Digital Sports Photography


Digital Sports Photography

The invention of the digital camera has revolutionized sports photography. Because sports involves such fast-paced action, over 90% of all shots are more or less useless or ruined. With conventional photography, this means wasted film which in turn means wasted money. With a digital camera one take as many photographs as one likes, make a choice by screening over the computer and print only the pics one wants. Most of the sports photography is now digital these days.


How is a digital camera different from a conventional camera? In effect, a digital camera has precious little difference with a conventional camera. It has a lens and a shutter to let in light just like the old cameras. However, instead of allowing the light to fall on a photosensitive film, it uses a system of image sensors (a microchip just 10mm wide) to grab the light. There are two types of microchips: charged couple device (CCD) and the complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS). CMOS chips are cheaper, smaller, and lighter but sacrifice a lot in image quality. Most cameras in the megapixel range, however, have CCD microchips, giving better picture quality.


Basic equipment needed for a professional sports photographer is as follows:

  • 1-3 digital cameras (depending on the sports you specialize)
  • Extra batteries as your battery will not last during the whole event especially if you are shooting a lot.
  • 1 extreme wide angle lens (14 mm) to help you take shots of large spaces
  • 1 wide angle zoom lens (17-35 mm) for closer shots
  • Camera stands (monopods or tripods) to enable to wait throughout the event without having to hold the camera yourself.
  • Telephoto lenses 300mm or 400 mm to get access to actions that are at a distance.
  • Flashes and other lighting equipment
  • Computer with the right software

As you can guess, such equipment will not come cheap. It is therefore quite an investment to become a sports photographer.

Issues with digital photography

  1. Shutter speed—cameras with slow shutter speeds are inappropriate for taking action shots. The fastest shutter speed on the market is 1/8000 second. However, a slow shutter speed may be necessary if one wants to show movement.
  2. Lag time—this is the difference between the time the shutter button is pressed and the time the picture is taken. The camera typically sets the exposure and focus during this period. Of course, a long lag time means that you lose the action you were aiming for. You may reduce the lag time by pressing the button halfway down so that the camera can perform some of the focusing function prior to taking the picture.
  3. Latency—the time taken by the camera to write the image to memory before it can take the next shot. To decrease latency, faster flash cards can be used.
  4. Burst mode—digital cameras have the advantage of being able to capture a series of movements through near simultaneous shots. This is a convenient way to capture movement and choose between different shots.
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