I’ve been a sports photographer for over ten years. At the time of writing, I’m an official photographer for several roller derby leagues in Toronto and the surrounding area. I’m also the author of Canada’s only coffee table book on the sport of roller derby, called Into Battle.

Additionally, I’ve covered university-level sports and CWHL games, and my photos have appeared on the CBC’s online news service as well as several other media channels. You can see my latest work at

All photos in this class are copyright © Neil Gunner. None of the teams, leagues or schools shown in the example photos are affiliated with, connected to or involved in the creation of this class.

This class is part of the Skillshare photography repertoire, which you can access at

Ready to become a sports photographer? Then I’ll see you in the first lesson.

Meet Your Teacher

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Neil Gunner




I’ve been a sports and portrait photographer for over ten years.

I’m an official photographer for several roller derby leagues in Toronto and the surrounding area, where I shoot bouts, trading card photos and an ongoing series of athlete portraits taken immediately after the game. I’m also the author of Canada’s only coffee table book on the sport of roller derby, called Into Battle. 

When I’m not photographing roller derby, I cover university-level sports and some professional league events. My images have appeared on the CBC’s online news service as well as several other media channels.

I’m new to teaching; I hope you find my classes useful and fun!

See my latest work and connect to my social ch... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Sports photography is fun. There's action, emotion, intensity, humor, and epic moves captured at the key moment. But even better, sports photography is accessible and it's easy to get started. Hi, my name's Neil Gunner. I've been photographing sports for over 10 years and I'm going to teach you everything you need to know to get started as a sports photographer. At the time of this recording, I'm an official photographer for several roller derby leagues in Toronto and the surrounding area. And I'm the author of Canada's only coffee table book on the sport of roller derby called Into Battle. My sports photos have appeared on the CBC and several other media channels. I'm excited to share what I know with you. We're going to cover gear, camera settings, how to find a sport to shoot, what and how to shoot when you're there, as well as what you do with your photos afterwards, and how you can become more successful as a sports photographer. This class is great for anyone who's interested in photographing sports or who has just begun to do so. There's a little technical detail in some of the lessons, so I'm going to assume you already know your way around a camera, or you're learning. You don't have to own a camera to begin this class, but you will need one to complete our class project. So, ready to jump in? Then I'll see you in the first lesson. 2. What Camera do You Need?: One of the first questions people ask when they set out to photograph sports is, what camera do I need? And if you've ever watched a major sporting event, you've probably seen all those photographers with their top of the line gear and big, big lenses and thought, Well, how can I afford that? Those cameras are amazing. But the truth is, you don't need a top of the line system to get good results. Most cameras, even at entry-level, can capture some pretty nice images, especially in good lighting. It's really all about the photographer behind that camera. So when you're just starting out, the camera you have right now is just fine. I spent many years shooting with a Nikon D7000, which is definitely not their top-of-the-line camera. But I still got good results with it. Now if you're shopping for a camera or you have some money set aside to upgrade, then I recommend getting the best camera you can afford. All the major brands make excellent models. So what you should look for is capability. Let's start by talking about camera bodies. And no matter which camera you buy, you'll definitely want one with these important features. The first thing you'll want is a camera that can accept interchangeable lenses. You'll want to give yourself the option to use different lenses for different sports and different purposes and to upgrade to better lenses as you get better. Next, you'll want a camera with good low-light performance. Many sports venues, especially when it comes to school or community level sports, do not have great lighting. Plus, many sports will not allow the use of flashes or other lights. So your camera must be able to capture great images even when the light isn't great. That's something I managed to do here in this hallway, which was actually pretty dark. You'll also want a camera with a good ISO range. ISO is all about light sensitivity, or the camera's ability to see the action with whatever the available light is. For instance, you want to be able to set a low ISO, such as 100 ISO when you're shooting a sport outside on a bright sunny day. And you'll want the ability to go up to 6400 ISO or even higher in a poorly lit arena or school gym. You'll want your camera to have good autofocus and a high-speed continuous shooting mode so you can capture that fast action. I also highly recommend a camera with dual card slots. Digital cameras store their photos on memory cards, which you can buy with different capacities. And cameras generally come with either one or two slots for those memory cards. On more than one occasion, I've been shooting a sporting event when all of a sudden I get a card error. Or I've uploaded my images to my computer to find some shots are corrupted. But if you have a second card in your camera and you record each image to both cards as you're shooting, then even if one card has an error or corrupts some images, you'll still have all your images on the second card. Finally, you'll want a camera with the ability to shoot in RAW, not just jpeg. Now if you're not familiar with the terms RAW or jpeg, There's a ton of information about them online. Just do a search for RAW vs jpeg and several informative results will pop up. For our purposes, what you should know is that RAW is a file format that captures the maximum amount of raw, uncompressed information when you take your photo. Well, with jpeg images, your camera is already applying some processing and compression to the image and some of the information your camera captured is lost. So in other words, you'll get much better quality images when you shoot in RAW and you'll have more information to work with when you work on your images with photo editing software. So if you are shopping for a camera, be sure to check the specs and read the reviews to ensure the model you like has all these features. Now along with your camera, you'll need a lens. But before we cover that, let's talk about a couple more terms you'll encounter when camera shopping. 3. Camera Terms You Should Know: Whenever people talk about cameras, a few slightly technical terms always seem to come up. So before we go any further, let's take the next three minutes to talk about those terms because it's always good to know the lingo. The first term you might hear, especially if you're camera shopping, is full-frame versus APSC, which is sometimes also referred to as crop sensor. As you may have guessed, this refers to the size of the sensor inside your camera. That's the part that actually captures the image. A full-frame sensor is the larger of the two. Full-frame sensors have the same dimensions as 35-millimeter film, back when everyone used film cameras. APSC, or crop sensors, are smaller. They apply a one and a half crop to the image. So what does this mean in practical terms? Here's an example of the same sporting event shot from the same position with a full frame and an APSC camera, using the exact same lens. Notice how there's a larger area captured in the full frame shot? While the crop sensor camera produces an image that's cropped in, which in this case, brings us closer to the action. You might also notice, depending on what screen you're viewing this lesson on, that the full frame image is a little higher quality and the colors are a little more natural. You'll generally find full-frame sensors on most high-end, top of the line DSLR cameras, you'll generally find APSC or crop sensors on mid to low end consumer cameras. But there are exceptions depending on the manufacturer. And there are several other sensor sizes out there too, but they're not really relevant to our discussion. The other term you're going to encounter is DSLR versus mirrorless. This refers to the way the camera works fundamentally. With DSLR cameras, mirrors inside the camera body reflect the light coming in through the lens into the viewfinder so you can see what you're photographing. When you press the shutter button, the mirror flips up and the camera captures the image on the image sensor. With mirrorless cameras, light passes through the lens directly onto the image sensor, and the camera uses an electronic viewfinder. So when you're looking through the camera at your subject, what you're seeing is a purely digital image. There are no mirrors involved. With no mirrors to take up space, mirrorless cameras can be smaller and still produce the same quality images as DSLR cameras. That's a reason why they're becoming a popular choice. So with all these types of cameras, What's the right answer? Well, all of them. You really can get great results with any of these systems. At the time of this recording, I use Nikon D750 full-frame DSLR cameras, and I love them, although I expect I'll upgrade at some point. For you, I recommend checking out what each manufacturer has to offer, handling the cameras in a store to see how they feel, and ultimately, go with what works for you. And one last note, I've really just skimmed the surface on these technical terms. So if you'd like to dive into them a little more and really understand all the pros and cons, I recommend a search online where you'll find a lot more detailed information. Now, along with your camera, you'll need a lens. And we'll cover that in the next lesson. 4. What Lens Do You Need?: Along with your camera, you're going to need a lens. And eventually, more than one. But what do you start with? Well, that depends a lot on what you think you might be shooting. There are several lenses out there that are ideal for different sports. But one of the first things you'll notice when you're out shopping is that you'll have an option to buy a camera with a lens as part of a kit or a bundle. But kit lenses, as we call them, tend to be not that great for sports. Often, they don't offer the wide apertures you'll need in poorly lit venues. And they definitely won't be the best lens the camera manufacturer has in their lineup. Instead, I recommend buying your camera body and lens separately. This will give you some additional flexibility that we'll talk about in a moment. One of the most popular lens choices for sports photographers is a 70-200 millimetre zoom lens with an aperture of at least f2.8. This type of lens is great for indoor sports like volleyball, hockey or roller derby. It's versatile enough to get in super tight or to go wider and catch an entire play. And as a bonus, it's a great portrait lens. So if you're taking behind the scenes shots before and after the game, you'll get some nice sharp captures with a 70-200. Another good lens to have in your bag is a 24-70 millimetre, again, with an aperture of at least f2.8. I use a 24-70 millimetre lens for basketball, especially when the action is directly under the net and you need to go wide to capture that action plus the basket itself. A 24-70 is also great for group shots after the game. Even if people are crowding around with their mobile phones, a 24-70 lets you get in close, in front of all those people with their phones, and still go wide enough to capture the whole team. But there are trade-offs with each lens. For instance, with my 24-70 shooting basketball, I tend to be limited to being able to capture just my half of the court. If I'm shooting hockey players coming out of the locker room with my 70-200, sometimes there isn't enough room to back up and capture, say, two players high-fiving each other right in front of you. You'll simply be too close to get it all in. That's why a lot of photographers carry two lenses with them, or even two different camera bodies with two different lenses. You never know which one you'll need right then, and you will want that flexibility. Now if you're shooting outdoor sports with a big field, sports like soccer, football, field hockey and the like, you'll want something that can get you close to the action, even when it's a whole field away. For that, you'll want a lens that can go out to 400 or even 600 millimetres. But there's a more affordable option and that's a piece of gear called a lens extender. This is a ring that sits between your camera and your lens and is designed to give you some extra reach. So this can save you from having to buy a whole new lens. But what happens if you have a limited budget and you just can't afford to run out and buy the zoom lens you want right away? Don't worry, you still have options. If you're on a limited budget, I recommend starting with a prime lens. That's a lens that doesn't zoom, it just has a single fixed focal length. Popular prime lens choices include these 85 or 50 millimetre lenses. In fact, I started out with a simple 50 millimetre prime lens, and these can be some of the most affordable lenses on the market. This one, a Nikon 50 with a maximum aperture of f1.8 cost less than $200 Canadian. Another important point to consider when shopping for lenses: remember to look at the other brands like Tamron and Sigma, who make great lenses that are almost as good, or just as good, as the lenses made by camera manufacturers like Canon and Nikon, but at significantly less cost. So, you have your camera, you have your lens, you're ready to go, right? Well, almost! In the next lesson, we'll talk about a few other little things that are really good to have with you. 5. Good Things To Have With You: What do pro sports photographers have in common with TV superheroes or secret agents? We always have the right gadget for the situation. A good sports photographer carries a lot more than just their camera and lenses. So let's talk about some of the other things that are really good to have with you when you're shooting. Most obviously, you'll need a good camera bag to carry your stuff. Now, some people like backpacks, some people like shoulder bags. There's really no wrong answer. As long as your bag holds what you need and is comfortable for you. However, one thing you will likely need to do is customize the dividers on the inside. In this case, I actually got extra dividers to divide up my main bag so I can create even more sections to hold all kinds of stuff. What stuff? First thing you should pack is a little air blower and a couple of lens cleaning cloths. Remember, you're out in the field, a dusty old gym or hockey arena or baseball diamond or what have you. It's highly likely you'll get dust on your lens. With a little air blower, one little puff and it's gone. And you don't have to come into physical contact with the glass. For the occasional smudge, a good quality cloth works in a pinch. You'll definitely want an extra camera battery. Modern camera batteries last for a lot of shots, but sports photography is a high volume activity. You definitely don't want to have to pack it up before the action ends just because you ran out of juice. Similarly, pack some extra memory cards, not just because you might fill up a card if you're shooting all day. You'll remember how in an earlier lesson, I mentioned that every so often you might get a card error or a corrupted card. But if you have extra cards, that's no problem. Simply switch them out and you can keep going. I also highly recommend having water and snacks with you, things like energy or granola bars that fit easily in your bag and won't get squashed. Often, especially when there's a lot of exciting stuff going on, you might find yourself shooting non-stop. It's easy to get dehydrated or miss a meal. So having some snacks with you can help to keep your energy up. Another thing I've learned to keep with me is a little first aid kit with things for headaches and muscle aches, indigestion and so forth, as well as some wet wipes. Every one of those things has come in handy at some point over the past several years. If you wear glasses like me, bring an extra pair. Sooner or later a player or a ball is going to smash into you. And believe me, when that happens, yeah, you're going to feel it. For hockey and other winter sports, have a good pair of gloves. I recommend something that's not too bulky and fits snugly, so you can still work your camera easily. Also important, have some business cards. They'll really help as you build relationships as a photographer, which we'll talk about later in this course. Finally, depending on the venue, you might want to have a little folding seat or a stool with you. This folding seat is great. It allows me to see it on the floor and still have good back support. If you have a little bench, a self inflating seat cushion is good to have as well. Well, that pretty much covers it. Now that you have all your gear ready, let's talk about getting out there and finding a sport to shoot, in our next lesson. 6. Find a Sport To Shoot: Now that you're ready to take photos, the next big question is, what sport do you shoot? The answer, of course, is whatever you're interested in. But also, what sports photography opportunities are there in your area? Now, it's highly unlikely you'll be able to go out and photograph a major league sporting event right away. It's not where you'll start, although in a few years, who knows? But in the meantime, let's talk about what you can get access to. And that's usually something local or community level. So let's talk about finding those opportunities. The first thing I recommend is to look at what sports leagues exist near you. Check out the local hockey arena or community center. You'll often find notices for various leagues posted there. Definitely check online for sports leagues in your city that you're interested in shooting. Also, check out the universities or colleges in your area. A lot of schools have several teams playing a bunch of different sports for both men and women. And they'll all be listed on the school's website along with a game schedule. One of the sports I covered is Roller Derby, which is super fun and challenging to shoot. And almost every city and region seems to have a roller derby league. To find out, do a search for roller derby in your area and see what comes up. There's probably at least one league with contact information. Or maybe you have friends who play a sport. Talk to them and see where and when they play. Even if it's just a group of friends skating at the local skate park or playing basketball at the local court, hey, that's an opportunity for you. Then there's the community parks and beaches. In my city, there's an active beach volleyball scene and an ultimate frisbee league. There's probably something similar where you live. Now as a general rule, you can't just show up to some sporting event with your camera and start snapping away. Usually sports leagues or schools will require you to contact them in advance to get permission and to be given a media credential in order to shoot the game. And even if not, it's still the polite thing to do. And in photography, politeness goes a long, long way. Plus, when you've set things up in advance, you're much more likely to have access to areas that aren't open to regular fans. And you can ask questions about the venue and the good places from which to shoot. So let's talk about your approach. And it really comes down to finding the right person to talk to and being open and honest about what you want to do, which is to practice shooting their game. Often, sports leagues or schools will list a media contact on their website or in the program. Other times there's just a general email. Sometimes you simply have to attend a game, just to watch, and ask the staff who you should talk to about photographing. Once you have someone to approach, draft an email where you introduce yourself, indicate that you're looking to photograph the game, and explain why. And it's perfectly acceptable to say you're just looking for practice, if that's the case. If you have a link to a website or previous work, definitely include that. Sometimes I offer to let leagues or teams use my images for their social media in return for a photographer credential. Now sometimes things will be a little more informal. For instance, for beach volleyball, I went down to the beach volleyball courts and simply asked people who were playing if I could photograph their game. Again, purely for practice. And incidentally, it's situations like these where having business cards will really come in handy, because most people, in my experience, will ask for them. Now, not everyone will say yes, but that's okay. Maybe they already have a full roster of photographers that day. Or maybe they need to see your results from somewhere else first. Always be polite, because people might change their minds later. And as we all know, what goes around comes around and people always remember who was professional and positive. So, you've found a sport, you've secured permission to shoot a game. What should you actually take pictures of? We'll cover that next. 7. What Do You Shoot?: All right. We're at the game, we're ready to shoot. What exactly should you be taking pictures of? If you said "the action," well, you're half right. Because if you limit yourself to just taking pictures of the actual game, you're missing a big part of the fun. The way I like to think of sports photography is, you're telling a story of the whole event. You have the ability, with your photos, to really bring people into the game, into the sport, in a way they just can't do on their own by watching on TV or from the stands. And the way to do that is to widen your gaze. To look beyond the action and notice all the things happening around it too. So if you're shooting a game, arrive early. Not only will this give you time to scope out the venue in advance and get familiar with the shooting positions. But you can also capture players warming up, teams preparing coaches, giving pep talks, players looking determined on the bench. And you might just stumble onto something cool that you wouldn't normally expect. For instance, here's one of my favorite shots of a coach and a player having a heart-to-heart before a big game. In this case, it's the coach for Arch Rival Roller Girls, from St. Louis, giving a pre-game pep talk to a player who was actually playing with an injured knee at that time. Often, you'll find that teams have their own special warm up ritual. For instance, the York University women's hockey team likes to play spike ball before their games as part of their warm-up. Which is a whole other sport to shoot, before the sport. Pre-game is often a good time for a few candid portraits too, especially when you have a relationship with the team and you have the ability to get in close. Once the game begins, while you're capturing all the epic action, remember to look for all the other stuff happening around the game too. Officials making a call, fans cheering their favorite player, announcers announcing, tension on the bench between periods, mascots running around mascoting. When you are capturing the action, which will be most of the time, it definitely helps to know the sport and to know the players. The more you know, the more you'll be able to anticipate what a player might do and where the exciting action is going to happen. For example, this is one of my favorite shots of a roller derby skater jumping over the apex of the track. Because I've been shooting roller derby for a long time, I actually had a sense that this skater was going to make the attempt before it happened. And I was able to get ready and focus on the right spot. Another example, when I was shooting tennis and volleyball at York, I noticed certain players had a very energetic way of celebrating after a point. So I made sure to keep on shooting even after the play had ended. The results were some of my favorite shots for that season. Speaking of victory, definitely keep your eye, and your camera, on the winning team right after the game ends. That's a great emotional moment. And even more than an epic action shot, teams love those moment of victory shots. But it's just as emotionally impactful to capture the moment of defeat too. Here are shots of the winning and losing teams at a roller derby regional championship. There's a lot of great emotion on display here, right? And here's another roller derby example. There's a tradition where the winning team does a victory lap and all the fans run down to the track to high-five the skaters as they pass. That's another great moment to capture. And now you see why I recommend having some snacks in your bag. With so much to shoot all the time, you really can find yourself going non-stop. So when you start shooting, be sure to look for all the key moments. And remember, you'll find those moments both within and outside the action. Now that we have an idea of what to shoot, Let's talk a little more about technique next. 8. Sports Photo Techniques: In the last lesson, we talked about what to shoot. In this lesson, we're going to talk about how to shoot. Because, by keeping just a few simple things in mind, you can easily add a lot more drama and visual interest to your images. You'll remember in the last lesson, we talked about how as a photographer, you have the ability to bring the viewer into a sport in a way they can't do themselves. Well, one of the ways to do that is to get in closer. In fact, there's a saying in photography from Robert Capa who said, If the pictures aren't good enough, you weren't close enough. I'm reminded of that saying in sports photography because often, photographers will feel the need to pull back and try to fit in as much as possible into the shot, all the time. The player's full bodies and all kinds of extraneous stuff around them. There's nothing wrong with getting the whole story in the shot. After all, you want viewers to be able to place the action into context. For example, is a player on a breakaway, all alone? Or, do they have to get through defenders to get to the goal? That is an important part of the story you're telling. But sometimes it can make for a more interesting and powerful image if you get in close and focus on the faces. For instance, what would it look like if, instead of capturing the whole scene in this image, I had zoomed in much closer. Now, sure, both versions of the photo capture the action. But in the cropped in shot, you can really feel the impact. In many ways, it's a more interesting image. So when you're shooting, vary things up. Definitely you'll want to pull back in some of your shots to capture the full context, the big picture. But remember to try a few shots where you zoom in closer and really fill the frame with the moment. Now, another good technique in sports photography is to get low and shoot up at the players. When you do this, you can make the action feel more dramatic and larger than life. Of course, this is not always possible depending on the sport, but if you have the ability to get low, to shoot from the floor, I recommend trying it. And for that matter, sometimes you'll have an opportunity to shoot from above, looking down on the action. That can be interesting too, and often is a good way to capture the whole picture, as in this sequence that captures both the assist and the goal in a hockey game. So the bottom line is, every so often, change your shooting position and try different angles. You might be surprised at the different results you're able to achieve. Another question that often comes up, should you take single shots or do a big burst of photos all at once? Many modern cameras give you the ability to take multiple continuous shots when you press the shutter. So instead of just one image, you can get a whole sequence and capture an epic move from start to finish. So if you're wondering which way to go, my advice is to try both methods. It can be fun to capture a whole action sequence. And this is a good way to capture players celebrating a goal too. But remember, if you do this all game, you'll probably end up with a thousand images to go through. And that's a lot of work afterwards. Finally, and I've talked about this before, remember that a great sports photo doesn't just capture action, but the emotion too. And that means, try to get players faces in focus when you shoot. This can be challenging with a lot of sports where the players wear helmets. It does take practice,. But the more you capture emotion, the more you get used to focusing on faces, well, the more you're telling a story. So when people look at your results, they aren't just seeing the action, they're feeling it as well. Now, whenever we talk about technique, the question of what settings to use comes up. So we'll talk about that in the next lesson. 9. Camera Settings For Sports: Here's a photo I took many years ago, way back when I first started shooting sports. Can you see a big mistake I made here? Before this lesson is over, You not only will, you'll also know how to avoid it. And I'll give you a hint: it has to do with the camera settings. Which is exactly the subject of this lesson. Now, modern cameras have a lot of settings, but in this lesson, we're going to talk about the three that you'll work with most often, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. The first thing to know about these settings is that they work together, and you can achieve similar results with different combinations. Which means when it comes to camera settings, there are always multiple right answers. But before we talk about how these settings work together, Let's talk about what each one does for you on its own. And for all of these, I'm assuming you're shooting in manual mode, where you set the camera settings yourself. In fact, that's something I always recommend you do. And of course, every camera is different. So be sure to check the manual for how to change the settings on yours. Now, a good thing to do in sports photography is to separate the subject, the action and the athletes, from the background. Or in other words, to keep the focus on the players while making everything else blurry. That's where the aperture setting comes in. Now, aperture, which is the f-stop on your camera, refers to the size of the opening in your lens through which the light passes. And the wider the aperture of your lens, the narrower will be the zone of what's in focus, and the blurrier the background will be. The zone of what's in focus is often called the depth of field. So what's the setting for a wide aperture? Well, with aperture settings, the lower numbers like f2, f2.8, and f4 are wider. And the higher numbers like f8 and f16 are smaller. And that's because apertures are actually fractions. f2 really means the aperture is one half the focal length of your lens. f2.8 means the aperture is one two point eighth of the focal length. f4 means the aperture is one quarter of the focal length. F8 is one eighth and F16 is one sixteenth. And of course, one half is larger than one two point eighth, which is larger than one quarter, which is larger than one eighth, and so on. And now you know why f2, f2.8, and f4 are wide apertures. And f16 is small. So for sports, we want to just have the athletes in focus. So we want a relatively wide aperture like f2.8 or f4. Those are the aperture settings I usually go with. See how the players are in focus in these photos, but the background is not? Well, that's thanks to a wide aperture. Next, we want to freeze that fast-moving action, and that's where shutter speed comes into play. Shutter speed refers to the length of time your camera shutter is open, exposing light onto the sensor. And for sports, our shutter speed needs to be fast, and I mean fractions of a second fast. Of course, that's exactly how you set your shutter speed: in fractions of a second. For example, for high-energy, unpredictable sports like basketball or hockey, I'll set my shutter speed to 1/1000th or 1/1250th of a second. For some other sports, I can get away with 1/500th of a second, which is still pretty darn quick. Now let's go back to that old photo from the beginning of the lesson. As you have probably already guessed, the big mistake I made was with the shutter speed. It was way too slow. So if you see results like this, definitely check your shutter speed and make sure to bump it up. But shutter speed is a great example of why there's more than one right answer in photography. For instance, maybe you don't want to completely freeze the action. Sometimes it's cool to have a little motion blur in your images because that's another way to communicate speed. So if you want to give your images some motion blur, you might deliberately set your shutter speed a little slower, like I did here. Our third setting is ISO, which is really about light sensitivity or your camera's ability to see in lower light. The higher your ISO, the better able your camera will be to see in poorly lit arenas, and the brighter your image will be. So in practical terms, you might set your camera to just 100 ISO on a bright sunny day outside. That's the setting I've used for outdoor sports like field hockey or beach volleyball. In a hockey arena, where overhead lights or reflecting off the white ice, You might have an ISO setting of 3200. For a college gym, which might have okay, but not great lighting, maybe you'll be at 4000 ISO. And for an old warehouse or arena without ice, where roller derby often happens, you might go up to 6400 ISO. But higher ISO settings also generate more noise in your images, or what we used to call grain back in the film days. And here's where a more capable camera can come in handy. Generally, higher end cameras will give you less noise and sharper images at the higher ISO settings. So to review, good camera settings for sports include a wide aperture to keep just the action in focus. A fast shutter speed to capture that action. And an ISO that you set according to the light conditions. But like I mentioned at the beginning of the lesson, these three settings all work together. And when you change one, you might need to change the others too. For example, both aperture and shutter speed have an impact on how much light gets into your camera. Aperture affects how big the lens opening is to let in the light. Shutter speed affects the length of time the light has to get in. So if you set a faster shutter speed, that means less light is getting into the camera, and you might need to compensate with a wider aperture. But this also means that for every situation where you need to adjust your settings for the shooting conditions, you have a choice as to which settings you change. For instance, are your images coming out too dark or underexposed? Well, you could increase the ISO, which might generate more noise in your image. Or you could widen the aperture, which means less of what you're pointing at will be in focus. Or you could set a slower shutter speed, which might give you motion blur. Or, are your images coming out too light, or overexposed? You could bring down the ISO, choose a narrower aperture or set a faster shutter speed. And one last point, even if you got your settings wrong, you can often use Photoshop or a similar program to increase or decrease exposure, smooth out noise, and make other corrections to your images. And we'll cover that in an upcoming lesson. But first, there's one other area where cameras settings can help and that's in getting really sharp focus. And that's what we'll cover next. 10. Nailing Focus: What is the one thing that almost all amazing sports images have in common? They're in super sharp focus. Whether it's water droplets suspended in midair, Ice spraying from a skate, or an athlete right at the top of a jump, they're all tack sharp. You might be asking, how do they do it? Now in the previous lesson, we talked about how shutter speed will freeze the action, and that is part of it. But a fast shutter speed is not enough. There are also some adjustments and settings you can use to give yourself the best chance at getting a sharp capture. But before we talk about those settings, Let's talk about how you focus. With many cameras, you press the shutter button halfway down to focus, then you press it all the way down to take the shot. And that works just fine for a lot of people. But many sports photographers, including me, use something called Back Button Focus. With Back Button Focus, we're customizing our camera. We're setting up a different button on the back of the camera to do the focusing and then using the shutter button just to take the shot. The advantage of Back Button Focus is that you can press and hold that back button to lock focus on your subject, in our case, an athlete, and your camera will track that athlete's movement. And then when you're ready to take the shot, you can do so immediately. You don't have to spend any extra time refocusing. You can even take several shots in succession, all in focus, as long as you're holding down that back button. Customizing the back button to do the focusing is very easy using your camera's setup menu. But each camera has its own way of getting to this setting. So be sure to check your own camera's manual for how to make the change. Now that you're back button focusing, let's discuss a couple of settings that you'll need to take full advantage of this technique. First, you'll want to use autofocus, not manual focus, because sports action just happens too fast and is too unpredictable for you to be able to focus manually. But on most cameras, there are actually different setting options for how you autofocus. For instance, with single-point or single servo autofocus, the camera focuses on just one single spot and stays locked on that spot. And that's fine if your subject isn't moving, but it won't work for sports. Instead, you want the setting that enables your camera to continually focus on a moving subject. In Nikon cameras, this is called Continuous Servo Autofocus, or AF-C. In Canon cameras, this is called AI Servo, and in some other cameras It's called Follow Focus. Every manufacturer calls it something different. But whatever it's called on your camera, continuous autofocus means that when you press the button to focus, your camera will, as the name suggests, continuously track and focus on a moving subject, freeing you to actually take the shot when you're ready. So you can see how this ability, in combination with Back Button Focusing, really makes your work easier. Finally, one thing you'll probably notice about your camera is that it has something called Dynamic Area Autofocus, which means you have the option of using multiple focus points. With Dynamic Area Autofocus, your camera will focus on a single point, but if your subject moves really quickly, the camera uses the surrounding points to maintain focus. That's part of how modern cameras help you track your subject. For instance, on my cameras, I can select 9, 21 or 51 points of Dynamic Area Autofocus. But just because you have the option to use multiple focus points, that doesn't mean you should use them all. In fact, using all 51 focus points can actually slow down the camera. I like to think of it as giving the camera too much to think about. Instead, I've found nine points of dynamic area to be sufficient for most sports. So to review, set your camera to Continuous Autofocus, go with nine points of Dynamic Area Autofocus. And if you'd like to try it, set up Back Button Focus on your camera. I think you'll find you'll get better results. Now, even with the right settings, your photos will very likely need a little adjusting after the fact. And we'll cover that next. 11. After The Shoot: Now I'm going to tell you something you may not have been expecting to hear: It's quite likely you'll spend more time working with your images after a sporting event, then you did shooting that event. There's a lot of work to be done after you've uploaded your images to your computer. And how you do that work can make the difference between an okay photo album and a pretty darn good one. First, you'll want to go through your images and edit, and keep only your best, most dramatic shots. To do so, and to work on your photos later, you'll probably want to use photo editing software. There's a lot out there: Bridge, Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One, Affinity, Imerge, Pixelmator, just to name a few. They're all good. So whichever software works for you is fine. As you review your images, remember that the name of the game is quality, not quantity. No one will remember that you took hundreds of photos. And they definitely don't want to wade through hundreds of images that basically look the same and aren't all that interesting. But people will remember a photo album full of dramatic action and emotional moments. So narrow it down to the keepers: shots that are both technically and emotionally good. Now, what you feel qualifies as good will evolve as you gain experience. But the point is to curate. As you go through your images, take notes. Photography is all about learning and getting better. So review your images to understand what worked and where you have to improve, what settings gave you the results you were looking for, what shooting technique worked and what you'll want to try next time. In my early days, I had entire albums full of photos where I actually got it wrong, with notes on why and what to do next time. As you edit, you'll sometimes come across a shot that will not be technically perfect, but it will be interesting. Those, you should keep. Often, I'll post a shot I consider imperfect, and surprisingly, it becomes one of my most popular from that game. Now when it comes to editing your photos, one of the first things you'll want to do is crop out all the extraneous stuff in each image. Because of the unpredictable nature of sports, you'll probably need to do a little cropping on most of your images. That's pretty standard, pretty much every sports photographer I know has to crop most of their images in some way. It's just the nature of sports photography. Then it's time for processing. Now, how you adjust your images will come down to personal style. But you'll probably want to apply a little sharpening, a little texture and contrast, probably bump up the exposure a bit and adjust shadows and highlights. And depending on the lighting where you shot, you might need to color correct as well. Now for this particular example, I'm using the Adobe Camera Raw plugin, which is part of Adobe's Photoshop software. It's a good illustration of why you should shoot in RAW, not jpeg. You have far more information to work with in RAW, which means you can make more significant adjustments and still maintain image quality and detail. Finally, you might want to add a watermark so people can tell at a glance that it was your shot. And once you have your images where you want them, you're ready to show your work, and we'll talk about that in the next lesson. 12. Showing Off Your Photos: So, you've selected your best images, you've made your adjustments. Now it's time to show your photos to the world. And there are lots of places to do that online. You might have your own website. You might use a social media channels like Facebook or Instagram. Or you might use a photo-sharing site like Flickr, SmugMug, Zenfolio and the like. Maybe you'll use a combination of channels. Some people use Dropbox. There are literally dozens of photo-sharing options and websites out there. Some platforms even give you the ability to sell prints of your work. So do some research and find the platforms that work best for you, both for displaying images the way you want to, and for reaching your audience. A good place to start is an online search with a term like best photo sharing websites for photographers. You'll definitely get several options. Naturally, once you've uploaded your images, you'll want to let people know where to find them. That's why it's also important to build a network, so you can share the link to your images on your social channels. And it's good to have contacts on the teams you photograph too. Often, I'll message the coach or a player I know once I've posted an album so they can share the link with their teammates. So that's an overview of where to display. But what about how to display? Now some parts of the answer will be obvious. You'll want to have some sort of system, a way of organizing your photos to make it easy for your audience to go through them. I recommend organizing your photos by game, and doing one or two photo albums for each one. For example, you might separate the action and behind the scenes images into two albums, if you have lots of both. As to the photo albums themselves, you'll remember in the last lesson, we talked about the importance of curating, of showing just your best, most dramatic shots. Now, maybe that's 20 images, maybe it's a 100. But the important thing is show images that you're proud of. People remember quality more than quantity. And on a purely technical level, it's perfectly fine to output your images as 72 dpi or a 100 dpi jpegs. That's fine for online viewing. You can always output a high resolution version of a particular image later if you plan to print it out. Now as I mentioned earlier, a big part of displaying your work is letting people know about it. And for that, people have to know about you. And that's exactly what we're going to talk about in the next lesson. 13. Building Relationships: Have you ever come across a behind the scenes shot of an athlete, a shot that really captured a great candid emotional moment and thought, how did the photographer even get back there to take that shot? Well, the answer is relationships. In sports photography, the more relationships you have, whether that's with leagues, teams, coaches, or players, the more you're going to be able to do. Relationships make it easier to go behind the scenes, to get closer to your subjects, to receive invitations to games that might be closed to the public, and even to be the one the league thinks of when they need photos for a commercial use and want to pay for usage rights. That's why I recommend you make a point of building relationships with the teams you photograph and getting your name out there. And there are several ways to do that. If you haven't already, definitely create some social media accounts. For example, I use Twitter and Facebook to share links to my photo albums. And I use Instagram as another way to share some of my favorite photos. Of course, it's not enough to simply have social channels. You have to let people know what those channels are so they can follow you. Now, one way to do that is to follow the social media accounts of the teams and leagues you shoot. And when you post a link to your photo albums, use that social channel's ability to tag the relevant team so they get a notification. Having some business cards to hand out at games is also a good idea. Another good thing to do once your images are up is to e-mail or message the team's media people with a link. Or if you know a player or a coach, e-mail the link to that person so they can share with the team. University and college sports programs will likely have a media relations or social media contact person who you'll want to know. And you'll recall from our lesson on finding a sport to shoot, you'll likely have had to contact that person to get permission to shoot in the first place. So stay in touch with them. When you're at a game. In addition to having business cards handy, take the time to meet people and thank people. And when you have an opportunity, say hello to the coach and let them know you photograph the team. But equally important is to know when to stay out of the way. Remember you're the guest and everyone has a job to do. So definitely avoid interrupting people during the game itself. Finally, how you prepare your images is another opportunity to get your name out there. You'll remember how, in the lesson about working on your photos after the game, I mentioned the importance of adding your name to your images with a watermark. This is another way for people to quickly see who took the picture. It's also helpful if someone reposts one of your photos to a social media channel and forgets to tag or credit you. People should be providing proper photo credit, but sometimes they forget in their enthusiasm to post. So having a watermark on the image will help there. Now, once you start to become known, the possibility of making some money from your work can come up. And we'll talk about that in the next lesson. 14. Some Ways To Make Money: Pretty much every photographer I know got into photography because it's something they enjoy. But it's still fair to ask, hey, is it possible to make a little money from my photography? The answer is yes. And here are some of the ways I've done it. One of the most obvious is to sell prints for athletes and their families. Quite often I'll post a shot and an athlete will contact me and say, how much for a print of that image? When that happens, you can either print out the image yourself or simply provide a high resolution copy of the digital file for that person to get printed on their own. I usually offer the digital file as it's simply easier, and it saves me from having to buy a high-end printer and keep paper and ink around. But it's up to you. Remember, some photo websites gives you the ability to sell digital files right from the site. So that's a factor to consider when you're deciding where to display your photos. How much should you charge for a digital file? Well, I've seen prices range from $5 to around $30, depending on the size of the image. I like to give a discount to athletes personally, since they usually have plenty of other expenses, what with gear and training and so forth. Now you'll remember in the last lesson, we talked about building a relationship with the leagues in teams you shoot. One of the advantages of doing so is that it puts you in a position to negotiate a commercial use agreement with that league. And that's another way to potentially make some money from your work. Now, if you're unfamiliar with commercial use, this simply means that someone would use your images to promote or advertise their business, or in this case, their sporting event. Of course, there's more to it than that and different rules apply in different countries. So I would definitely research the laws around commercial use where you are. But for this class, it's enough to know that you can do a deal where a league can use your images for promotional purposes. For instance, I do commercial use agreements with several roller derby leagues, where they can use my images for advertising, posters, a program, calendars, and even social media, among other things. Now what you charge a league for commercial use really can vary as it depends on several factors. How many images the league is likely to use, what the league is likely to use them for, how much time the deal covers and how high-profile the league is, for instance. You might charge $35 for a single use of a single image, or $50 for a year's commercial uses, or even several $100 if it's a large league with a lot of image requirements. But for local leagues, you'll probably be closer to the lower end of the scale. And it's not just sports leagues that might want to use your images to advertise themselves. Other businesses might too. For instance, the company that made the sports equipment visible in your photo, or the company that provided team uniforms, or even a local business sponsoring a team. They may all want to use your images to promote their own business. And this can include using your images on social media such as Instagram. When it comes to advertising, if a company is using your image to promote their business, no matter where, then that is a commercial use. So you should charge money for that use. Again, how much money depends on several factors. How many images the business wants to use, and where it wants to use them being the most important. You might charge just $35 for a single social media use, or a couple hundred dollars if your image will be used in a large newspaper ad. And speaking of newspapers and other media, they can also be a source of photography income. Every outfit, from the local paper to national news organizations need sports photos to add to their stories. For instance, a little while back, I licensed the rights to several roller derby images to the CBC, Canada's national broadcaster, for a story they ran online. I've seen a range 0f $50 to $100 per image for media uses in this context. By the way, beware of any media outlet that wants free photos. After all, they're paying their writer to provide the words for this story. It's only fair that they also pay the photographer for the images. Well, now you have the basics. It's time to put everything into practice. And we'll do that next when we talk about our class project. 15. Class Project: You're now ready to take on our class project, and it's very simple. Find a sport, photograph it and display your favorite shots. Any sport is good. Team sports, individual sports, league sports, or just friends getting together. But no matter what you're shooting, your assignment is to capture both the action and the behind the scenes as well. And to capture emotion. So be sure to get faces in focus and use the techniques we've talked about here to try different things. Get in close for a few shots, capture the full scene in a few shots, try to catch the moments of victory, defeat, and player intensity. Then when you're putting an album together, narrow it down to your 10 or 20 best, most powerful shots. When you're ready, upload your album as a project so we can see how you did. I'm looking forward to checking out your results and providing feedback. Now, if you can't get as close as you want, or go as wide as you want or you miss something, that's okay. It takes a long time to really get good at sports photography. But the key is to keep what you've learned in mind and over time, you'll get better and better. And before you go, I'll leave you with some final thoughts in our next and final lesson. 16. Final Thoughts: Well, we've reached the end of our course on getting started as a sports photographer. I hope you enjoyed the lessons and learned a few things along the way. Sports photography has actually helped me become a better photographer all around. As I learned to look for more emotional moments and became more and more familiar with what I could do with my camera, I found I could apply that learning to everything I photographed. And I continue to do so today. I'm sure the same thing will happen to you. One thing I'd like to leave you with is to remember, wherever you go as a photographer, you're the guest. So always be professional, polite, and respectful, and thank the people who helped you along. That'll go a long way towards making your job easier and more fun. I'm always interested in hearing from new photographers and seeing your work. So be sure to connect with me on my Instagram and Flickr channels, which you can access via my website, And if you want to stay up-to-date on my newest classes, be sure to follow me here on Skillshare. In the meantime, I wish you luck and happy shooting.