How to Capture Perfect Close-ups of Competitive Athletes

Sports photography is more than just capturing action and atmosphere. There is also a very human element whether it is the beauty of the human form or an expression of emotions that are not hidden in a decisive moment. Here are some tips on how to show these when the athletes are competing.

Step 1: Choose a super telephoto lens

Super telephoto lenses are perfect for drawing attention to a specific part of an athlete. For example, try using a 400mm super telephoto prime lens, the EF400mm f / 2.8L IS II USM, which allows for close-up shots of the athlete’s arms and head only. Photographers prefer to use a prime lens rather than a zoom lens when taking such close-ups: This eliminates the temptation of zooming out and uses a wider angle to capture the whole body, especially when using a super zoom lens that covers a very wide range of angles from wide-angle to telephoto.

When taking sports photos, you need to move and react to the needs of the moment. Choose a low-weight lens that brings the mobility a photographer needs. Shallow depth of field helps make the main subject stand out.

Step 2: Make sure the background is as dark and simple as possible

In sports photography, it is possible to accidentally have a large video playing screen at the back, which brings a dark background. The narrow viewing angle of the lens eliminates additional distractions and simplifies the background to only the most essential elements. Such simplicity helps focus the viewer’s attention on the subject of the photo: the athlete’s impressive body shape.

Step 3: A bit underexposed for studio effect

To further improve the image, expose the shutter speed to about 1 stop from the correct exposure. This will make the background darker, which creates a feeling as if it were studio shots. Also, you can focus on shooting the athlete’s feelings or sweat, tears, etc.