Sports Photography Equipment Essentials

photo equipment

As a sports photographer prepares to set out on a day of shooting amazing images of athletes in action he or she has a list of essential items they wouldn’t ever leave home without. While it may seem like there is a lot of equipment to carry from venue to venue no sports photographer even wants to find themselves short of something when on a job.

The following list, while being comprehensive, is not exhaustive:

2 or 3 top of the line digital cameras – Be prepared for all weather conditions, light quality and circumstances. The camera you will use in bright daylight is unlikely to be the same camera you will want to use for a night game under bright artificial stadium lighting. Having more than one camera does give you more options. It is very rare that one camera will be sufficient as a one-size-fits-all solution to sport photography.

At least five extra batteries – You only have to run out of battery power once to realize the importance of having back up batteries, and a back up battery for your back up battery. In other words you cannot have too many extra batteries. During a live game or tournament there is no ‘stop, I need to go back and get another battery’ option. Always carry extras.

1 extreme wide angle lens (14 mm) and 1 wide angle zoom lens (17-35 mm) – With fast action sports a sports photographer needs a choice of lenses but these two are the most recommended. Shutter speed is crucial when trying to capture play that is occurring at a quick pace, as is the size of the aperture. With these two lenses a photographer will be able to take shots of almost any action on the field, court or pitch.

Monopod camera stand and tripod camera stand – A camera with a large lens becomes heavy after being carried around for any length of time. Using camera stands will alleviate much of the strain of carrying heavy cameras and lenses.

Telephoto zoom 70-200, fast telephoto 300 mm and fast long telephoto 400 mm – Some sports photographers will find they don’t require all 3 of these. It depends largely upon what sports are being photographed. Not all sports allow photographers to get close enough to the action to get the shots they want with a stand lens so telephoto lenses are the way to get those close up shots from a distance.

Teleconverter lens – It is entirely up to the personal preference of the photographer whether they wish to use a teleconverter lens. It can be useful provided the photographer is aware that by using one it can reduce the quality of shots and usually makes them darker.

2 flashes – 2 should be sufficient for most circumstances but this is largely dependent upon the photographic situation and the personal preference of the photographer.

Additional lighting equipment items – This will vary according to whether the sporting event is held during the day or at night, and to what extent the weather conditions and location lighting require additional lighting equipment.

Remote camera control – If setting up a camera in a fixed location such as on a basket ball backboard or finishing post at a horse racing event, a remote control will be needed to operate it. This will allow the photographer the freedom to use the camera without having to physically be in place where the camera is located. This has the added advantage of allowing the photographer to essentially be in two places at once and gain more shots than if they had to physically be in place at both locations.

Memory cards – As with spare batteries it is critical that a sports photographer have sufficient memory cards so that they don’t have to limit the number of shots they take. Due to them being small they can be easily misplaced so they need to be very carefully stored where they can be quickly accessed but not lost.

Computer photographic software – Taking the photographs is only part of the work of a competent sports photographer. Being able to properly process the photographs requires quality software to ensure the pictures are optimized. In order to use the latest in photo editing software a computer that is capable of running such software is required also. As a business investment these items may need to be updated regularly.

Protective rain gear – Being fully prepared for any sudden change in the weather will ensure that the professional sports photographer is able to continue working when amateurs are running for cover at the first sign of any significant rain. While it is important to ensure the photographer is suitably attired for rain it is even more essential to provide protection for camera equipment.

Storage cases – When a sports photographer invests large amounts of money on good quality equipment it is not wise to skimp on storage cases. When transporting photographic equipment from location to location damage can occur to that expensive equipment, therefore it is essential that good quality, solidly constructed storage cases be purchased to keep those items in. When purchasing it is advisable to consider how easily carried those cases are also.

For a sports photographer who covers a specific sport or sports it can be somewhat easier to know the right equipment to carry at all times. With experience they will know what equipment is likely to be required for each sporting event. For those who specialize in a particular sport the same equipment is likely to be needed at each event which makes putting together a kit bag that can be grabbed at a moment’s notice quite simple to achieve.

Sports photographers who may not have the advantage of knowing exactly what equipment will be required will have to keep quite a wide variety of gear available at all times. This can become not only a costly endeavor but also require some time to gather up and load into a vehicle, as well as to pack up after the sporting event has been photographed. Having a vehicle that lends itself well to being easily loaded and unloaded is essential, and every sports photographer should insure all of their equipment against theft.