How to Photograph Kids Sports

How to Photograph Kids Sports

As your kids get older, they start joining a variety of different sports and activities. As a parent it is both difficult and amazing to see your kids grow up. For me personally, I have always had an interest for photography, and this hobby allows me the opportunity to capture these moments of their childhood.

In this blog post, I will set out to answer the key questions surrounding how to photograph your kids sporting events, while ensuring the photos look sharp and professional.

Get Close to the Action

The most important point I can make is to get as close to the action as possible. In order to get close to the action you need to have a telephoto lens that is able to capture an isolated view of the player. The focal length of the lens depends on the sport. I have found that a 70-200mm works great for most sporting events with small kids as you as a parent get to be closer to the field. Lately, I have started shooting with a 300mm to get a little extra reach, however I have found that I no longer get to shoot when the action gets closer to me.

how to photograph kids sports
Always make sure the ball is in frame

Here are a few lenses that I prefer (links are Amazon affiliate links):

For a little more reach, the most popular focal lengths are 300mm to 400mm:

Not sure if you can tell, but I am a Canon photographer, so most of my recommendations will predominantly be Canon lenses, but the other brands have equivalent lenses, just search for them by focal length.

Freeze the Action

If you are a seasoned photographer or just starting out, you have probably heard of the “exposure triangle”. Together, the three sides of the triangle; aperture, ISO, and shutter speed produce a properly exposed photograph. However, there will almost always be a trade off on one of the sides.

Exposure Triangle
Shamelessly stole this from a great article written by Elizabeth at PhotographyLife.Com

In order for us to freeze the action we need to increase our shutter speed. Normally I like to keep my shutter speed around 1/1000th of a second to 1/2000th of a second. Now in order to keep the shutter at this speed, we need to make sure we get as much light into the sensor as possible.

The next item I look at on the triangle will be “Aperture”. I want to let in as much light as possible, meaning I want my F-stop number to be as low as possible. Most of my lenses go as low as 2.8, so that is where I keep it for the rest of the game.

The last side of the triangle is ISO. The higher the ISO number, the more noise is introduced onto the image. Therefor we want to keep this number as low as possible. If we are shooting outdoors during the day, this is usually not an issue as there is plenty of daylight. However, if we are trying to freeze the action of an indoor basketball game, we need to bump up the ISO. As we mentioned previously, this will introduce noise.

How can we tackle this when we are indoors? Well, if the level of noise introduced is unacceptable, and we are already at the widest aperture, the only remaining variable we can change is the shutter speed. However, slowing down the shutter speed will start to introduce motion blur as the athletes are moving around quickly. This is the dilemma that you will be facing, and only you can decide what is an acceptable level of noise vs motion blur.


Composition is mostly up to personal preference. For me, I like to get as close to the kid in question as possible, while making sure their entire body, or at least the extremities are within the frame (i.e. no cutoff arms on the side of the frame or anything like that). Additionally, depending on the sport I prefer to keep the ball or puck in the frame as it conveys more of the story. Beyond that, I try to keep an open mind with my compositions, and I am no stranger to cropping in in postproduction in order to really nail the composition. We can always crop in on a photo in post, but we can never zoom out after the photo has been taken.


Photographing your children’s sports and activities can be fun; you capture moments that you and your family will cherish for a lifetime while enjoying a hobby of yours. My kids in particular love seeing their photos afterwards, and it continues to light up their faces as they see the photos on our TV screensaver.

I hope you found this article useful. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below.

If you live in the North Dallas metro and would prefer a professional photographer come capture your kids’ sports, I offer a reasonably priced package. Check it out here!

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