Sports photography, which can also come under the category of 'photojournalism', can offer photographers quite a reasonably well-paid career if they become proficient enough at it. But if it’s just the kids at school sports meets or if you just want to know how to take action shots, then I hope this tutorial will help accomplish that at least.
For the NOVICE, sport or action photography does not really require special sophisticated gear. A good point and shoot digital camera will certainly give you some good results, but for versatility and a better range of options, the DSLR has got to be out on its own. In fact, I will continue this tutorial based on the SLR camera, but a great deal of it will still refer to the 'point and shoot' and I am sure that the owners of those sorts of cameras will see where their limitations lie.
I say the DSLR is preferable because of the option for manual operation, to change lenses and fit various filters whenever the need arises. 'Point and shoot' cameras can also be quite limited when your boy has possession of the ball but he’s away over on the other side of the field. So you are also restricted where distance is concerned.
I suppose distance can also be a bother with the DSLR unless you are prepared to spend big money on a long telephoto lens. And that can run into many thousands of dollars.
So, I would advise that if you are just interested in having a go at it at this stage, then you should read up as much as you can on the subject, get in some good practice and take it from there.
It would be favourable too, with your DSLR to have a good knowledge of the manual workings of your camera and plan to use them with this type of photography. This includes shutter speeds, aperture settings, ISO ratings and focus control (reference link below).
For the action enthusiast, it is recommended to switch to aperture priority, which will allow for faster shutter speeds with large apertures of f2.8 or f4 (if your lens permits). This will give your subjects sharpness and clarity, but plenty of isolation, with a blurred background.
Also, take a look at 'Panning'. (reference link below).
No matter what subject you take on, it is a good thing to know a little about what you are shooting and sport, or any action photography for that matter is certainly no exception.
Which means that if you are going to shoot a football match, you should have a good idea about how the game goes, so you can anticipate each move and know ahead of time when the action is about to happen.
Another aspect of football matches and many other field games is that the players spend a lot of their time looking down at the ball, so invariably your correct shooting angle will be at below eye level. In fact, you have probably seen at football matches how the photographers on the sideline are actually sitting down. It’s not because they are lazy, but that is their chosen and preferred angle at which to shoot the players. I have spoken to one fellow who says a lot of his time is spent on his belly.
Also, a major piece of their equipment is the Monopod, which I suspect is a little easier to manipulate than a tripod and anyway with everybody rushing here and there in that confined area, you wouldn’t want anyone kicking the leg of your tripod when you are just about to get that favoured shot.
Other things to take into consideration are:
To work with autofocus
Have the camera in continuous shooting mode, so as not to miss any of the action.
From the camera’s menu switch to centre weighted metering.
Also check out your exposure compensation facility, because if there is a lot of white in the players’ dress you might need some minus exposure values of say minus 1 to 1-1/2 to keep some detail in those areas.
To keep everything sharp use your biggest possible aperture setting (smallest number) and depending on the ambient light you should be operating on shutter speeds upward of 1/250 sec. So the brighter the day, the better.