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Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials

Sports Photography – Picture Composition and Camera Settings

Most sports photography requires a responsive camera that can track the subject accurately and reliably. Here are some unique techniques on using the EOS 5D Mark III equipped with highly advanced AF functions that is capable of freezing that most decisive moment. (Reported by: Yusuke Nakanishi)

EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM/ FL: 22mm/ Manual exposure (1/800 sec., f/2.8)/ ISO 6400/ WB: Auto

A professional boxer and his trainer getting ready for the tournament. The ambience at the boxing stadium was tensed as competitors prepared for their matches. The AF of the EOS 5D Mark III had no problem tracking the rapid movements of the boxers under the fluorescent lights, and the image quality at a high ISO speed of 6400 was also outstanding.

Special thanks to: Riding Club Crane Tokyo Fukuda Boxing Gym 95 Saitama Broncos (bj League)

Three Approaches to Capturing Impressive Sports Photography

Composition: Predicting the subject's movements

In sports photography, composition is determined through predictions and judgments. By utilizing the 61-point high-density reticular AF on the EOS 5D Mark III, which is capable of tracking both vertical and horizontal movements, I was able to compose my shots easily. In the photos samples below, I made use of the other AF points available to capture the timely expressions of the athletes.

Light: Be Aware of the Lighting Condition

Sports events are held in a wide variety of locations. It could be an outdoor environment regardless of the weather, or in an indoor court or stadium under controlled lighting. It is necessary to be aware of the lighting conditions and where your light source is coming from. In the above photo, for example, I captured the ceiling light shining down on the boxer and his trainer.

Settings: Make use of AF point expansion

To sports photographers, a high-performance AF is a must-have. I mainly make use of AF point expansion so that the 61-point high-density reticular AF can be fully exploited. AF point expansion comes in handy in scenes where movement of the subject is unpredictable, as the AF points surrounding the one I selected would provide the necessary support. With it, I do not have to worry about front or back focus, which is a major issue if only one AF point is used.

EOS 5D Mark III Recommended Feature

One-Shot/AI Servo AF

In sports photography, I often switch between [One-Shot AF] and [AI Servo AF] according to the shooting situation. In the Custom Controls menu, I assigned this function to the AF stop button on the lens. This allows me to switch the AF mode instantly with one hand when I point my lens away from a dynamic action toward a stationary object.

Recommended Lens

EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM

Wide-angle lenses are one of my favourites. With it, I am able to produce a wide range of photographic expressions, ranging from compelling shots of closed up subjects to beautiful wide-angle shots.

EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM/ FL: 135mm/ Manual exposure (1/1,000 sec., f/2.8)/ ISO 6400/ WB: Custom

A competitive moment during a basketball tournament. With AF point expansion, I was able to capture a compelling shot of the subject's expression in sharp focus.

EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM/ Manual exposure (1/2,500 sec., f/4)/ ISO 4000/ WB: Auto

A rider and his horse negotiating an obstacle. It took less than a second for them to pass the highest point after taking the jump. The excellent response of the EOS 5D Mark III is indeed a great quality to have in sports photography.

Yusuke Nakanishi

Nakanishi was born in 1979, and graduated from the Department of Photography under the Faculty of Arts, Tokyo Polytechnic University. After working with a publisher, Nakanishi joined AfloSport in 2005. He is the official photographer for the “bj League,” Japan’s professional basketball league, and a member of the SanDisk Extreme Team.