Sports has all the elements needed for an exciting photograph: suspense, joy, disappointment and excitement. It takes skill and preparation to get just the right shot, however. Sports is by nature unpredictable--you can't set up the perfect picture, so you have to be prepared when a dramatic shot presents itself. This is challenging, but can be accomplished with some of the tricks the professionals use.
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Know how the sport works.
By knowing the rules of the game, you'll know when and where the action will be, and can anticipate the best shots. In a basketball game, the most exciting pictures may be when a player makes a last-minute slam dunk, and in baseball, you'll want to catch a player as he slides onto home plate. Experienced sports photographers have studied the game and know how to position themselves to get the best shots.
Get up close.
Some of the most striking sports pictures are close-ups of players as they narrowly make the goal, or as they miss the shot that could have won their team the game. Capturing their emotions creates powerful pictures, ones that illustrate the passion both the players and the spectators have for the game. It also allows viewers to see the game from an angle they may have never experienced. Most spectators are restricted to the sidelines, and may never get close enough to share in the drama experienced by the players. Close-up shots give viewers a view of the game they could never get from the stands.
This technique draws attention to the subject of the picture--the player sliding into home, for example--while de-emphasizing everything else. In panning, the subject is kept in focus, and the background is blurred. This is accomplished by using a slow shutter speed, following the subject as they move and taking plenty of shots.
Keep the camera steady.
No matter how great the shot is, you can't capture it if the camera is moving, and it's best to use a tripod to keep the camera in place.