Spectator Sports

As a photographer you need to be the most focused of all spectators at sporting events not only to make the best images but to keep from getting into the action yourself. To see what happens when a photographer forgets where he is, go to this video before reading on. There are more examples of sports shots gone wrong at the end of this post. For now though, concentrate on getting the money shot without causing problems for yourself (lawsuits?) and others.


1. Note of caution: if a person or trademark is recognizable and that includes team logos and Olympic symbols, be certain to submit your sports images as ‘editorial”.

2. If you are shooting from the stands, it goes without saying that you should bring the longest lens you own. No one cares about tiny dots of people on a far away field unless you are Richard Misrach

3. Go early to scout vantage points for the best images. If you aren’t credentialed, pop for the higher priced tickets to get close to the action.

4. You need not limit yourself just to action shots. A solitary player waiting to go on the field could be a compelling image.

5. No access to professional sports teams? Move down a notch or two in league play to the less famous teams and players. You might even get a chance to go behind the scenes with the players for practice.

6. Team sports are huge in the littlest of leagues. Offer to shoot team pictures for your local youth teams in exchange for sideline access. A great sports action shot doesn’t have to be of a famous player.

7. Action! Try and try again to get the shot showing the ball being hit, the pitch being tossed, the pass being caught, the goal being saved.

8. Women are increasing important players in many sports. Plan to shoot women's events.


1. Sports such as skiing, auto and bicycle racing are all about being in the best position on the course. It’s wise to study the layout before you plan your trip to the site. What will be in the background? In what direction will the light be during the course of the competition?

2. You’ll want to be at the starting line for track and field or horse racing especially if that position will also enable you to get to the finish line in time.

3. They say, "It's not if you win or lose but how you play the game". However, users prefer photos of winners!

4. Don’t forget to check where the light will be coming from during daylight shots. It won’t do you much good to shoot the finish line if you are shooting directly into the sun or in very constrasty light and the winner is only a blurred silhouette (unless that is the look you are after).

© Barsik
© Lanceb


You can create images to be used for Olympic based promotions and articles by setting up shots of the sports that will be on the program this summer in China. A list of all the summer Olympic sports is found here

If you want your models to look the part, make certain they are good, really good, at their sport and dress them in the typical kinds of sport clothing worn for big time competition.


1. You have more leeway with individuals that are enjoying sports as leisure activities. Take time to get into the best position to capture that snowboarder catching air or get the tennis player with the ball on the racket in midswing.

2. Get the facial expressions of joy or fear!

© Val_th

3. Go around the neighborhood. Catch a pickup basketball game

3. Shoot still life of the equipment.

4. Don’t forget model releases.


1, Most sports image have a concept associated with them such as speed, skill, victory, success, defeat and these concepts carry over into usages in promos and ads that are not necessarily about sports. Be certain to double-check the keywords on sports images to ensure that you have included all the possible concepts.

2. Be specific about the venue, the player’s names if you know them etc when keywording images for editorial licenses.

Be aware all the action around to the side and behind you. Sometimes the best and most evocative images are the emotions on the faces of the members of the crowd or the judges or referees. If a photographer had been in the right place when my 10-year-old stepson caught a fly ball at his first ever Dodger baseball game, the photographer would have had the shot of a lifetime. As in all sports photography, timing and location is everything.

Some final tips.

1. Make certain that photography is allowed at the event

2. Don’t interfere with the action. Learn about the injury suffered by a golfer when a fan was taking his picture: here

3. Not only do players get hurt and the competition interrupted, see what happens as an unobservant photographer interferes with a practice run at a track and field event a track and field practice event

4. Avoid using flash if it will distract the player(s).

5. Secure your equipment so that it doesn’t fall over or otherwise get in the way of either the spectators or go missing when you are involved in shooting. Neglect this and you may find yourself on the business end of a 2 million dollar lawsuit like this described in this news report

6. Prepare for the worst possible weather and once in a while put the camera away and enjoy the game.

Want to experience a Sports Illustrated swimsuit shoot and photograph a famous model? Go to the shoot here

Photo credits: Andres Rodriguez, Galina Barskaya, Robert Thomas, Javarman, Jeff Hinds, Lance Bellers, Miltudog, Explorer Media Pty Ltd Sport The Library, Val_th.

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Thanks Ellen!
I will work on that!

I do want to become a better photographer.. not perfect or awesome or even well-known.. I just want to become better for me, and when I am comfortable , then what I see through the lens is what people see in me..


Getting access to photograph at events greatly depends upon the type of event. Yes getting on as a recognized freelancer for a local paper is a good but perhaps difficult way to start. It helps if you specialize in a certain sport, type of concert etc. The best bet is to somehow get to know people involved in organizing the event. Again not much help as an answer but you can give it a try but do so months in advance. Presumably the type of event that you wish to photograph is an activity that you have an interest in. For example, a friend photographs equestrian events. She spent a lot of time taking photos of riders/horses practicing. Got to know some of the riders that way. Finally with a good book of images, she went to event PR people and now has full access to those events in her area.


So for us Ellen..
Do you have any advice for us to accomplish getting a verifiable pass.

~ Get a job as a freelance photographer at a newspaper?
Something like that?


Stuart: It took the biggest stock agency in the world a couple of years to get recognized by the media in order to get its photographers credentials at events or to get embedded.

The organizers of events want to ensure that the people that they allow into the press areas at their events are professional photojournalists and that the photographer is working for a recognized publisher of news not a stock agency unless that stock agency is well known as a news/press agency.


No, not yet Alice.

Ellen, what do you think? Any value in Dreamstime applying for passes for various events?


So it really is a bit of a mystic art then!

No chance that DT's new Editorial section increases the chances of a 'Dreamstime Press' badge, is there?

any word on this Stuart?

If i become exclusive?


Great article as usual. Some really good tips...I always seem to struggle with action shots so I am hoping to get some practice at some local sporting events soon.


Please tell me the steps to create a Dreamstime blog.Thank you.
Click on the 'blogs!" tab in the green nav bar at top of the page. On the right of the next page you will see "Create Your Own Blog in Seconds" Click on that link and follow the directions. That should do it.


Hey Lightbreeze,

Click on managment area tab (underneath the green bar) than click on the baby face lower left button under account management and your are blogging...
Good luck.


Please tell me the steps to create a Dreamstime blog.Thank you.


3. Shoot still life of the equipment.

I wonder when a photo of equipment or by all means any other photos are too simplistic

Although this image contains references to more than one sport and isn't all that simplistic, you can see that it has 45 downloads. There would be more but the photographer also uploaded a very similar image that has 3 more Sports Gears 


3. Shoot still life of the equipment.

I wonder when a photo of equipment or by all means any other photos are too simplistic


So it really is a bit of a mystic art then!

No chance that DT's new Editorial section increases the chances of a 'Dreamstime Press' badge, is there?


Press passes are mainly a myth. Some police departments will issue press passes to photo journalists who regularily cover crime scenes and other breaking news. As for sports, concerts and other events, the organizers issue the credentials on a one time basis. These go to the working press-meaning those who are employed (staff) by newspapers, magazines or important online news sources. Sometimes a freelancer who is closely associated with the event will get a press designation. Picture agencies that have long reputations for being press agents are the only stock photo companies that can obtain credentials for their photographers and only the biggest consistently succeed. Sometimes the best avenue is to know someone from the organization.


Could you give us any advice on how to go about getting 'credentialed'? I've tried to find out before now but not very successfully. Seems to be one of those things people like to keep secret.

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